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Released on October 25, 2014 via Alone Records
It doesn’t happen very often that I decide to review an album that was released back in 2009 and in any other case would be more fitted as an Echoes of the Past feature post than a regular album review. One reason I am reviewing Ceremony to the Sunset by Yawning Sons instead is that the Spanish label Alone Records recently re-released this album on vinyl for the first time. Another reason is that this album is completely new to me. A quick Google search tells me it’s a classic in the desert rock scene though, or at least there are people at The Obelisk and The Sleeping Shaman and other similar music websites who claim it should be labelled a classic, and rightly so.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this release, here’s a short recap. Back in 2008 the instrumental UK band Sons of Alpha Centauri invited Gary Arce, founder of Californian desert rock band Yawning Man, over to the UK to work with them on their second album. Very quickly in the studio it became clear that something special clicked between Gary and and the guys from Sons of Alpha Centauri and they decided instead to record an album under a new name, Yawning Sons (keeping the link with Yawning Man quite nicely).
Now, let’s focus on the music. When I read the press release that came with the beautifully packaged orange vinyl the band very kindly posted me I was expecting something like The Desert Sessions, or at least a heavier desert rock style, like Kyuss, Master of Reality, Hermano and similar bands with that classic Palm Desert rock sound. I wasn’t expecting an album full of beautiful ambient, ethereal parts and integrate, almost psychedelic surf-like guitar sounds, giving it a more instrumental space rock than a desert rock sound. In fact, Ceremony to the Sunset is one of the more mesmerising releases I’ve heard recently and it keeps on pulling me back in. In fact, for the last 5 nights I’ve looked at my record collection deciding what to spin and I found myself deciding on this beautiful release every time, as it’s extremely addictive.
The majority of the album is instrumental, however they got that whole Desert Sessions vibe going on as a number of famous desert musicians ended up as guest vocalists. The opening track ‘Ghostship – Deadwater’ has Wendy Rae Fowler on vocals and is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Fowler is known from contributions to earthlings?, Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan besides other musical collaborations and her very typical voice adds another enthralling layer to the spacey, airy music. The rest of the A side (or the next 3 songs if you listen to the digital/CD version) contains instrumental tracks, building greatly on the spacey guitar sounds, with the rhythm section, and especially the bass, adding delicate psychedelic layers, with the track ‘Wetlands’ perhaps having most of an instrumental desert rock sound.
We get the next guest vocalist on ‘Meadows’ in the person of Mario Lalli, known from the classic desert rock band Fatso Jetson and ex-Yawning Man member, who adds his warm voice to the mix. The third and final guest appearance comes from Scott Reeder, known from of course Kyuss and The Obsessed, who provides the almost chanting vocals on the track ‘Garden Sessions III’, which sounds slightly tribal due to the bongos played throughout this track as well.
‘Japanese Garden’ is an instrumental track again, which has probably the most catchy guitar parts of the whole album and is the last track on the digital and CD version of the album. But the vinyl version includes the unreleased track ‘Shores of Desolation’ from the original studio master tapes, which wasn’t included in the 2009 release and adds a nice 8th track to conclude this re-release.
It is never too late to discover a good album and I certainly agree with my fellow scribes that Ceremony to the Sunset should be seen as a classic album, not perhaps as a desert rock album per se, but as an album mixing ambient elements with desert rock, psych and space rock. It makes for a very hypnotic, chilled and mesmerising listen. You can still pick up the limited coloured vinyl from the band’s Bandcamp site, which comes in a beautiful gatefold packaging, which I totally recommended.