Illegal Moves by SunwatchersRelease date: February 22, 2019
Label: Trouble In Mind
The Sunwatchers’ brand of eclectic free-form psych may not be the most accessible of music, yet its potent immediacy and burning fire makes it’s Zappa-esque tendencies resolve into a heady, narcotic mix. A swirling continuous climax of free-form jazz, screaming psych, and noise rock, it may seem a little prohibitive to the casual listener at first, but once you let it sink in, you may find a world of multicoloured aural delights.
Illegal Moves may be their second album on the Trouble In Mind label, and third album proper over-all, aside from various bits and pieces you will find on Bandcamp, but there is no sense of that dreaded inspiration running out any time soon. Politically charged as always, they discard with lyrics to bring the leftist agenda into the free-form workouts, and in doing so bring a heavy charged message to the streets. It’s the kind of political kick in the teeth that has been missing since the early days of hip hop, and undoubtedly a sign of the times right now. That aside, its not all rallying against “the man” but also about having fun along the way.
That agenda is set out in the wonderful opening gambit of ‘New Dad Blues’, a boisterous romp where an energetic melody plays out over a free-form workout. It’s feet to the floor as they entice you to move your body in ways you might not have done since the height of Studio 54, although this ain’t no disco, and it certainly ain’t no foolin’ around.
The chugging riff of ‘Beautiful Crystals’ is a precursor to another powerful weapon in the Sunwatchers arsenal. Whilst the metronomic beat pulls you in, a sudden sense of being within some 70’s crime-fighting series arises from the glorious melody. This is what the band excel at, and you are never two steps away from another tuneful interlude to break up the squall of sax and rhythm that could so easily overcome your senses.
That swirling vortex of sax and organs is found to be alive and kicking on ‘Greeneyed Pigmen (Get The Blade)’ but this is then tempered by the chilled out ‘Everybody Play’ which lulls you into its night-time world of slow sax playing. It also signals a slight lull in the album if truth be told, as ‘Psych Driving’ runs steadily out of ideas. This is only a minor incursion before we lift off again into the sun with a triumphant cover of Alice Coltrane’s ‘Ptah, The El Daoud’ which rises like the proverbial phoenix before setting us down with the slide guitar of ‘Strollin’ Coma Blues’. We start with the blues, and end with the blues, and all music is built on the blues within Sunwatchers world.
So, an album that’s not for the casual listener, but certainly one that pays if you give it chance. The energy can overcome you at times, but when the band hit their stride they sound like the greatest free-form jazz/psych band ever. Unlike most other bands around these days, they preach a political agenda, but that is kept for the listener to decide through the squalls of music, rather than a lyrical output. Challenging, but fun too.