Sunchaser the self-titled debut from the instrumental rock quartet Sunchaser from Oklahoma is a perfect analogy of the land where it was spun: beautiful, tranquil, smooth and rolling, suddenly breaking out into tempestuous squalls of violent beauty. Sunchaser, formerly known as Bearatroopers, is devoted to nearly every style of instrumental music from the last 100 years; from jazz to classical; old school metal, to gauzy post-rock. Sonically, they are most similar to instrumental post-metal outfits like Pelican or Russian Circles, with chugging, downtuned riffs giving way to distant, ethereal beauty, underpinned by jazzy intricate drumming.
What is first, and most notable, about Sunchaser is while they share a sensibility with these outfits, a lot of the ominous doom has been removed that you would find on labels like Relapse or Southern Lord. Instead, this instrumental group is euphoric, emotive... It's like music for the land itself, without the post-industrial melancholy that comes from the human occupation.
So rather than being a sludge crawling trawl through the ruins, Sunchaser's music sounds more in line with classical works, like Dvorak's New World Symphony or Elgar's Dream Of Gerontius, with dual guitars and distorted bass depicting sunny, dusty, rolling landscapes and a sense of joyful euphoria. This is music for watching clouds trail across the sun; music for dust devils. Of all the betrayals of all the genres of the past 15 years, the degradation of post-rock was the one that hurt me the most, personally. There was a sense of possibility, of a new classicism, that came in the wake of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Tortoise, Explosions In The Sky, where it seemed that people were blending the 20th century avant-garde with forward looking electronics, all rooted in classicism and jazz. It was modern, weird and ambiguous, while still being accomplished.
Basically, post-rock (and certain subsidiaries of metal), really forced people to know how to play. It was a meritocracy that rewards intricate structures and arrangements, which ultimately degraded into mediocrity. This was one of the last, and best, examples of what happens when you put style over substance. Thankfully, Sunchaser have scraped many layers of sediment from post-rock's bones, removing the associations and allusions, and instead use their instruments to tell an ambiguous, open-ended story.
For those that have missed post-rock, all the elements are here, for your joy: the jazzy, looping, loping guitars, which suddenly break into sludgy locomotive breakdowns; the intricate shuffling drums, light as a feather but thick as lead; the cyclotron whirlwinds of distant guitars.
Sunchaser lets you walk around the dusty soil of Kansas, lets you feel the pitiless periwinkle sky and sense of eternity. You can practically taste the grit in your teeth. So here's to the phoenix rebirth of post-rock and instrumental metal, in 2015!
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