The Key Studio Sessions: Sunwatchers

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We’re heading a bit beyond our regular geographic region on this week’s Key Studio Session, but that’s okay – Sunwatchers is a band that knows no geographical boundaries.

I was hipped to them a few months back, care of NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich, who featured their song “Herd of Creeps” in his Viking’s Choice column (which you should definitely follow if you’re a fan of unusual and reliably compelling music). It’s a heavy, meditative jam rooted in Southeast Asian folk, krautrock and free jazz, exploding out of the speakers in simultaneous brilliance – and it totally bowled me over. Turns out, the New York-based four-piece features Philadelphian Peter Kerlin on bass, who we also know from Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band. After swapping a few emails, the band was setting up in studio on a Thursday afternoon following a late night gig and a long drive back home.

There was no loss of energy, as Sunwatchers powered through a set of riveting instrumental music.

Some of it drew from their LP released in March on Castle Face Records (the searing “Ape Phases,” where Jim McHugh makes excellent use of the electric phin, a two-stringed lute-like instrument with origins in Thailand and Laos). Other cuts, like the pulsing “New Dad Blues,” has a swift rhythm from Jason Robira kicking its ass into overdrive, while Jeff Tobias simply melts the saxophone lead. (You also gotta love the dissonant intro Tobias delivers on “Silent Boogie.”)

For people who spend hours digging through Philadelphia Record Exchange for Can and Ornette Coleman LPs, this is a perfect example of a band working today that synthesizes their fearless energies with a globally conscious outlook (the LP features a dedication “to all the dispossessed, impoverished and embattled people of the world.”) And though no Philadelphia dates are on the horizon at the immediate present, we’re hoping one materializes sooner rather than later. Stream the Key Studio Sessions set below, and grab a free download at our Soundcloud page.

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