There are those among you (and I include myself in these ranks) who think of Guided By Voices as less of a rock group and more of a strange experimental outfit with a penchant for lo-fi recording techniques and audio murk. For those folks, I must insist that you track down a copy of the new album by United Waters.
Like GBV, this Brooklyn trio plays what are essentially straightforward tunes, though these gents (Brian Sullivan, Chris Shields and Patrick Cole) are more melodically influenced by the New Zealand/Flying Nun scene than classic ‘60s/’70s rock. But to find the harmonious core of these eight songs, you have to peer through a lot of misty hiss and attune your ears to guitars that are slightly out of tune and electronic percussion recorded so that it sounds comprised of thin paper and twigs.
Once you’re acclimated, though, it shouldn’t take long before you’re completely won over by Sunburner. And there’s much to delight in above and below the surface. Listen for how the multi-varied guitar parts jockey for attention on almost every song. One watery rhythm line will drive the song, with the others jumping around like a little brother begging to be let into the gang. There’s also some synth noise lingering around the scene as well, but it only makes its presence known sporadically (towards the end of “Archers” and burbling underneath the title track).
Deep within the songs, coated in the warm layers, beats a rather chilly, despondent heart. That could have everything to do with the approach to the vocals by Sullivan. He sounds like it is taking all of his strength to get the words out. Whatever those words actually are, I can only make out a few scattered phrases here and there. It adds much to the mood of this exhausted psych masterpiece; you feel like you’re melting into an extended come down as it moves forward. This is an album for the dusk hours, for the late nights when you known you should have been in bed hours ago, and for the early morning, hungover haze.