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Alternative & Indie - Released February 22, 2019 | Trouble In Mind Records

New York quartet Sunwatchers make instrumental music that exists where the spiritual reach of free jazz and the screaming chaos of psychedelia intersect. Bandleader Jim McHugh was a founding member of the late-2000s freaked sounds collective Dark Meat, and he carried on their deep-fried blend of structure and skronk when he uprooted from Athens, Georgia, to New York City in 2010 and began working towards what would become Sunwatchers. Wildly prolific, the band quickly established their untethered sound over the course of multiple releases captured both in the studio and in live performances. Illegal Moves is their third studio album, and its seven selections capture the group at their tightest and most electric state of sonic and psychic connectivity yet. Album opener "New Dad Blues" charges out of the gates with a high-energy riff in a twisting time signature. The entire band is locked in and playing at full force, with McHugh's wah-wah guitar lines interlocking with Jeff Tobias' blasts of saxophone. The rhythm section is part of this telekinetic playing as well, with drummer Jason Robira and bassist Peter Kerlin pushing the song to its edges but never faltering in their airtight syncronycity with the rest of the band. Much of Illegal Moves keeps up this incredible display of exuberance and stamina. The synth-dotted "Beautiful Crystals" leans more towards Krautrock-styled repetition and cosmic upheaval, building into rushes of ecstatic guitar fuzz and frenzied sax as the steady groove of the rhythm section holds things down. The album explores a variety of different moods as it goes on. "Stollin' Coma Blues" is a dark take on folk-blues that disintegrates into gelatinous free skronk, and the peaceful breeze of "Everybody Play" carefully wanders in and out of organized forms and lilting, springy improvisation. For an instrumental band, Sunwatchers have managed to communicate sociopolitical ideas in their sounds surprisingly well. Whether it's through album titles, artwork, or just a moral code intrinsic to their playing, the band's sound suggests a struggle against corporate exploitation, and much like the earliest figures of free jazz, it wordlessly embodies the restless spirit of revolution. On Illegal Moves, this stance is best felt on the group's cover of Alice Coltrane's "Ptah, the El Daoud." Coltrane's tune from a 1970 album of the same name is a slow and lingering wander, coolly ambling between its Eastern theme and long passages of various players taking solos. In the hands of Sunwatchers, the song is transformed into a feverish protest march, building tension increasingly over its seven-minute running time until it feels like a call to arms. Illegal Moves is another strong chapter of Sunwatchers' unique voice and probably their most clear-minded presentation of their collective powers to date. ~ Fred Thomas
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II

Alternative & Indie - Released February 2, 2018 | Trouble In Mind

The cover art for the second album by free music ensemble Sunwatchers consists of an embroidered tapestry boldly declaring that "Sunwatchers stand in solidarity with the dispossessed, impoverished and embattled people of the world." Along with the album, the group issued a manifesto declaring their status as leftists who feel that capitalism is endangering human existence. The group's core members recognize the fact that they are privileged white American males, and that they are granted more of a platform for expressing their views than those who aren't. As such, they do what they can to promote positivity and unity, and to show support for human rights. The music made by Sunwatchers is devoid of lyrics, however, so their work acts as a form of peaceful, joyous protest, operating under Albert Ayler's decree that "Music is the healing force of the universe." Their music contains scorching acid rock guitars, cyclical rhythms indebted to minimalist composers like Terry Riley, and blazing free jazz saxophones. "The Hot Eye" blends dissonant, Glenn Branca-esque guitars with hazy Saharan desert rhythms, drizzled with mystical saxophone melodies. The next piece is titled "There Are Weapons You Can Bring to School," and the group seems to leave its meaning open to the listener's interpretation. It's slower and more formless than the previous track, but it does attack with an urgency even if there is no consistent rhythm. "Silent Boogie" is anything but silent, kicking off with an abrasive sax skronk intro and a tumbling storm of drums, but it soon launches into an utterly ecstatic, celebratory groove. "Flowers of the Water" features distant, ethereal vocals from Brigid Dawson of OCS, and slowly builds up from a rough, glacial drone to an overwhelming squall of noise, seemingly piling every element of the band's sound into one final, climactic burst at the album's end. As with their debut, Sunwatchers' second album is sprawling and all-encompassing, but they make their intentions much clearer this time around, and it lends a greater sense of purpose and power to their righteous, freedom-seeking jamming. ~ Paul Simpson
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 16, 2019 | Trouble In Mind Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 13, 2018 | Trouble In Mind Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 2, 2017 | Trouble In Mind