Daughters Of The Sun Ghost With Chains

[Not Not Fun; 2011]

Styles: psychedelia, synth drone, space rock, electronic, ambient
Others: Camden, Moon Glyph, Hawkwind, early-70s Floyd

With Ghost With Chains, Minneapolis psych-rockers Daughters Of The Sun make their vinyl debut for Not Not Fun, following cassette-based outings on Moon Glyph and other labels. That geographical reference is only of use if you’re looking to hook up with the band in the flesh, because for most of the time, they’ve got the controls set for the heart of the sun, blasting away from ol’ MN to somewhere out/back there. The sun’s always in the past, of course; however fast its beams travel, we only witness its death throes, its burning-out. This is a band that’s very past-aware; even as they blast off into space’s new frontiers, there’s a sense that they’re taking us back to the good old days of space rock and cosmic ambition.

If previous DOTS album Visions Of The Oceanhead often sounded like a 1980s take on psychedelic rock, the new album digs further back, to early Hawkwind and their space rituals. It’s a cosmos where guitars mix with electronics, drums pound out insistent, driving rhythms, and the dreams of the Krautrock space race mingle with the hazy meanderings of acid-drenched, bleached-out psyche and prog. On “Busted Realm,” the ritualistic element is particularly notable as drums are pounded, indecipherable chants are droned, and guitars are overlaid with otherworldly effects. On “Moontan,” a Moogified church organ sends a haunting reminder of the sacred rites we knew back on Earth. On most of the tracks, a miasmic vapor cloaks the familiar in the strange in a sonic stew of memory and imagination.

There are songs here, but the vocals are distant, distorted. Other instruments take the lead: droning machines, what Hawkwind used to call “audio generators,” and always those forceful, relentless drums. The Daughters are fond of moments of rapture that puncture the calm of mere pleasure. These shards of bliss are typically delivered by high-register electric guitar figures lifting off from a song’s main trajectory. It’s as if DOTS are orchestrating a display of mini supernovae as they take us for a cruise through the galaxies. Our awe is kept safe and sound as we gaze from the safe distance of our viewing platform — or listening booth, for this is most definitely an ear trip. What is the sonic equivalent of the rapturous gaze?

Sometimes a sense of stasis trumps movement, but there remains that feeling of listening-in, overhearing. “Moontan,” for all its cosmic sunshowers, exists somewhere between atmosphere and stratosphere, close enough to still pick up signals of human activity. The activity in question (apart from the religious ceremony, that is) seems to be a Pink Floyd concert from the mid 1970s, arriving to our spaceship distorted by time and space. The vocals are hard to decipher, but the guitar comes through loud, clear, and bewitching. These Daughters are nothing if not sirenic: we’re trapped on the Stay-Aboard Program, condemned to a future of being blissed by the Mother Being. This is music as seduction, then, an invitation to psychic, ritual possession.

The sirens are on more familiar ground, if not quite terra firma, when DOTS forsake interstellar travel for the lure of the oceanic, as on the album’s title track. The womby, enveloping arpeggios at the start of this track initially place the group in the same league as mellower Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, and labelmate Dolphins Into The Future, whose On Sea-Faring Isolation makes for good pre- or post-DOTS listening. That said, the subsequent entrance of heartbeat drums places “Ghost With Chains” closer to the more developmental, program-music strategies of post-rockers Explosions In The Sky. There’s something of an echo, too, of EITS’s plinky guitar teasery in some of DOTS’ music, though perhaps not this particular track, which is more like “First Breath After Coma” without the rapture that follows the waking-up: signs of life while still immobile.

This is all good stuff, and Ghost With Chains is an album that invites repeated journeys. There’s plenty more to discover on return trips, from the synth washes of “Truth Given (Dub)” to the spooky electronica of “Bell Of The Barrier.” And obvious landmarks like “Moontan” just get stronger and more compelling with each listen.

Links: Daughters Of The Sun - Not Not Fun

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