Eleven years after their debut Ceremony to the Sunset LP saw the light, UK/California heavy psychedelic rock collaboration; Yawning Sons return with the new album Sky Island. Yawning Sons is a collaboration between the graceful guitar work of California desert native Gary Arce (Yawning Man, Big Scenic Nowhere) and the heavy driving rock of UK post-rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri (SoAC for short), who initially formed in 2008.
Arce is the star power on this record with a significant track record of influential recordings in his catalogue from Yawning Man and other projects. An invite to Arce from Sons of Alpha Centauri in 2008 to record material in England turned into the Ceremony to the Sunset sessions, which saw a release from Australia’s Lexicon Devil Records then Spain’s Alone Records on the vinyl format. Upon Ceremony to the Sunset’s release in 2009, Yawning Man’s activity substantially picked up from worldwide touring offers and recording sessions that led to any further Yawning Sons activity being placed on the back burner. The hiatus was beneficial for both artists as Arce’s catalogue of music with Yawning Man grew along with other projects formed and Sons of Alpha Centauri expanding their catalogue with a slew of LP and EP releases. When the time came to record, reversing logistics, SoAC travelled to Joshua Tree, CA to record the Sky Island with Arce at Desert Sky Studios.
Along with a more prolonged tracklisting, Sky Island’s guest vocal roster expands with the addition of Dandy Brown (Hermano, Orquesta Del Desierto) to the fold alongside Wendy Rae Fowler (Earthlings?, QOTSA), Scott Reeder (Kyuss, Sun and Sail Club), and Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man). On the surface, Sky Island looks like a supergroup get-together of the known names in the stoner/desert rock niche. Still, Sky Island’s songwriting shows each collaborator’s vocal depth from different song styles. Each of the eight tracks is different from one another; blissfully progressive is a good description for Yawning Sons’ songwriting; there isn’t a single song that sounds identical among the eight tracks.
“Shadows And Echoes” featuring Fowler’s vocals, is the standout song with its soft-sounding songwriting bordering on ‘90s alternative ala Mazzy Star and psychedelic rock. The standout factor is Fowler’s vocal range displayed throughout the song; she is a very underrated vocalist and truly a hidden gem in the underground rock world. Her ability to harmonize her voice with Arce’s hypnotic arpeggiations and use her vocal ranges for added dynamics emphasizes that the band wrote the song around her voice projections.
The slow tempo “Low In The Valley” has Brown making his vocal debut for the group, but the rhythm section of Nick Hannon (bass) and Kyle Hanson (drums) who control the song’s flow through various tempo changes throughout its near seven-minute run. The synth-laden instrumental, “Passport Beyond The Tides,” put Arce’s playing front and center. At the same time, the droning riffs and synths compliment Arce’s fingerwork.
The eight tracks off Sky Island show SoAC and Arce’s adeptness to work off each other’s strengths and write texturized music both kaleidoscopic in sound and progressive in form. Sky Island is available on vinyl and CD through Ripple Music in late March 2021; grab your copy here.
Sky Island Track Listing:
1. Adrenaline Rush
2. Low in the Valley
3. Cigarette Footsteps
4. Passport Beyond the Tides
5. Shadows and Echoes
6. Digital Spirit
7. Gravity Underwater
8. Limitless Artifact
Run Time: 44:03
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Record Label: Ripple Music