UNITED WATERS – Sunburner (2014)

Review by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho
Album assigned by: Steve Andrew Robey

Don’t get mistaken by this album’s name: it promises fire, but there’s no fire here. The element that prevails is water. Not clear, crystalline, French-Polynesian-sea water, either. These eight songs take place at the bottom of a murky lake, composing a psychedelic chill-rock record that stands out primarily by its extremely fuzzy vocals.

It almost seems like the singer is speaking from the bathypelagic zone, and it’s, texturally, pretty unique. If only he did sing something, instead of mumbling featurelessly and lethargically all the time! Due to this, not only are his words incomprehensible (at least for me, not a native English-speaker) but it is extremely hard to find any trace of vocal melody in most of the album. The only songs that approach a hook are the title track; the fifth one, ‘Our Beat’; and the closer, ‘Out of Flight’. The latter is also the only one to depart from the submarine mood, and only then in the coda, which legitimately feels like emerging from a long dive and is the strongest part of the album to me.

The instrumentation is sparse, but the guitars are good throughout the 37 minutes, with interesting riffs and cool textures, being the redeeming factor for many tracks. In fact, the album could be said to be defined by the conflict of interest between guitars and vocals. The guitars beg to be analyzed further, for they are not immediately attention-grabbing, but subtle in their intricacies. The vocals, however, are so dull most of the time, they actively contribute to make you not want to pay the attention the guitars need to be appreciated.

I feel sorry for the guitarist, who certainly deserves better, but I must give this album thumbs down. This is not an unpleasant album, by any means, and not an uninteresting one either, but it is very monotonous, lacks diversity and hooks, and there’s nothing there that makes me want to listen to it again.

Author: tomymostalas


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