United Waters’ Sunburner is the sound of a hot apartment in July. With the air conditioner on the fritz the windows are wide open in the blazing afternoon and the sound of the neighborhood seeps in like the humid belches of heat that consume you. In the distance a guy cranks his stereo and blares some unrecognizable industrial album; the kid down the hall spends a half hour plucking an out-of-tune electric guitar, while a couple blocks away you can hear city workers breaking up a sidewalk. You can barely make it out, but someone is definitely playing a drumset, out of time of course and in intermittent slaps, pats, and tats. All of these noises are alarming at first. Painful even in the heat as you try to find some semblance of solitude amidst the cacophony of aural chaos. But after awhile all of these noises begin to mesh. They blend into this pharmaceutical, hypnotic sound soup. Underneath all of the noise you hear a low, monotone voice speaking to you, soothing you. What’s it saying? You can’t tell, but that’s okay. Pretty soon the city squall becomes this muffled, warbly pop song. A score to a sticky, sun and sweat-drenched afternoon. An industrial lullaby played in the key of nothing in-particular.
I recently came across United Waters’ Sunburner and I was a bit perplexed. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. Is it some avante garde take on noise rock? A codeine-laced, post-surgical numbed pop? I ran out of quirky, clever adjective-filled sentences to describe it. Pitchfork writer Marc Masters wrote this about Sunburner:
Yet every inch of Sunburner is muffled and drenched as if it’s wearing a sweater in 100-degree weather; at times, it resembles a Joy Division record played under a stack of mattresses.
I felt this was a great description but not one that would entice me to seek out United Waters’ Sunburner at any point in the near future. I listened as opening track “Blue Weaver” played and to my ears it sounded like some beat up, warped tape copy of a lost Morphine song. With its simple guitar riff and what sounds like a distant kick drum playing, followed by singer Brian Sullivan’s moan/vocal it all sounded fairly common. Then this warped, mutant noise comes up from the depths and turns the song into something else. Darker and more sinister. “Turn On Your Century” beats and booms along like a band playing some nondescript song in a room three doors down. “Sunburner” indeed sounds like the echoes of Joy Division running through their set list in a grimy Manchester garage as Leonard Cohen reads lyrics into a third rate microphone. “Our Beat” sounds like The Motels playing in an ether haze.
The whole albums chugs along song after song with a disjointed rhythm and a rusty, industrial darkness. Like something that would be playing in the background of a David Lynch film, or a black and white German expressionistic short film. You start out thinking why you’re listening to this noise, but by the end you’re hitting play again. And again. It’s a hypnotic listening experience. You won’t be putting this album on to entertain the family or for a party jam. But much like Body/Head’s Coming Apart, it’s a visceral listening experience that affects you. You may even find a place to curl up and hide inside it for a bit. That’s not a bad thing.
7.9 out of 10