The Austin, TX music collective Sungod aren’t one to take lightly. Since their inception in 2009 the band, formed by multi-instrumentalists Michael C. Sharp and Braden Balentine, have kept things pretty heady and vast. Taking cues from Tangerine Dream, Sun Ra, John Fahey, and a vast pool of mind-expanding forward thinkers to help mold their sound, the band has built something you can’t quite pin down. You might catch glimpses of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Cluster, and Popol Vuh peeking through the Krautrock veneer, but with Sungod’s own unique big sky perspective that comes from the Lone Star state’s DNA.
Over time Sungod added to their roster other multi-instrumentalists like Nick Lombard and Kristine Reaume to help open the band’s sound even more. The results are apparent on Sungod’s newest album, the incredible Wave Refraction. They hinted at where they were going with their contribution to Holodeck Records’ Holodeck Vision One, the massive “Frequence”. Wave Refraction is the culmination of years of exploring and experimenting and bringing all of their sounds and sonic predilections under one roof. The results are stunning, and at times awe-inspiring.
The first thing that hits you is the explosive “Little Gold Mouth”. It opens with a wavering synth line that turns into a massive guitar riff and explosive drums. It’s like an unholy melding of Black Sabbath, Genesis and Hawkwind, with a touch of Wooden Shjips’ Krautrock tendencies for good measure. It’s one hell of a way to open an album; driving, heavy, and at times filled with synth-heavy jubilance. From there, we step right into the woozy and stoned “Hypnotism”. This track is like walking out onto your back porch at 1am and watching a massive meteor shower. There’s an elegance in the slow motion bend and dreamy guitars and synths. It’s sort of like stumbling onto the meaning of it all with a beer in your hand. This track shows that Sungod aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve when they feel like it, and that maybe Dark Side of the Moon might’ve been played once or twice in their youth.
We go from FM staples right into otherworldly freak out with the out there and free jazz-inspired “Birth and Speed Merging”. Kristine Reaume and Mike Sharp lay down a drum and flute back and forth that brings to mind Sun Ra, Ash Ra Temple, Eric Dolphy, and even the interstellar back and forth of Coltrane and Rashied Ali. Here is where Sungod separate themselves from everyone else. You’ve got to feel pretty confident in your skills and intent in order to pull something like this piece off, and Sungod pull it off in spades. “Dream Sequence” is a five minute interlude into the ether. A sonic splash of deep space meditation. Again, the flute intermingles with hazy synths, adding an organic quality to the galactic high that’s going on here. Title track “Wave Refraction” is built on a synthesizer pulse that is made soulful with a David Gilmour-like slide guitar line. Mellotron strings give the song a King Crimson quality, all the while the track does a steady float into deep space. The album closes on the electronic-heavy and fun “Von Innen”. With all the heavy vibes that came before it, “Von Innen” is an exuberant way to close things out. It brings to mind a bit of Alan Parsons Project and even Faust in their lighter moments.
Wave Refraction, while still retaining all the adventurous spirit and Krautrock tendencies of earlier records, feels like a next step for Sungod. What started out in the beginning as two multi-instrumentalists trying to get out there and spatial on album-side tracks and summon the spirit of Froese, has turned into something far more focused and expansive.
Wave Refraction is Sungod’s best album yet.
8.4 out of 10