Sunroof! – Found Star Sound

5 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Matthew Bower (?)

This was my first Sunroof! album; my first VHF purchase. It set a standard, both for how I inevitably judge other albums by the band, and for my expectations of / appreciation for the label – in how far-reaching it can be with its consortium of folk and experimental offerings. I was listening to a fair amount of noise at this point, but couldn’t find the thing that was a balance between “traditional” noise – think loud, feedback-soaked, aural assault stuff – and more ambient noise, like radio static. Loose-limbed groups like Storm & Stress got close, but even that became too tuneful; and going into experimental jazz territory was just too musical. Found Star Sound came at the perfect time: Matthew Bower’s mix of kitchen sink whatever into miasma ragas of varying levels of freak-out hit me hard, opener Pink Stream One this blend of individual sounds I could recognize (keys, guitar, programmed drums?), but combined into something wholly new to my ears. And yet, while I recognized the improvisation guiding things, it didn’t feel exactly random, nor was it so spread out as to tickle the boredom bone sometimes done so by other experimental acts.

Moving on into Sunroof!’s career from here, I love how albums have had more focused sound themes on occasion, but I think one of FSS’s great strengths is that it’s a slice of everything – the noise of that first track, then going into lighter folk, then bringing in some harsh and more direct guitar riffs for some echoes of Total, and delivered via relatively bite-sized tracks that bleed into one another but are also very distinct. It’s a “song”-based SR disc, which is probably an ideal way to get introduced to this kind of stuff.

That, combined with the mysterious vagueness of the artwork, and a label design scheme that I really loved, really gave me a new, hopeful trajectory in music: my ears weren’t crazy for desiring this stuff, and Bower and VHF allowed me an avenue to explore even more offerings in that vein. But as I put on Found Star Sound, goddamn 20+ years after first finding it, it stirs some nostalgia, sure, but lands just as hard as that first time, as the ideal middle path between the absence of melody, and yet complete immersion in it, embraced by Bower’s mind-numbing but precise-seeming application of All Sounds.