Sunroof! – Silver Bear Mist

4 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Sunroof! (?)

Recontextualizing noise and the Sunroof! sound across various releases, Michael Bower and Mick Flower commit to a very direct and (to my ear) purposeful duology of sounds across Silver Bear Mist’s two discs, forefronting things with harsh, electric soundscapes, then retreating back into washes of shimmery guitar. Here and there we shift into ambience, or a more “traditional” kitchen sink Sunroof! clatter, but this is otherwise a very realized experience, giving a listener a graspable nature to the songs – as compared to Bower’s sometimes more cryptic and frantic approaches under the moniker – then allowing it to be peeled apart for a second disc of wonderful, blissed-out evocations of strummed and held chords.

Disc 1 feels like an all-new SR! at its outset: White Stairs rings out with what’s almost a riff, a metal-y guitar noise buzzing out with head-bobbing consistency, and this approach of an identifiable (and loud) layer on top is what leads us through several (for Sunroof!) short 2 – 4 minute bursts, sounding very “rock”y, as guided by more guitar, or feedback, or some equally propulsive element. As the tracks get longer, Bower / Flower up the noise ante a bit, leveling the playing field and allowing the pace and approach to slow, and spread out, bridging between song and ambience on a couple of long-form tracks, ‘Mariuana Suicide’ a particular highlight of tonal ebb and flow. However, this leads us to what feels like the one oddity on the collection, at least when considered as a whole: Sky Blue Sword’s burbling ambience seems a step in a different direction than the generally skronkier affairs that precede it, but is also way too expansive – 20 minutes – to act as a coda, its length instead making it a focus. It’s an immersive listen, just out of place, and would’ve likely been better on disc 2… except disc 2 already hits full runtime, perhaps necessitating its place here.

But onto the second CD, Silver Bear Mist can more officially switch gears: the first four tracks are variations on a theme of waves of guitar, with the mood of the track (and how much is layered atop of or behind that guitar) the different levers on which Bower / Flower pull, leading to songs more celebratory, or exploratory, or creepy. It’s magical stuff, and a very interesting balance to the more direct assaults on the first disc. The transition here between styles also feels smoother, as penultimate Stacked Diamonds comes across as more traditional SR! sound collage, which is balanced by the comparative minimalism of Trampled Dawns, a fittingly quiet way to fade out on the album.

All of the material here is very powerful, and very purposeful; save my take on disc 1 being slightly less smooth from start to finish in terms of how it effects mood, Silver Bear Mist is an amazing set of tracks from Sunroof!, that goes by at a fast clip by juggling, between its 2 CDs, a mix of relatively “accessible” jams, and wholly enveloping shoegaze washes of noise.