Sunroof! – USSA

4 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Matthew Bower (?)

Beautiful and harsh (probably the two most common terms I’ll bandy about Sunroof! descriptions), USSA captures Matthew Bower’s 2003-era of the moniker, and finds the noise artist operating in an interestingly more “organic” vein, following Cloudz relatively gentler sound by firstly inviting chaos back in, but then dually playing up the somewhat more laid-back vibes from that album. USSA thus lurches between assaults of whatever (keys? guitar?) that are as crunchy as any SR! noise, but have a “live” feel to them, which is the connection to Cloudz’s more accessible approach. This boisterousness is paralleled by long-form guitar meanderings – Baltimore Starry Night’s 20-minute stoned jam – that, though typically unstructured, feel closer to drone, or something NPR folk might politely clap to. This isn’t an insult: it’s really a fascinating tweak to the Sunroof! sound, ever-shifting while remaining recognizable.

The back-and-forth continues on USSA, an electronic forefront on the noisier tracks; shoegazey, warm-shimmer on the slower tracks.

With Warm Panic 1, we start to get some of the “typical” Sunroof! clatter – lots of feedback and wall-of sound, but there’s still this somewhat fragile, live sensation to it that keeps it in line with the preceding tracks. However, as we go further along, the balance does tip, and we lose that vibe a bit. These tracks are still excellent (Warm Panic 1 and 2 and Disappear Here 1 and 2 form nice parallels of sound and psych), I just lose a bit of the immersion offered from the opening tracks.

Closer Rainbow Mush ties things back together, though, whooshes of sound overlain with piercing, ringing feedback, creating a brutal musicality only Bower can really pull off.

Cloudz is probably still my go to recommendation for potential new Sunroof! listeners, but this would follow soon after that – an excellent bridge to harsher affairs, and just a really well-rounded, varied listening experience (within this genre) overall.