Sontag Shogun’s Elegantly Trippy Atmospherics Evoke Brian Eno
Does Sontag Shogun‘s name imply that they’re weekend warriors? Whatever the case, they have a strangely tuneful, individualistic sound, part piano-based art-rock, part ambient noise. They’re playing the album release show for their new one – most of which is streaming at Soundcloud and Bandcamp – on May 1 at 8 PM at Body Actualized, 143 Troutman St. (between Central and Evergreen; M to Central Ave.) in Bushwick. Cover is $6; there’s also music by Aaron Martin and Living Things plus a listening tent for new site-specific sound pieces by the group members, plus “an interactive scented-installation, popcorn and fortune cookies.” Quite the deal, huh?
The new album’s first two tracks center around Ian Temple’s attractively melodic neoromantic piano, which starts off very minimal in both instances and grows more animated. There are also layers of atmospheric, sustained electronic drones and sampled dialogue, which appears to be random. The fact that much of it isn’t clearly audible adds to the randomness/weirdness factor. Let the Flies in is a pretty much straight-up art-rock song, like a Richard Wright Pink Floyd ballad circa 1970 with hints of Britfolk, trippy keyboard echoes and vocals that allude to Radiohead. The piano eventually enters on the heels of snippets of noise and samples on the next track, Jubokko, then builds to a moody, stately theme that itself gets looped before receding into white noise and a few bubbly effects.
Orbit Insertion references Eno with its NASA sample, simple theme and shifting layers of atmospherics. It segues into Beyond Wind Bey, the most psychedelic of all the pastiches here: it isn’t Revolution 9 but it might qualify as Revolution 2 or 3. The Musk Ox, an icy hymn of sorts, also evokes Eno with its simple, stately resonance. The album’s concluding cut opens with seaside sonics that quickly go off into outer space; once again, the piano eventually joins the mix, carefully and gracefully. It’s interesting stuff: just when you think it’s about to drift off into the ether for good, there’s a surprise to lure you back in.