The opening track (Prologue) to Endless Voyage is a minute-long keyboard instrumental consisting of one repeated chord change, gradually building to a brutal segue straight into another instrumental ‘Defective Machine’ – which sounds exactly like it is described: like the pained cries of a fax terminal as it is subjected to prolonged white-noise,-electrodes-and-sleep-deprivation torture.

 The rest of the album is a quasi-rock-opera made up of half-a-dozen full-band songs interspersed with more light, lo-fi little keyboard interludes – nothing like as gritty as the Magnetic Fields but just a step above muzak. It’s a dynamic I really like, and which makes this album quite an unusual listening experience – it’s intense and heavy-going for most of the time, but with little rest periods in between; like a Vietnamese snake banquet or some Heston Blumenthal-curated culinary “experience”.

‘Dreaming of Distant Shores’ is exactly what you would get if you took an early Casio keyboard and pressed “DEMO” followed by “BOSSA NOVA”; Marble Gallery is a gentle three time number reminscent of a Wurlitzer-organ intermission in a seaside resort cinema in the 1950s; Contemplation is what you would get if you went into a 5 year old child’s mind in the 1980s and asked them what Chinese music sounds like (all major pentatonic scales on cheap-sounding synths – it reminds me very much of the bonus track from The Chinkees Are Coming – except it doesn’t have the racist film samples and isn’t 12 minutes long); Epilogue is much more psychedelic and Doors-y and the mood reminds me a lot of the Nintendo computer game series “Metroid”, all unresolving repetition and cold isolation.

The first track with vocal content (the fourth track on the album) ‘A Conflict Taking Place’ has overtones of Blur (like a slowed-down version of ‘Ludwig’) and vocally sounds a bit like the B52s (apart from the effects which make a couple of the verses sound like Satan) but there are a good few late-70′-early-80’s style punk songs on the album, too – Dreamweaver is very Ramones-influenced; Oscillations could be a cover of an obscure Dead Kennedys B-side (jammed out to six and half minutes long); Endless Voyage I is vocally like proto-Metallica but also has weird falsetto backing vocals, which convince me, along with the strange effects and odd backing vocals on ‘A Conflict Taking Place’, that although Sunflowers aren’t going for out-and-out “funny”, they don’t take themselves overly seriously.

Clearly influenced by Frank Zappa and a lot of psychedelic artists (or drugs), Endless Voyage is little bit reminiscent of a lot of the content released by the record label Fruits de Mer (tag line: “as if the last 40 years never happened”), including their tribute to Pretty Things’ 1968 concept album S F Sorrow.

The songs generally have a very live feel – not overly rehearsed, not overly tight, giving the band tracks that sort of punk / psychedelic vibe. The drum sound is very 60s-70s (or Devendra Bernhardt)… a bit hard to describe, but imagine the abysmal movie ‘Speed 6’, where Sandra Bullock has been told that she has to keep playing drums for an entire gig, but if she hits the snare too hard, then a bomb will go off and kill everyone in the venue.

The editing of the tracks is a bit rubbish, though, with the starts not neat enough by a long way – now, this may just be an issue with the Soundcloud demo I was sent (don’t get me started on downloading music to iPhone) but if it’s the same on the album tracks, it’s not really forgivable, even for an independent release, given the technology that’s available nowadays. We’re not in the days of splicing tape any more.

Taken song-by-song, it’s not the sort of music that you can’t find elsewhere, but overall, Endless Voyage is a pretty eclectic mix, and the sort of thing that not many bands are really doing nowadays and it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it; I mean, any album that comes with a Prologue and Epilogue is good in my book.

Sunflowers: Endless Voyage – Out 14th February 2020 (Stolen Body Records)

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Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.