Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean


“Keep the music going for a second?” asks Julia Cumming of the sound man, as the rest of the Brooklyn hailing trio, seemingly consisting of a young Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan circa 1967, race to the stage of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen to perform an impromptu half-cover of Parquet Courts’ detached poster-track ‘Stoned and Starving’. The band feed in and out of the New Yorkers’ post-punk slacker anthem mid-tuning, and as nods of approval are shared between the barely 20-somethings and the life that fills the claustrophobic space settles, the room is lulled into Sunflower Bean’s world with a rendition of the wandering and pelagic ‘Human Ceremony’. The opener of both their set and recently released debut album of the same name meditates on existence against a collage of sparkling melody and solid groove that holds a sweetness to it only revisited at the end of the set on the Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘Easier Said’. Everything explored in-between these two pillars of psych-pop bliss is both hypnotising and possessed.

‘Tame Impala’ sees Cumming exorcising demons, as the motoric-induced sways that accompanied ‘This Kind Of Feeling’ turn to wild thrashes in the wake of the ‘Show Me Your Seven Secrets’ cut. The bass-wielding powerhouse whips her white hair and screams with abandon until the audience are convinced they’re sharing the room with a siren of death. However, possession is infectious, and whatever spirit inhabited Cumming seems to be shifting shells as guitarist Nick Kivlen slips into madness as the band explore the spectrum between psychedelia and sludge in the semi-improvised jam that follows, which could only end with Kivlen performing a balancing act with his guitar resting on top of his head – toying with the fuzz and the feedback.

‘2013’ acts as an anxiety ridden, future fearing fossil and ‘I Was Home’ carries all the youthful immediacy of a band touring off the back of their debut album, but the real jewel of the evening is found in ‘Space Exploration Disaster’: a locomotive, hallucinatory experience – propelled by the strange spectre that seems to be using all three band-members as puppets at this point and forcing them to beat the sound out of their instruments as they slip into yet another time-signature-surfing sonic-bloom. You can only gather that whatever has taken hold of Sunflower Bean this evening always dreamt of creating something as vivid and refreshing in its first life, but didn’t quite have the right combination of reckless disregard and vicious precision to make it work. Now that the once claustrophobic room is lit up and empty following the events of the evening, I can’t help but question whether the paint was peeling off of the brick walls before the show or as a result of it, but regardless of such trivial questioning it can’t be argued that Sunflower Bean conjured up a storm this evening and, for a brief moment, lightning lived in the Soup Kitchen.

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James Musker

Music Journalism student and lover of all things sensory and cosmic.