Okay, I’ve been lagging on the posts this month. But I have a good excuse. I chipped a molar and had to get a root canal. Yeah, seriously. So things have been a little weird … or numb … or both. Anyway, all that talk is just for some context. So if tonight’s post goes off the rails, there’s at least reasonable cause.
In the spirt of all that, I’m going to start off randomly, and spontaneously pick up an old selection I’ve been meaning to feature. It’s called “Talking Distance” by Melbourne-based solo act Sunbeam Sound Machine. I call Sunbeam solo, because it’s the brainchild of Nick Sowersby, who’s essentially a one-man show, doubling as multi-instrumentalist and producer. Live, I hear he brings out a five-piece ensemble to flush out his sound. But for the composition and studio recordings, that’s all him.
In the past, I’ve held onto Sunbeam as one of those on-again, off-again picks, which essentially means I’ve been indecisive about whether or not to write about it, him, whatever … hell it’s always weird when a soloist takes on a band name … I never know exactly how to refer to the act … is it a them, him, it, or all of the above.
Anyway, back on point. Indecision doesn’t necessarily mean I hold anything against Sunbeam, or the track in question, “Talking Distance,” … or for that matter, anything else Sowersby has put to song. I’ve just been a bit moody about the writing of it all. But tonight, Sunbeam fits the headspace … or perhaps more appropriately, the jawspace that I’ve got going on. So let’s get started.
I’ll just say right off the bat that most of what I’ve heard by Sunbeam makes me think of Washed Out crossed with Vinyl Williams, mixed with some off-kilter shoegazed guitars and a heavy coat of dream-laced vocal wisps. There’s also this beachy downtempo vibe that surfs a hazy paisley glaze of chill-wave euphoria. When the forces collide altogether in the sonic blender, out comes the glimmers and shimmers of kaleidoscopic lounge-pop.
Given all that, I’m veering off on my first tangent. It’s an earlier track called “In Your Arms,” which embodies pretty much all of what I’ve just described. It also seems to be one of Sowersby’s more popular tracks, if those play counts amount to anything. That’s not really a factor for me … the popularity or the counts, I mean. I’ve more drawn to the sensation it provokes and ultimately leaves me with, which is why I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled programming, and starting with this embed.
“In Your Arms” from the 2014 album “Wonderer.”
Back to “Talking Distance.” If I recall correctly, a friend of mine recommended this. And like a lot of recommendations, I probably gave it a listen, then threw it in my monstrous playlist, which is designed for infinite shuffling. And when it resurfaced, it ended up for consideration in a post such as this. Pretty sure that’s the way it went down … sometime at the beginning of the year. Like I said, it’s been an on-again and off-again thing for me.
“Talking Distance” is a fairly straightforward jangly, fuzzy ball of pop-drenched dream-gaze. But through its simplicity, it creates an infinite loop of listenability. It’s a sunnier side to psychedelia, less moody and more upbeat. It’s one of Sunbeam’s faster songs, but it’s not necessarily breaking speed barriers. It’s almost quaint in its zippiness, leaning more towards an upper downtempo. It’s skirts the border between shoegaze and dream-pop, which really only amounts to the level of feedback put forth. Similar aesthetics apply, with plenty of crossover events, this being one of them. Check it out.
“Talking Distance” from the 2019 album “Goodness Gracious.”
I’m going to start my second tangent with another early track called “Wandering, I.” The play on words is cute. But I didn’t plan for a second tangent. The thing is, as I’ve been composing this post, this track keeps popping up in the background, nudging me to tack it onto the end of this whole thing. Well, as you’ll soon see, it’s not quite the end. But it’s close.
I’d say “Wandering, I’ falls firmly in the chilled category. It actually feels like wandering, or maybe, sauntering. It has a stoned lackadaisical stroll about it, musically rolling at a laid back pace with a lyrical meander. It also works well in the late night summer daze, when it’s too hot to sleep and too hot to do anything but sleep. It’s a sonic conundrum that suits these perplexing states.
“Wandering, I” from the 2014 album “Wonderer.”
Like I said, I wasn’t quite at the end. I just happened to catch “Getting Young” when I started my Sunbeam diatribe a few hours ago. So technically, it’s not a tangent, as I’d planned to wrap things up with this one originally.
I think it was the guitar solo during the latter third that did it for me. It just jams and jams in a soulful burst that pushes age to the wayside, and literally becomes the aural embodiment of its title. I mean, I’m feeling younger already. But seriously, “Getting Younger” is a quick little blast of dream-pop optimism, making for a suitable way to wrap up the evening, as well as this post.
So I’m going to abruptly end it here, and leave you with “Getting Younger.” I hope you’ve enjoying this rambling excursion through the sonic makings of Sunbeam Sound Machine.
“Getting Young” from the 2015 EP “Cloudbreaks/Getting Young.”
Oh, one last thing. I almost forgot to include this music video. It’s for the original track in question, “Talking Distance.” It’s a bit minimalist, but works on its own terms. Make of it what you will.