Yawning Sons is a portmanteau for the collaboration between two uniquely stunning bands: Yawning Man (from La Quinta, CA) and Sons of Alpha Centauri (from Kent, England).
Yawning Man long ago achieved legendary status in the Rock underground. Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, the mystical trio frequently appeared at desert generator parties, holding a significant influence on bands like Kyuss (Kyuss, you may recall, covered the Yawning Man tune “Catamaran” when drummer Alfredo Hernández joined to record …And the Circus Leaves Town).
Yawning Man, who specialize in beautifully intricate and spaced-out jams (for a few examples, check out our review of Live At Giant Rock), have never feared collaboration.
Neither have Sons of Alpha Centauri. Originally a hard-driving blend of Post Metal, Space Rock, and Stoner Rock, the band took a few different cues from Karma to Burn (even going as far as numbering their songs).
The first Yawning Man-Sons of Alpha Centauri collaboration took place in 2008 when the band recorded Ceremony to the Sunset (which was released in 2009).
Ceremony to the Sunset was exactly what you’d expect a mash-up between Yawning Man and Sons of Alpha Centauri to sound like: ethereal, cosmic, and endlessly trippy. The first Yawning Sons release was undeniably Yawning Man and undeniably Sons of Alpha Centauri.
Now, more than a decade later, Yawning Sons have produced Sky Island.
Yawning Sons is:
- Gary Arce — guitars
- Marlon King — guitars/vocals
- Nick Hannon — bass
- Stevie B — drums
- Kyle Hanson — drums
- Blake — effects
On Sky Island, the vocalists are:
- Marlon King — “Adrenaline Rush”
- Dandy Brown — “Low in the Valley” and “Gravity Underwater”
- Mario Lalli — “Cigarette Footsteps”
- Wendy Rae Fowler — “Shadows and Echoes”
- Scott Reeder — “Digital Spirit”
Sky Island Album Review
For this review, I’m trying something new—a stream of consciousness review. I’ll shoot straight from the hip while listening in real-time so you can see my entire first experience with this album.
Track One: Adrenaline Rush
The intro bass riff has a thick Latin swagger behind it, which sets the band up for business right away.
I’m capturing a hint of a British accent in the vox.
Jesus, the chorus in “Adrenaline Rush” is huge!
The guitar textures in the verse add a hypnotic tapestry for the rest of the track—a psychedelic canvas, if you will.
The bass drives the movement. I love these assertive chords for the chorus! Totally in the pocket.
This song should be the backdrop for an epic surf video—each chorus cymbal hit heralding a massive cutback at the top of the wave, spewing sea spray asunder.
Track Two: Low In The Valley
The first note gave me a “Tighter & Tighter” (Soundgarden) flashback in a good way, but it immediately sauntered off along its own path.
This is signature Gary Arce—the delay guitar work enters on the right channel.
There’s a bass with a hint of overdrive setting the pace.
This instrumental interlude is entrancing, yet there’s still space for the vox.
For a second, I heard some Perry Farrell tones à la Tahitian Moon on the outro.
Track Three: Cigarette Footsteps
Delay guitar intro on the right. Friendly amp hiss below. Beautiful snare tone cutting right through the mix with a clean, chainy smack.
This track grooves.
To me, this is the desert.
Vox sounds different from the previous singer (and it is—it’s Mario Lalli this time).
This reminds me of a seasoned warrior who puts new recruits at ease on the front line as they prepare for the onslaught.
This track feels like a call to return to the simple thigs in life. An elegy to bygone bliss.
Tons of intricate guitar interwoven into a dreamy tapestry.
Love this track—this was a comforting, enchanting piece.
Track Four: Passport Beyond the Tides
Synths—pads. These guys are not afraid to add electronic texture when needed.
Very authentic guitar intro straight up the center.
It feels spontaneous, which is admirable and courageous to display in these days of Auto-Tune perfection.
This is art playing itself out in real time—straight to tape (or hard drive), never to be replicated identically again—but conjured once for posterity.
I can see initiates studying this in the future as we do bygone masters like Picasso or (insert your own icon here).
For those of us who try to really listen, we should try to enjoy it right now. No drums, no percussion. We’re dancing on the aether. Stepping up and through, eyes closed but guided by sound.
Track Five: Shadows and Echoes
This one starts off more traditionally.
Huge bass tone with a film noir Americana guitar sound.
This song has a female vox (Wendy Rae Fowler). Bit of a Mazzy Star vibe, a sultry hint of a whiskey voice. Beautiful voice and backgrounds chants remind me of a young Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries—RIP) playfully chiming in like a precocious sprite.
The drum recording is exceedingly clean on this track.
Their engineer/mixer must smile when listening to this one.
This vocalist is really going for it while the guitars are holding the line.
Definitely a bouncy number. Super interesting. Wasn’t expecting this one.
Track Six: Digital Spirit
Bass on the left, guitar on the right. This opening riff has an anthemic quality to it.
Wide vocals and percussion enter. Huge bass in the center.
Just got a hint of early Blind Melon, most likely from the guitar tone and the vocal harmonies. I’m no expert, but the gang’s harmonies evoke a Beatles-esque vibe.
It sounds like it would have been a lot of fun to record this particular track.
Track Seven: Gravity Underwater
Quieter but bigger with a bit of an odd meter timing.
Vocals are king on this one, with the chorus developing nicely.
I’m sensing super restraint from the drums and hearing a tiny rock organ in there with the guitar solo.
I wasn’t there in the ‘70s, but if I had to guess, this one would have fit right in.
Track Eight: Limitless Artifact
Drum and bass start.
Next, a torrent of delay guitar—which, from personal experience, takes considerable skill to control. This type of delay is oftentimes like steering a wild horse.
The bass leads the way here though. This track is like freedom in a bottle.
I wonder what the drummer was counting? Bars? Measures? Or are we dealing with visual cues?
So many questions.
The pedal hat hasn’t gone unnoticed, by the way—super cool.
Hard right, guitar performance is beyond reproach.
Bass riff is bringing a swagger to the moment again.
Left guitar starts to flex just after the 5-minute mark—I hear you, brother.
Is the student now the master here?
Have we witnessed some symbolic handing off of the baton?
Holy shit—7 minutes well spent.
Pros: Sky Island is a must-listen for fans of Yawning Man and those who love soul-liberating, free-spirited Psychedelic music. This album exudes warmth and much-needed sunshine in these dark times.
With Mario Lalli and Gary Arce on the record, this immediately becomes an important piece of the Desert Rock pantheon.
Cons: The vocal tracks struggled to align with the rest of the music on this album, often pulling the listener out of the moment.