Sun Blood Stories' five current members weren't entirely clear on who came up with the title of their new album, Twilight Midnight Morning (Obsolete Media Objects, 2015).
"We have this group message on Facebook—no one would ever be able to understand it if they ever looked at it," Amber Pollard said. "Somewhere in there is the story of how the album got named. We went through all of these different names, and everybody's throwing stuff out there from Poop to Acid Queen Dreams to all this stuff."
Once the name Twilight Midnight Morning came up, though, the choice was obvious.
"If we broke the album up, the first couple of songs are this twilight-y moment where you're really confused, and you're going to sleep, and you hear all these ting-tangs," Pollard said. "Then it gets kind of dark and heavy but right before you wake up, it starts to smooth out again."
It's quite a journey, one which those who haven't heard SBS lately might not expect. In a departure from the group's earlier blues-heavy sound, Twilight's eerie tunes, sinuous grooves and waves of voices, riffs and hallucinatory noises call to mind early Funkadelic and Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis. Metal-centric music blog The Obelisk called Twilight "a gorgeous wash that careens between minimalist openness, dual vocals that capture folkish intent with zero folkish pretense and psychedelic guitar howl, all the while swirling with experimental undercurrents and ambient heft."
The Obelisk will make Twilight available for streaming on Friday, June 19. SBS will perform live on Radio Boise that same day and play its album release show at Neurolux on Tuesday, June 23. Psychedelic instrumental trio Foul Weather and chamber-folk group Tisper will open.
Pollard and band founder Ben Kirby credited the change in their sound to the introduction of three new members: bassist Nik Kososik, who started out with local blues-rock band Limbosa; drummer Jon Fust, who played with Kirby in Ashley and the Astronauts and Talk Math to Me; and viola player Judah Claffey, whom the group recruited from local psychedelic group Ancient Psychic.
"We definitely spent some time just listening," Kirby said. "You know, recording ourselves playing and then listening to how it sounded. And then, I think, just being honest with how we wanted it to sound, which was not how it sounded at the time."
"And then being honest that we hated the songs that we were playing," Pollard added, referring to the first SBS album, The Electric Years.
In terms of production, Twilight definitely improves on Electric (self-released, 2013). The SBS of the time recorded Electric alone in its warehouse rehearsal space, resulting in a dim, murky sound. By contrast, the new lineup got help engineering and mixing Twilight from musician Dale Hiscock, whose work gave Twilight a clear, multilayered sound that reveals new details with each listen.
Not all of those details were planned.
"We'd listen back to it and Ben would turn the recorder back on," Pollard said. "He'd just turn it on and all these weird sounds that we would make—or, specifically, that's how it worked with me—I'd just be listening to what we'd just recorded and [start squealing]. And then all of a sudden, that's in the mix."
For the members of SBS, the album has almost taken on a life of its own.
"This album needs these songs, and we have to play it this way," Pollard added. "This is the first time that I haven't had to have notes. It's what happens: My hands move this way, and this is how the songs come out."
Twilight has had a powerful effect on others as well. Pollard called the album's preorders on Bandcamp "stupid insane," noting that one man paid $100 after hearing a single track. Other fans of Twilight include experimental musician C.J. Boyd, who agreed to release the album on his cassette label Obsolete Media Objects.
"He, through the label, submitted our album to [cassette maker] NAC," Pollard said. "And he was like, 'It's gonna take three weeks, hands down. You're not going to get it back. Be prepared.'"
Three days later, NAC shipped Twilight.
"Apparently, they really liked it," Pollard said. "This has never happened before."
SBS will see how others respond to their music soon. The band will embark on a two-week tour this summer before starting work on new material. As for the Twilight cassettes, fans should get them while—or if—they can.