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Heavy, spacey and "far out!" - Sleepy Sun, White Hills and The Gentle Art of Floating

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Sleepy Sun singer Bret Constantino shakes his tambourine at The Conservatory on Sunday night.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – First off, my ears are still ringing from last night’s show at The Conservatory featuring Sleepy Sun and White Hills, with local band The Gentle Art of Floating opening up.

The ringing was primarily caused by one of the most incredible power trios I’ve ever heard, a New York-based psychedelic space-rock band called White Hills. Loud, raw, trippy and unrelenting, White Hills – Dave W. (vocals, guitar), Ego Sensation (fuzzed-out bass), and Nick Name (drums) – is the sort of band that brings to mind the “space-is-deep,” astronomical weightiness that, say, Hawkwind might conjure up. But there is also that arty New York sensibility. Dave W. reminded me of a shorter n’ younger cross between Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. Ego Sensation, meanwhile, is a beautiful blonde bass player who fuzzes it out with the best of ‘em. And this drummer – is it Nick Name?!?! – simply brutalized the drum kit. He had to put some cinder blocks in front of the bass drum before their set, just to keep it from flying off the stage in a repetitive, punishing fury. Awesome! “Robot Stomp,” indeed!

White Hills is touring in support of their newest disc out on Thrill Jockey, Frying on this Rock. I have to say, it is exciting to see a band like White Hills. Hearing their fuzzy onslaught gives me hope that some great new bands – particularly in this amazing neo-psychedelic movement  (think The Black Angels) -  are going to save rock n’ roll.

As I stepped outside, people outside were lighting cigarettes and praising the White Hills performance, and rightly so. Everyone seemed blown away. Too bad more people weren’t out to hear them.

Their tourmates, Sleepy Sun, also have a new record out called Spine Hits. These guys are from San Francisco (they are keeping that city’s 60’s dream alive in their own way) and a year or so ago lost their lone female band member Rachel Fannan.

No matter. The boys, led by singer Bret Constantino, held their own quite nicely, thank you. A mix of dreamy tunes and some with a bit more muscle. These songs, musically and lyrically, have a thoughtful maturity that isn’t as evident on the earlier album Embrace.

As Constantino told the Oklahoma Gazette, “It became more about conveying an idea or feeling within a shorter time span. That was a conscious effort to write songs as opposed to finding songs out of jams.”

A song like “Creature” has a slightly sludgy feel – at first – and then shifts into something a little more groovy. And “Still Breathing” that starts out with a shoegazer-styled drone then gets earthier with some acoustic guitar and gentle vocals from Constantino. Sounds like the time recording Spine Hits out in the desert environment of California’s Joshua Tree National Park was worth the effort. It certainly influenced the music therein. I suspect Gram Parsons, were he with us today, would approve of the results.

Onstage, Constantino is switching between maracas, a tambourine, a harmonica or some little cymbals. He likes having something to hold on to. The rest of the band simply grooves, with drummer Brian Tice holding things together with his inventive rhythms.No wonder a well-known band like The Arctic Monkeys saw fit to have Sleepy Sun open up for them. Still, Constantino lamented an earlier visit to The Conservatory when he said "two people" showed up to hear them. This night there were 40 or so - maybe.

As for The Gentle Art of Floating, you’ve got the three-piece dynamic again and they are taking the audience to places beyond Colin Nance’s “Country Kicks” gimme cap. I truly dug this band with it’s shoegaze-y psychedelia. It is great to know a band singing songs like the “Death of Doowop” and projecting trippy images on a screen calls Oklahoma City home.

The Gentle Art of Floating will be taking part in the Norman Music Festival this weekend, which also features headliner Portugal.The Man, another band we are pretty doggone keen on.

Copyright 2012 West Marie Media

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from John Brown University in... read more

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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