Album Review: Heaven by Sundays and Cybele

I first came across Sundays and Cybele earlier this year when I heard the 2012 album release ‘Gypsy House’, which had just come out on vinyl on the brilliant Tokyo label GuruGuru Brain. If you are in any doubt about this check out the label’s Japanese Psych Compilation ‘GuruGuru Brainwash‘ which is a fantastically eclectic mix of music encompassing  folk, jazz, beats and blues…stretching our conceptions of what ‘psych’ might be, but in a uniquely Japanese way. There are vinyl copies of ‘Gypsy House’ still available too, I cannot recommend it highly enough…check it out here.

S&C band

In the meantime Sundays and Cybele have also self-released ‘Tsubouchi’ in 2014, an album that feels lighter but is actually a dystopic vision of the future. Tsubouchi is different from the other two albums and, given that it bears the name of Sundays and Cybele founder and multi-instrumentalist Kazuo Tsubouchi, feels like a very personal album, more pop and folk oriented – but with a very distinct sixties psychedelic flavour – and is available to stream, and to buy on CD or download, here.

Like ‘Gipsy House’,  ‘Heaven’ was a much more immediate album for me. The first track, ‘Black Rainbow’ bursts out of the blocks with a huge yet massively tuneful sound which just tells you that you are in for something very special with this album. this is going to be just short of fifty minutes of pure psychedelic bliss. If, like me, that’s what you expect then you will be confounded. That’s because with the next track, ‘Almost Heaven’ things get decidedly down and dirty, in a ’70s New York sort of way. Visceral and vital, this track has real raw power and skids along cocking a snoop at anyone who wants to pigeonhole Tsubouchi and his band.

You barely have time to draw breath before Sundays and Cybele (the band is named after the 1962 Best Foreign Language Academy Award winning film from French director Serge Bourguignon about a psychologically damaged war veteran and a neglected child begin a startlingly intimate friendship) power into ‘Night Predator’ a much more understated yet no less striking track that has Tsubouchi almost speaking the lyrics adding to the lo-fi sinister experience; as the title suggests there is definitely something of the shadows and dirty underbelly of society about this number.

After this ‘Empty Seas’, with its great guitar opening which drops into a superb riff with bags of reverb and really gives the album some dynamism just at the time that it needed it. This feels like the last rally, the last shred of rebellious energy before the album takes a decidedly down beat tone for the last couple of tracks. ‘Empty Sea’ is probably my favourite track on the album because it has so much energy and, I imagine, would be superb live (and I really hope that Tsubouchi will tour these albums at some point).

‘Hinagiku’, perhaps named after the female kendo-loving underdog manga character, acts as a come down from the riot and chaos of the previous tracks and feels to me like something of a transition track into the really gentle ‘Time Mirror’. Both these tracks weirdly (though perhaps not given the provenance of the band’s name) remind me of the chanson delivery of the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, but in Japanese and in a very different context. Even more weirdly this really works and points to an ambivalent heaven of chaos, order, light, dark, peace, tranquility and foreboding; a heaven which both attracts and repels. They complete a song cycle which demands to be heard in order and in its entirely…I urge you to do just that when it is released!



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