Darkmoonwhiteout is the exceptional full-length debut from Denver’s Pale Sun. Led by Jeff Suthers, a longtime fixture in the Denver space rock scene, the album draws obvious comparisons to 90’s new wave and shoegaze legends, while proving to be a more visceral take on the genres.
Airy and ethereal, but pulsing with the classic underpinnings of structured rock, the tracks are psychedelic while remaining syncopated to drummer Kit Peltzel’s (another vet of the Denver scene) and bassist Eddie Corcoran’s hypnotic sub-plot. (Since the album’s recording, Adam Shaffner has replaced Corcoran in the band’s line-up.)
Suthers’s hovering guitar work and solar vocal warmth pulls us into a dark but comforting transcendental state that reminds us of mortality and cosmic possibility in the same delay-soaked breath; it’s like sonic layers have been added to The Cure’s early minimalism found in the Pornography and Faith era.
In “Colliding Birds,” Suthers’s and Brian Marcus’s interplaying guitars thread a landscape that is abstracted but thoroughly listenable. As the lyricism assumes an accented presence, the song’s complexity becomes more apparent.
The tuned-down grinding chords of “Frozen in Time,” one of the heaviest tracks on the album, are commanding as Suthers riffs on time, space, and ghosts, before the song simply stops, as if the infinite can be harnessed in one down-tempo strum.
Such cathartic moments are followed by gently reverberating notes and the fractured dissonance of peripheral noises trailing off into a contextualized ether, further reinforcing Pale Sun’s position as one of Denver’s more intentional and intriguingly heady bands.
“Starry,” a slower, tremolo-enhanced tune, is also a more atonal track that gets brightened by—while still creating a contrast for—Suthers’s sullen and honest vocal work.
The album’s title track, “Darkmoonwhiteout,” is well positioned as the third to last song, summarizing what has come before while also developing into a melody of carefully plucked fuzz-fucked notes. As the song morphs into an intoxicatingly dark psychedelia, we’re further lured into Pale’s Sun’s mastery of distilled tension.
The penultimate “Gathering Lights,” works toward resolve, while still suggesting angst, bewilderment, and uncertainly—qualities that seem to inform all of these songs, despite the moments of beauty and reprieve.
Darkmoonwhiteout finishes with “Dandelion Wine,” as Peltzel’s cardiac rhythms provide a reference point for the album’s swirling, jangly, and unapologetically atmospheric conclusion. As the echoing echoes fade, we realize this is a commanding and entrancing album.
Listen and learn more at www.flightapproved.com/palesun
Darkmoonwhiteout is available digitally, and in a limited edition 12” 180 gram white vinyl.