Music Review: Be/Non's 'Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic'
Seven men are trapped on the moon. Only a song played well enough to please their alien captors will save them from eternal banishment from Earth. Some plead for a ride home with "oohs" and "aahs"; others beat drums, press keys and turn knobs in perfect unison. With “Aahs Come from the Skies/Oohs Come from the Ground,” Be/Non makes such an unlikely scenario sound possible.
Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic is the band's sixth full-length album. Every release since Be/Non’s inception in 1994 has embraced a different genre of rock. There's been angular, power pop, experimental, psychedelic, futuristic, and now space rock. Few things have remained consistent throughout the band's twenty-year career, save for a robust-sounding rhythm section and the band’s founder, Brodie Rush.
Seven past and present Be/Non members contributed to Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic and performed at the album’s release party on February 28 inside the Scottish Rite Temple at Linwood and Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri. The mysterious venue reflected the event’s meditative theme. No booze was served. Talking was a minimal. Most people sat in the red velvet seats transfixed by Be/Non’s three drummers and four multi-instrumentalists playing guitars and synthesizers framed by a Grecian themed proscenium. Kansas City photographer Todd Zimmer captured the entire evening in a time-lapse video.
The record feels dark like the "sunset" half of its name. There's an almost equal disbursement of upbeat crunchy rock songs and slow, expansive droning songs, all evidence of Be/Non's fearless experimentation. Rush told KCUR in an interview that he used four '80s-era synthesizers and six keyboards to produce the tweets, beeps and buzzes that color Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic.
“It’s not like we were sitting there with our calculators out trying to make something weird. A few songs in particular wrote themselves. Some were more labored,” Rush said of his recording process. “[The songs] have a first-take kind of feel. There’s a lot of magic things that happen because they are serendipitously executed to tape.”
The hands-off approach leads to mostly positive results. “Chrono-Synclastic” is an impressive two-minute slice from a 30-minute jam session with Be/Non members at Rush’s home studio. “Mystic Sunrise" shimmers with wild creativity because of its unexpected instrumentation: a playful glockenspiel, tribal drum pattern, and fat acoustic guitar strums. On “Nugugu,” a tweety synth loop and scratchy guitar sound more like unplanned song-soup until they launch into double time tempo towards the end. Still, Be/Non's risk taking gives the entire record fresh energy.
Rush has buried most of the record's lyrics within the thickly stacked layers that make up each song, prioritizing the importance of music over words. When lyrics do appear, they usually ask existential questions or convey dismal thoughts, such as the refrain “Misery loves a little honeymoon” on “Abyss.” The sparse lyrics allow listeners to draw their own conclusions (or imagine outlandish scenarios like a moon rescue mission).
Hannah Copeland is an announcer and arts contributor at KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @hannahecopeland.