- Sunburned (Hand of the Man) gets all Ummagumma at the Beachland on Friday.
In the last year, Sunburned Hand of the Man shortened its moniker to just Sunburned. As a result, the group's name no longer sounds like a mystical brotherhood -- but that's fitting. Z, its latest release and debut for Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace imprint, sees the ensemble scrapping its ritualistic psych-rock for scalding noise action.
Although Sunburned is revered as one of underground rock's most exploratory outfits, it has traditionally maintained a fluid yet identifiable aesthetic: Ground listeners' bodies in greasy rhythms while transporting their minds to the Andromeda Galaxy with echo-soaked free improv.
Drummer, shouter, and co-founder John Moloney says Sunburned's traditionally fluid membership helped bring about the radical break heard on Z. When, for example, bassist and co-founder Rob Thomas went on sabbatical late last year, his thick, dubby grooves receded from the group's sound.
"With Rob on the bass, it's definitely, like, bass-and-drum style," he explains, phoning from his new home in Northhampton, a small town tucked inside the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. "Without him, however, something else comes out."
But Moloney also says Z is a product of personal issues riddling the band's recent history. "We went down a dark path," he admits. "Last year was tough. Some guys went through some hard times, and that came through the music."
The Boston native doesn't delve into specifics, but he doesn't need to. Z's mindfuck claustrophobia speaks for him. Over just five tracks, Sunburned melts its usually spacious, multidimensional soundscape into thick, unforgiving sheets of nightmare fallout and nasty vibrations.
Sunburned has released roughly 30 far-out discs since 1997, and Z just might be its starkest and most challenging release to date.