Sahara Surfers - Sonar Pilot

9 songs
41:48 minutes
***** **
Sound Zero


The Alps may not be a desert yet, at least not for a couple of million or billion years when erosion has finally paid off, but Austrian quartet Sahara Surfers still play their desert rock as if they came from the dustiest depths of Arizona. A good year ago, they left already a very favourable impression with their self-produced debut Spacetrip On A Paper Plane. Now they are back with Sonar Pilot on a record label, one which they co-founded with a couple of friends, but still experience gives the whole thing already a much more mature look. Like the predecessor, you once again have the choice for a free legal download or a purchase of a physical copy.

What strikes me most on Sonar Pilot is the improvement the band has done in songwriting and production. The latter is most obvious on the fuzzy guitar and bass sound that always feels best when listened to loudly. Sahara Surfers are still quite an oddity in the stoner rock circus, not only because of their provenance, but mostly because they have with Julia ‹berbacher a female vocalist, something you don’t often encounter in said genre. Her voice is quite non-chalant, bordering on monotonous, which works quite well for a couple of tracks before you start wishing she’d use maybe some effects (distortion,…) to achieve some variety. Fortunately the songs never grow old on you, as the band is concentrating their energies on mostly concise yet quite striking material. The lazily titled Intro is just that, but works as a great entry point to be followed by Underline which sees the band adding some more moderate elements (reminding me actually of The Cult) to achieve quite an outstanding rock song. Another highlight is the title track, with nearly six minutes the longest piece on the album, and rightly displaying the band at its most varied. Ganjalf not only has a smart title (don’t let the Tolkien estate catch you on this heresy!), but also strong grooves that add a certain Black Sabbath doominess.

Sahara Surfers are much more than just the stoner rock band with the lady singer. They are smart enough to add enough elements from such different genres as alternative rock, metal, psychedelia to achieve a heartily entertaining album that seems to have just the right length for their needs. I strongly advise you first download the album, and if you like it – and there is a strong chance that you will do – you just go ahead and order the real thing!

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