The New Delhi prog-rock sojourners of Skyharbor have just released their third album, Sunshine Dust.
With a foundation of ingenious composition, an unceasing ability to shatter musical expectations, and a contagious purpose seeming divinely enkindled, Sunshine Dust lovingly obliterates the par of excellence for Post and Prog Rock lovers alike.
Sunshine Dust constantly walks on untreaded turf, planting its flag with moments of pure compositional excellence.
Its composition, the life-giving core of the album’s musicality, is sculpted from brilliance down to the last detail. Unique textures and little blips of sensation in Sunshine Dust weave a series of textures that encompass all.
Skyharbor excels at delivering momentary deviations from the expected. These deviations are the cherry on top, leaving a listenerbewildered,and cackling with glee. These moments, driven by the sum of their equally meticulous parts, move in dazzling perpetual motion. No two choruses are the same, and no moment allows itself to be cliche. Some of these textures, like the laser-light heartbeat of “Signal” drew a dazzling similarity with A Lot Like Birds’ Divisi.
I’m pleased and equally described to say the instrument that packed the biggest surprise punches was the bass. Prepare to be delighted if you slap the strings.
Think a song is over? Guess again. Chances are, there’s likely a substantial bit more than expected. Expecting a bland chorus? The sprawling sublayers of Sunshine Dust will have you happily eating your own expectations.
Have you ever felt gravity’s pull stop?
Likely not, it just isn’t feasible. But Sunshine Dust offers the next most bamboozling sensation. Skyharbor taps into their lush and unadulterated imagination to build what could be the best five musical seconds of my September thus far.
Picture an energetic change between instruments, that then swivels around texture- keeping faithful to the same note sequence that makes the bed for an evocative vocal line, which careens into the first pure belt-out unclean of the album. That’s just five seconds of “Synthetic Hands”, perhaps my favorite song of the album for its ambition alone.
These intricate parts move seamlessly, with profound imagination, through such passionate and clever inversions that I become suspended in a new, different gravity belonging entirely to Skyharbor.
Whoa. But the tenacious imagination doesn’t stop there.
The lyrics of Sunshine Dust contain a poetry that is doubly followed by a reverent and contagious grip of emotion. Skyharbor succeeds in reaching into the depths of sentiment to accomplish that supreme musical mission of telling the soul’s truth. If singer @Eric Emery is the harbinger of doom in “Out of Time”, I would raise a teary-eyed banner in a heartbeat.
Skyharbor’s sound is encompassing, and their purpose resonates with tremendous theatricality and a self-held truth that demands to be known. If you’ve ever listened to Eidola and felt a higher calling, you’re gonna have a time with Sunshine Dust.
Sunshine Dust turns duality into a classic aesthetic: Heaven and Earth.
Sunshine Dust has got duality, perhaps better than anything I’ve recently heard. The diverse set of works in Skyharbor’s toolbox gives a fresh breath on a classic dichotomy: Heaven and Earth. Ever since watching Naruto’s Chunin exam as a kid, [I want photos of the heaven and earth scrolls PLS] I’ve been mystified by the duo. Sunshine Dust dances between the airy and grounded aggressively, but manage to make it feel welcome and intuitive. Between cascades of percussionist @Aditya Ashok’s airy cymbals in “Disengage/Evacuate” and @Krishna Jhaveri’s face-blowing bass roars in “Temptress”, Sunshine Dust brings every flavor of space between the clouds and your feet. It all builds into ridiculously satisfying walls of sound, causing our feet to touch the clouds like terra firma. If you’re skeptical, just listening to “The Reckoning”. It’ll blow your mind, and everything will make sense.
This kind of duality reaches hybrids only possible in our wildest imaginations, blending the real and ideological into something truly befitting of a namesake which escapes the tethers of our current reality. In other words, @Skyharbor- you picked the right name.
Pure Cacophony. Orchestral Bliss. The instrumentation of Sunshine Dust does many things, and we won’t waste any time getting to them.
“In Sunshine Dust, the bass exudes life.”
The maneuverability of the bass and low-end guitar was the first thing to stick out to me. It was a nimble, satisfying crunch. The bass pairs beautifully with just about everything. It makes a beautiful pedestal with the percussion along with a heart-stirring call and response with the guitar in “Blind Side”, while “Ugly Heart” opens with a phenomenal bass part accompanying hypnotizing vocal gambits. The bass is always moving, and it allows for a hearty exploration of this theme of “earth” that seems so prevalent. Krishna Jhaveri exceeds expectations, turning an often reactionary instrument into the fulcrum of Sunshine Dust’s most powerful transitions. In Sunshine Dust, the bass exudes life.
“Delicious, ultra-nimble, sucker-punch.”
The guitar lines of Sunshine Dust make for a tremendous number of the standalone voices of Sunshine Dust. With incredible sucker-punch licks in the self-titled “Sunshine Dust”, a flowing presence in “Disengage/Evacuate”, and a seat behind the solo cockpit of the album’s most emotional moment in “Ugly Heart”, Skyharbor’s guitarists left me in a breathless exclamation at their peak moments. “Delicious, ultra-nimble, suckerpunch.”
“Ashok rocks a killer fill,” and the manic dynamic:
The rhythmic audacity of Sunshine Dust is a two-man job. The bass does a good job of seeming like the front-end of the crunch. Aditya Ashok employs staggering fluidity with the wild, technical parts. Ashok also plays the role of master of surprise in Sunshine Dust, accentuating the sudden time changes and sucker-punch moments to the height of their satisfying outcome. Ashok rocks a killer fill, and he demonstrates true mastery of the manic dynamic changes across Sunshine Dust.
Eric Emery’s Vocals mirror the same infinitesimal sense of detail a listener can see across the buildup moments in Sunshine Dust. His sustains are wide-open and spot-on, and the whisper he leaves at the end of a phrase in “Blind Side” is absolutely chilling. In the same song, he accomplishes a subtle vocal duality while remaining pure clean. In “Disengage/Evacuate”, Emery looses a siren-like falsetto that couples with a buzzing melody that screams elements from the classic “2002: A Space Odyssey”. One listen to the climactic moment of gritty vocal release in “Blind Side”, and it’s clear that Emery’s vocals deserve to be showcased.
Emery’s uncleans are an entirely different flavor of excellent. At their best, they give me distinct flavors of a lovechild between the uncleans of Hail the Sun’s Donovan Melero and AlexisonFire’s iconic crackle. In Sunshine Dust, I get hints of the towering choruses of Hands Like Houses, and it gives me shivers.
However, I have two caveats to Emery’s style. In the rare moments Emery doesn’t hit the sweet spot, his clean voice can come off a tad nasal. His uncleans are phenomenal, but there are rare traces of something not sitting quite right. There’s a low-end croak that reminds me of Cane Hill’s uncleans, which gives me the faintest whiff of cringe.
These are two minor facets to an otherwise amazing vocalist- a singer’s voice is distinctly imperfect, and Emery’s style is for the vast majority, a hit.
One other personal caveat:
In moments like “Dim’s” initial payoff and across the early part of the “Sunshine Dust”, Skyharbor takes a philosophy I don’t necessarily agree with. Skyharbor resolves their buildups at moments that just don’t seem ripe to me. I wouldn’t call it a mistake, because it feels so explicitly coordinated, and I have no ground whatsoever to mark it wrong; I don’t intend to. I respect how deliberate their resolutions are, but it just doesn’t connect in the way I hope it does. I’m certain there are many folks would would heartily disagree with me, and I welcome such opinions. I do not find it a flaw; merely a philosophical difference.
The Overall Vibe:
There are so many things to love about Sunshine Dust. Listening to it reignites a sense of purpose and urgency in my heart. So many of the songs drop into the wistful, ethereal reflections I can’t get enough of. It’s an album that just feels good to listen to. It’s immersive, packed with shorts bursts of dropping jaws and roller coaster rides. I oftentimes find myself finishing songs utterly overwhelmed, buzzing with glee from my core to my fingertips. Sunshine Dust isn’t the kind of album to make a hit and linger on it. They’re constantly moving in an all-too-satisfying game of earth cat and heaven mouse with the listener, filled to the brim with tasty details and utterly repeatable songs.
I adore it. Don’t make the mistake of sleeping on this album, y’all. It drops today, and I guarantee you’ll find something to love about it.