Mean Sun by Brasstronaut

By Colin O’Neil

Brasstronaut’s crowdsource-enabled sophomore offering presents a lush audioscape

Vancouver band Brasstronaut released their second full-length album Mean Sun last Tuesday, giving fans another dose of their melodic tones, far-away vibrations, and perhaps an insight into the future of survival as a musician in our technological age.

Mean Sun is Brasstronaut’s follow-up to 2010’s Mt. Chimera, and was recorded with renowned producer and Juno award winner Colin Stewart, who has worked with Vancouver notables Black Mountain and Dan Mangan, but perhaps the band’s fans and supporters should receive just as much acknowledgement. In order to enable the production of Mean Sun, Brasstronaut deployed a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo that raised more than their goal of $15,000. In exchange for generous donations, they offered perks ranging from free downloads of Mean Sun to autographed merchandise and a private show. Using technology and the interconnectedness of music-lovers to their advantage, Brasstronaut released their second album, worth a listen or two or 10.

Upon first listen, it is apparent this is a masterfully produced album from a band that exists far outside your everyday image of a rock and roll quartet. With instruments such as a clarinet, trumpet, and lap steel guitar, Mean Sun builds and falls perfectly, offering neither too much nor too little of what the band’s six members put forth.

“Bounce”, the album’s opening track, rises gently, like a wave forming over miles of open ocean to reach its full form of thumping bass, foot-tapping drums, and weaving horns and strings. The song evokes thoughts of pleasant travel across big, wide spaces, of desert and frozen tundra, and even of space itself. This thread continues throughout the album. “Francisco” offers a breakdown of claps, intricate guitar picking, and trumpet tooting, while “Moonwalker” gives the listener images of deep-breathing astronauts, the cold moon, and is reminiscent of The Flaming Lips. The album’s title track lyrically delivers the themes of spatial hugeness that other songs do instrumentally.

In their fundraising efforts, Brasstronaut proves that bands can adapt to their circumstances and find ways to fulfill their goals in any environment. At a time when musicians complain relentlessly about stolen music and an intrusive recording industry, the independent Brasstronaut has turned the system on its head. Mean Sun is an album that doesn’t seem to fall into any obvious categorization (jazz-pop-rock fusion does not seem to do justice), but satisfies regardless. It is an album to fall asleep to, drive to, or think to. Explore the world, Brasstronaut, and Mean Sun.

Brasstronaut plays their CD release show June 2 at the Rio.