It has been a thrill these last couple weeks watching The Sun Machine come out of the periphery and into clear view. The new multimedia project by psych-rock group Treasure Fleet has been a journey through the mind of Isaac Thotz and a surprising one.
The truth is we’re gonna have a little issue with nouns as we discuss The Sun Machine. It is an album, film, and a serialized novella all rolled in to one. It is multidimensional concept media to wet your psychedelic tongue. Thotz along with fellow Arrivals band mate Dave Merriman, Neil Hennessy of the Lawrence Arms, Mike Oberlin of Sass Dragons, and Eli Caterer of the Smoking Popes, have certainly outdone the previous Treasure Fleet releases.
Ultimately it is the sonic odyssey that really caught my attention. “The View From Mount Olympus” kicks off with pure static energy; leads in with synth pads into an explosion of vocal melodies that are purely reminiscent of ELO. Throughout the album, Thotz seems to channel Roy Wood’s uncanny ability to craft those perfect melodies that linger with a sort of deja vu.
It has the feeling of The Who or episodes of Pink Floyd and certainly hearkens back to that era but it would do a disservice to the greater concept of The Sun Machine to land on the idea that Treasure Fleet is a throwback act. In fact, this is something new, and offers something truly original to the listener/reader/watcher.
The novella itself, titled: TF3 and the Sun Machine, reads as if inspired perhaps by Philip K. Dick or MKUltra case files. Its’ protagonist reaching out to a father who is silent and unresponsive in journal entries or correspondences of another kind. We are left with small hints in the album, most obviously Odysseus’s imprisonment on Mt. Oylmpus, who’s entire family and kingdom know not whether he is alive or dead. The Sirens of Titan, the title of a Vonnegut sci-fi fantasy novel that struggles to define a father figure as a man or god.
When we reach the end of “The Wolf” about midway through the album we find ourselves immersed in a world half-inebriated; loosing touch with the clarity we began with. That tends to be the dramatic tilt of this project, toward something a little vague, or maybe the ideas are trying to be more secretive and confidential. The album plays out seamlessly holding the listeners attention gracefully. It evolves at a constant rate and never bores all aided by the masterfully done production with help by Andrew Jackson Jihad song-smith Preston Bryant.
I could ask more out of this album. I would hope for more music, as excited as I am to see the film and read the rest of the ongoing novella, the album is short. This is only a concern because of how excellent the music is and how incomplete the soundtrack feels. Its wavering second half gives me the impression there was intended to be more, but perhaps that would lend itself well to the idea that the three parts are just divisions of The Sun Machine.
Watch the film’s trailer below:
The depth of symbolism and footnotes The Sun Machine lends itself to are it’s greatest achievement for me. In a time when modern music is becoming more shallow and submissive to simplicity it is refreshing to see Treasure Fleet indulge more complex ideas with a more complex model.
Stay tuned to the Treasure Fleet website for further entries in TF3 and the Sun Machine, stream the rest of the album via Bandcamp and watch the 37 min film via Entertainment Weekly to further indulge your multimedia quest.