THE SUN DOGS floats in a kind of foreboding dream, carefully venturing through contrasting aural territories. Rose Windows' debut album opens with "The Sun Dogs I: Spirit Modules," provoking a drowsy desert mysticism—and then, just as quickly, washes of loud, warm guitars, flutes, organs, and crashing drums descend to break the spell on "Native Dreams," with vocalist Rabia Shaheen Qazi's potent vocals leading the charge. "Heavenly Days" follows, a jaunty, wistful, country-tinged gambol.
It's a work with internationally peppered influences by a band whose personnel, until recently, sauntered through the post-rock underworld of Seattle. "What I had been doing before was unnatural for me, creatively," explains guitarist and founder Chris Cheveyo, whose previous project, Solid Gold Eagle, disbanded in 2009. "When I look back on the music I was doing, it wasn't that I didn't like it or didn't find it fulfilling; I just felt out of place."
Culling inspiration from Persian, Eastern European, and Indian music—partly fueled by Jeff Mangum's Bulgarian field recordings project, Orange Twin Fieldworks, Vol. 1—Cheveyo added meaty Sabbath riffs and strings to flesh out a wildly adventurous musical menagerie. Qazi's grizzly-sweet vocals, in particular, mesmerize.
"People always compare Rabia to Grace Slick, but I've never thought she sounded like that," says Cheveyo. "Grace's voice gets bigger as it gets louder; Rabia's turns into a laced arrow."
Taking cues from international musicians like Turkish psych-rock guitarist Erkin Koray, Cheveyo taps a wellspring of deeply plaintive, densely layered swaths of sound on The Sun Dogs, which Sub Pop released in June. The album wrings pensive psychedelia from songs built upon politically conscious, spirit-forward themes ignited chiefly by Cheveyo's prickly societal outlook.
"I'm a bummer, man," explains Cheveyo. "I can't help but see what's going on. I can't help that it affects me. I also have no control on whether or not I'm gonna write about it. It just happens.
"I'm a minority. I am native. I'm pissed. My culture and history has either been scrubbed from our minds and tongue, or some girl is superficially wearing it at Sasquatch. I'm learning to be chill about it. Maybe on the next record, I'll do everyone a favor and write about pizza, beer, and girl problems."