Space Jam

The band’s unusual name – Flat Sun Society – was conjured from a Big Sur sunset, where the sun swelled in warm hues to welcome the darkness.

There’s a warm glow. Light sparkles, droops and changes as it reflects off dew caught in a breeze. The images are of dawn on a grassy hilltop, but they exist only in music. “First Light” from the psychedelic rock jam band Flat Sun Society is a transcendent layering of guitar and percussion that finds the space between sound and vision. “Fire on the Mountain” allows you to float in a dream.

“That’s what a psychedelic journey is,” says Jake Padorr. “We’re going into the unknown and then bringing it back.”

Padorr plays guitar and provides vocals, although he tends to define his singing as a vocal effect, an intuitive response to the improvised jams from the band that can extend a five-minute single into a 50-minute journey. Sometimes the vocals exist on their own level, seemingly held aloft by other instruments. In other songs, his singing melts into a soundscape.

Flat Sun Society was born from improvisation. The group of musicians from Big Sur and Santa Cruz gathered during the pandemic shutdown to jam in the woods or at the Henry Miller Library, picking up a following. They have since recorded an EP and just finished mixing their first full album.

Given time to play and Covid-weary listeners with – as Padorr puts it – no expectations of the group, Flat Sun Society was able to structure songs in a way that would allow them to take off on flights of jam band fancy while remaining tethered to a song.

The result can be hypnotic. It’s mind-altering music. “We are in the moment,” Padorr explains. “You feel the nowness.”

Hugh Allan joins Padorr on guitar, with bass player Emilio Rios setting the foundation. But it’s really a percussion-heavy band, with two drummers – Jack Reed and Jacob Gilmore – along with Tubbyz wielding hand percussion instruments.

With such a lineup, one might easily anticipate a more thunderous tone. However, when drums set the pace – in songs like “Open Peace” – they can become uplifting. Where psychedelic rock bands in the genre’s ’60s heyday could fall into weird disarray, Flat Sun Society members weave a polyrhythmic, evocative sound, even as they extend a jam. It will be interesting to hear where they are headed.

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