Review Summary: The demo tapes which formed desert rock and gave boost to the hibernating stoner rock genre
Imagine yourself in Riverside County, California in the early 80’s. A quiet area as it is, there are few places to party and few places for bands to play concerts. It was around that time that the famous generator parties arose in the local desert. Having no other place to go, the youth went out into the desert were they could party as hard and as loud as they wanted to. Playing on gasoline driven generators, several local bands emerged into what would become the Palm Desert musical scene and a new genre – desert rock.
In 1986, Yawning Man was born consisting of the Lalli brothers, Mario and Larry Lalli, drummer Alfredo Hernandéz and guitarist Gary Arce. The band would soon become the leading force behind the music scene and are today regarded as the godfathers of desert rock. For those who don’t know what desert rock is, imagine yourself back in Riverside County out in the desert. It is mostly characterized by psychedelic spaced out guitars with a daydreaming atmosphere. On its tough side, it is heavy and rhythmic. Yawning Man is mostly known for their spaced out guitars, with long stretched out psychedelic jamming.
“Yawning Man was the sickest desert band of all time. You’d just be up there in the desert, everybody’d just be hanging, partying. And they’d show up in their van and just, mellow, drag out their *** and set up right about the time the sun was goin’ down, set up the generators, sometimes they’d just go up there and drink beers and barbecue. Sometimes it would be a scene; sometimes it would be very intimate. It was very casual and loose and everybody would like, while they’re playing, everyone would just lounge around. They were kinda like a house band. It wasn’t militant like Black Flag. It was very drugged, very stone-y, it was very mystical. Everyone’s just tripping, and they’re just playing away, for hours. Oh, they’re the GREATEST band I’ve ever seen.” - Brant Bjork
So what is ‘The Birth of Sol’? It is their demo tapes recorded in two sets between 1986 and 1987, split between track 8 and 9. The tapes were distributed among friends and acquaintances. For over 20 years, the tapes were copied and distributed. If you knew the right person, he or she could give you the some tapes for a listen. It is strange to consider however, that the demo tapes weren’t released until more than 20 years later on iTunes. They may be released on a double CD in the future, but the plans are as now postponed. But then again, Yawning Man and the other desert rock bands are a part of a phenomenon very few people are connected to.
The Birth of Sol is different than Yawning Man’s other releases, most noticeably because Mario is on vocals on many songs. The songs are also usually shorter with more variety than its successors. In this collection we find songs such as ‘Saco’ and ‘Sour Glaze’, which reminds me more of the Lalli brothers’ Fatso Jetson than any other. Similar songs like ‘Sinkhole’ give away more of a heavy psychedelic vibe which is worth a listen. These are not the songs the band is known by today however. Many of the songs are punk inspired by Black Flag and similar bands. Their characteristic psychedelic sound appears in songs like the spaced out ‘Deaf Conductor’, later adapted by Fatso Jetson. Here you find the true essence and the ‘desert feeling’. ‘Moroccan Stash’ and ‘Paseo Lindo’ are other songs showing off the band’s ability to play the same riff over and over. A song many people will recognize is ‘Catamaran’ which the desert rock band Kyuss covered for their mid-90’s release of ‘…And the Circus Leaves Town’. Between the jams and fast beat songs you’ll find beautiful music pieces such as ‘The Lonely Rancher’ with its bongo drums and distant lead guitar. Another favourite of mine is ‘Bet I’ll Six’, which brings you to the wasteland at sunset with a beer in your hand. This is a song which more or less sums what Yawning Man stands for: Playing music outdoors with your best friends. Music like this is hard to find nowadays, this is the essence
of what music really is.
The demo tapes are the gold ore of the mountain, it is not refined, but it is still gold. Several songs have the tape quality lingering in the background, sometimes interfering in the song. You’ll also find some flaws in the music itself, but why bother? This is music as raw as you can possibly find. When you get the vibe and the desert feeling, you won’t be bothered anymore. Get this collection, listen to it and enjoy life. That is what this music is all about.