Music Reviews

Asteroid No. 4 Tones Of The Sparrow Is Triumphant

Asteroid No. 4 Tones Of The Sparrow

Asteroid No. 4 Tones Of The Sparrow was released in 2022 on Club AC30 Records on CD and several colors of limited edition vinyl. Available on the bands website and Club AC30s webstore links below.

Asteroid No. 4 Tones Of The Sparrow

Asteroid No. 4 is an eclectic band that originated in Philadelphia and currently resides in San Francisco California. As a band they have made music in a variety of sub genres of the retro-inspired psych music scene including shoegaze, psychedelic rock, 60’s styled rock, folk rock and cosmic country. This band move between these genres with ease and confidence. Founded in the late 1990s, their origins are at the peak of the shoegaze musical movement and they cite Spacemen 3 as being their primary inspiration. Every album has reverberated vocals, droning guitars with distortion and vast echos for washy dreamy atmospheres.

Tones Of The Sparrow is their latest album and it stands as one of the best examples of great songwriting in the style of contemporary shoegaze rock and dream pop. The band has 20 years of experience and the lessons learned through their various stylistic achievements blend beautifully on Tones Of The Sparrow. This latest album is very well done, highly considered with delicious textures, strong vocal performances and melodies that give the music an uplifting sound for the genre while including edgy guitars and a drive toward innovation. Let’s take a brief look at how the band reached this level of musicianship with an overview of their history.

Asteroid No. 4 has had many line-up changes over the years, contributing to the variety of music styles they have released but the core of the band has always been Scott Vitt on vocals and guitar and his childhood friend Eric Harms on guitar. The current line-up includes Scott Vitt, Eric Harms, Matty Rhodes on bass and vocal, Mark Tarlton on drums and Camilla Saufley on keys, guitar and vocals. This latest line-up is excellent and Camilla Saufley’s contributions on vocals and keys are helping to define this new era in Asteroid No.4’s career. Past members include Adam Weaver, Bill Reim, Gregg Weiss, Ryan Van Kriedt, Jamie Schythes, Aislinn Van Kriedt, and Damien Taylor to give an idea of how many line-up changes the band has experienced. This is important when exploring the band’s catalogue of releases and understanding their ability to adapt and evolve into interrelated musical styles.

Their debut album was Introducing in 1998 which carried a sound akin to Early Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and local Philadelphia psych outfits like Bardo Pond. The 60s psychedelic sound is a feature that has stayed with the band throughout all their various line-up changes and shifts in style over the years. By 2004 they released their third album Honeyspot, which stands out as the most folk and country oriented album in their catalogue. It featured slide guitar, honky-tonk vocal style, banjo harmonica and redefined their sound. It was after this album that the band called it quits temporarily until they reformed with a new line-up and released ‘An Amazing Dream’ two years later.

The band refers to An Amazing Dream as the first true Asteroid No. 4 album as they felt that they had finally found their sound. The guitars were stacked with effects for an edgy sound that they have become known for. They landed home with their vocal style which has simple melodies encased in thick reverb and echo that bleeds into the textured guitar lines to create a modulating atmosphere that hovers and drifts behind the instrumentation. Their North American and European tour that followed the release landed the band on The Committee To Keep Music Evil label started by Anton Newcomb of Brian Jonestown Massacre. This label would release and promote their next albums from 2008 to 2011. This era was good for Asteroid No. 4, they had found their sound and were developing a reputation and fan base. Their music combined the shoegaze, psychedelia and rock sound and members of the band also branched out into side projects including, The Dead Skeletons.

Their self-titled album The Asteroid No.4 added sitars and eastern modes into their music driving a space rock sound which brought them on stage at some of the largest psychedelic rock festivals in North America and Europe. The band settled in San Francisco in the mid twenty-teens and released Collide, Northern Songs and the latest album Tones Of The Sparrow. These albums masterfully combined all the elements they developed over their 20-year career and merged them together seamlessly.

Tones Of The Sparrow

Tones Of The Sparrow takes the band back to their roots in shoegaze with dreamy guitar lines that feel late 90s with hints of the 80s awash in effects that create a drone behind the main musical lines. The vocals are clear with well considered melodies and plenty of tuned in reverb and echo for a dream pop vibe. They bring forward synth into the mix for added texture. The music on Tones Of The Sparrow are hi-fi with rich velvety distortions and fuzz that act as grit behind the clean and clear songwriting. The vocal melodies take presidance and the other instrumentation plays a powerful supporting role. Tones Of The Sparrow is the most developed of any of their music. It feels as though the years have made the band experts in songwriting and have propelled them into the upper echelons of the shoegaze genre.

The first single from the latest release was ‘Set Your Sights’, which opens with an 80s keyboard line with the vocals of Camilla Saufley who plays guitar, keys, and vocals in the band. The song is stripped down and atmospheric with a dream pop sound. The vocal chorus is harmonized with founding member Scott Vitt who plays guitar and vocals. This song has the shoegaze elements that the band is known for with uplifting feel good vocals, jangling chords and keys. In the final chorus the band kicks on the fuzzy guitar lines driving the musical line forward with gritty distorted textures behind the floating vocals.

The production on Tones Of The Sparrow is well balanced and gives the music its polished and cohesive feel. Often, bands struggle to combine dirty gated, velcro / buzzing fuzz guitars and synth with clear vocal melodies. The way the instrumentation is placed sonically in the final production is no small feat. The bands songs transition cleanly from one to the next even though one song with end with heavy gain on the guitars and echoing tones that border on losing control and the next song will open with an acoustic guitar. This finesse may easily escape the listener at first because of the even quality of the album’s sound. This album is an incredible example of what can be achieved when great songwriting, tonal and effect selection are combined with mixing and mastering that perfectly matches the bands vision.

Tones Of The Sparrow is a stand out album from a band that has accomplished so much throughout their career. Asteroid No. 4 has managed to continue creating great music and improving their sound album after album. They have overcome challenges and stayed true to their artistic vision. The open airy atmosphere of Tones Of The Sparrow are uplifting while holding the depth emotional tension. The album feels like home for a band that constantly moves forward. It is as though this is the quintessence of their collective experience. Tones Of The Sparrow will not disappoint; active listening and repeated plays brings more color and subtleties to the listeners awareness. This album is a shining accomplishment and presents a refined vision of the shoegaze genre and how it can evolve into the future. Tones Of The Sparrow is highly recommended.

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I am a part of the emerging psychedelic musical revolution and the wizard behind the curtain at I am lucky enough to be in contact with performers and labels around the world and discuss music that is weird, transcendent, creative and psychedelic. It’s no surprise that I live in San Francisco, California where the psychedelic revolution was born. I am a multi-instrumentalist musician, songwriter, digital and visual artist in the bands Temple Rose and Black Satori. I have written about music for the, GigSoup Music, Sic Magazine and professional corporate copy writing. Discovering new music from artists large and small gives me a special thrill and I feel compelled to share the excitement. My journey began when I started attending coffeehouse concerts at 14 years old, seeing acoustic and hardcore metal bands. I soon started making music of my own. A pivotal moment was when I picked up my first record player and started collecting vinyl records from the 1960s and early 1970s in acid folk, garage rock, psychedelic and krautrock genres. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Black Sabbath laid a firm foundation. Then I discovered CAN, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Pink Floyd which blew convention out of the water and my musical horizon extended into the experimental and abstract. Today there are thousands of bands which have taken the legacy of psychedelic music and created something new. I seek out these bands and performers, spreading their latest revelations to the world. Some of my favorite contemporary artists are The Black Angels, Oh Sees, Woods, Acid Mothers Temple, Kikagaku Moyo and L.A. Witch.