The Seattle collective Rose Windows throws back to days when the hippie trail led east and mysticism became entwined with the natural order of things. That said, the septets sprawling debut, The Sun Dogs, shares affinity with both past and present. It borrows from its forebearers with echoes of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelia, pastoral folk, and heavy rock. Yet the album is equally rooted in the present in its (albeit high-flown) lyrical rejection of the evils and excesses of modern life, the snake being a motif that glides in and out of the songs.
The bands exotically named lead singer, Rabia Shaheen Qazi, shows off a vocal range that suits everything from bluesy rock to folk. Her chameleon properties are perfect for this challenging arrangement of shape-shifting sounds and cryptic poetry. Chief songwriter Chris Cheveyo is a key player. His expansive guitar work counterpoints the flightier nature of the lyrics in a similar manner to Phil Wandscher of fellow Seattle outfit, Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter.
After a deceptively decorous flute opening, Native Dreams takes its cue from Deep Purple-like blues-rock with Qazis scraped vocal battling swirling organ, massive drums and bass, and heavy guitar riffs. The mantra-like This Shroud is set in a similar vein, with Qazis voice recalling Grace Slick, or The Duke Spirits Liela Moss. Her versatility as a singer, though, is best shown on the soft, moist melody of Season Of Serpents. Yes, those darn snakes again. This is a song that would find a home in a Laura Veirs or Laura Gibson set, yet doesnt seem at odds with the darker material here. Back in full electric mode, the band is at ease bolting an impressive blues-ridden instrumental finale to a folk tale of meeting with the Devil in Walkin With A Woman. It’s a prime example of how the band blends past with present in a set that engages in its frequent change of direction.
Essential tracks: Native Dreams, Season Of Serpents, and This Shroud.