Sugar Candy Mountain

Published on November 7th, 2019

Art by @ardneks

Oakland, California’s Sugar Candy Mountain are a surfside fever dream of a time and place that never quite existed. But you will find that imaginary bygone coast — “all psychedelic pop Wall-of Sound and beach balladry,” to quote their bio — on their records. And there it’s as real as the sun on your face.

Because some descriptions are so evocative they capture their subject spot-on, we bow to the band’s own self-portrait: “If Brian Wilson had dropped acid on the beach in Brazil and decided to record an album with Os Mutantes and The Flaming Lips.”

The core duo of Ash Reiter and Will Halsey has willed this folded bit of spacetime into existence since their arrival in 2011 with a homemade, self-titled debut. Halsey was already an established West Coast musician with a long list of credits and contacts. Connecting with indie singer, songwriter and eponymous bandleader Reiter, who emerged as this project’s alter ego, really brought it to life.

Sugar Candy Mountain by Yasamine June

From lo-fi beginnings, they’ve ramped up the recording fidelity quotient and the range of instrumentation over three subsequent albums, culminating in 2018’s synth-adjacent “Do Right.” In the studio and on the road, they draw great collaborators from the ranks of Papercuts, Calexico, Big Search, fpodbpod and Everyone Is Dirty. But even at their most electric, electronic and populated, a sense of a world found off the transmission grid, away from the masses, underlies Sugar Candy Mountain’s music.

“We have a lot of luck writing in natural settings,” Reiter told Amadeus magazine in 2017, “so when we need inspiration we’ll take a trip to the river or the mountains and bring a guitar along.” They’ve also recorded in one of their places where their musical soul resides — São Paolo, for some of the tracking for 2013’s “Mystic Hits.”

Their latest single, “My Clown,” is a surround-sound cover of swinging ‘60s London head-trippers July. A new LP from these nature-minded psych and pop revivalists is due next summer, and ahead of that anticipated act of creation the band is doing a southeast run of dates before embarking on an epic tour of Europe. It’s the kind of dizzying culture shock that could only come from a beachy West Coast psych band roaming unfamiliar terrain on both sides of the Atlantic.

Kibi James

Joining Sugar Candy Mountain on their southeastern trek are Kibi James, an Atlanta-based four piece whose love of world music lends an otherworldly beauty to their ethereal indie pop. Take Cibo Matto harmonies and the wayfaring style of Manu Chao, frappé with a dose of tropidelic, and you might be close to cracking the group’s secret code.

They are in the early going: Immersive Atlanta noted that two of the band’s members picked up instruments for the first time only last year. They have a two-song demo available on Bandcamp, but they’ve been able to slingshot their way onto this tour, and another with Neon Indian, based on little but their live performances. Their debut EP, due this month, was recorded at Sugar Candy Mountain’s home studio in Crockett, California.

That may seem — actually is — incredible given the lack of recorded output. But it’s a testament to the talent of the group, which stakes a wry claim to the title of “Atlanta’s sweethearts,” that they’ve been able to accomplish so much already with a short paper trail.

This live pairing will be a rush of psych, beach and Tropicalia vibes with globetrotting flair, not likely to happen again soon. Sugar Candy Mountain will have their hands full with album-making, and Reiter and Halsey are also having a child together. Starting a family will unavoidably prompt some time off, and we at PureHoney would never begrudge a sweet-sounding band a break from the rigors of the road. A Sugar Candy Mountain needs the right temperature and elements to survive in an overheated world. Suffice it to say this combination of talents on tour is fleeting and inspired.

But the future is bright for all parties. This summer Kibi James performed an hourlong live set on “Bloodfeast,” one of Atlanta-based Adult Swim’s regular music and arts streamcasts — a sign that tastemakers in Kibi James’ hometown who are also some of the most influential culture programmers anywhere are rooting for this band.

Sugar Candy Mountain and Kibi James perform 8pm Monday, November 18, at Voltaire in West Palm Beach with Turtle Grenade, American Sigh and Electric Supply Company. sugarcandymountainband.com, kibijames.bandcamp.com ~ Tim Moffatt

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