Sunday Combo
Music For Lounge Chairs






The Sunday Combo is the Amsterdam-based music project of Bas & Vera who promise a delicate delight of "Cocktail Lounge, Space Age Pop, Easy Listening, Bossa Nova, Bachelor Pad" and other related styles. Since this field is already occupied by many artists and groups, the duo focuses on a certain aura that is mentioned explicitly in the above genre list, but might get stripped off its deeper meaning, hence my following emphasis: the 2012 debut album Music For Lounge Chairs by the Sunday Combo is predominantly electronic and galactic. It’s mostly about the blend of Space Age Pop with Cocktail Lounge the duo references.


Having been inspired by musicians like John Barry and Les Baxter as well as by old Moog synthesizer music, Bas is keen on depicting moods full of mystique and sleaziness, with the occasionally interwoven spy motif. The music is vibraphone-heavy and can best be compared to the soundscapes of Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited, but the Sunday Combo remains in way more laid-back and mellow galaxies, at least that’s the tendency I’ve perceived. In addition to relying primarily on the vibraphone, the music is synthesizer-fueled and very cinematic. I know that many fans of vintage Exotica despise computer-created music with a passion. Fair enough. However, there is a huge fan base that has a constant craving for such music – even in the Exotica genre – and will be more than intrigued by the eleven unique tracks the band has come up with. Music For Lounge Chairs feels nonetheless real thanks to the intertwined vibraphones. It’s no soulless or posh Lounge artifact that is thrown at your feet.


Music For Lounge Chairs must not be linked to the rather cheap 4/4 beat-driven music you hear in one too many lounges all over the world. All catchy main melodies and riffs were created with real vibraphones. The synths, while clearly audible on every passing second, are used as accentuating devices, hence the freshness of the music. Especially synthetic organs can often be unintended markers for the electronic nature of an Exotica-related album. And to be honest, there are moments where this is clearly the case on this album as well. But this isn’t a letdown and can in fact serve the intended overarching topic of the release. Since I’m a fan of Ambient music in particular (who would have thought?) and dig a few other electronic genres in general, I don’t have the slightest problem with settings of piled keyboards and such. However, it’s hard to make them work altogether in a composition-driven release, that’s why I only buy and review few selected works in this section that achieve this. The Sunday Combo come close enough in this regard, as you may find out below.


The initial point of Music For Lounge Chairs is called Sit Back, and this won’t be the only chair-related titular reference the duo comes up with. Launching with the trembling gurgles of oscillating lasers, a couple of vibraphones and trumpets that are underlined by Dub droplets play a sleazy spy theme which is further boosted by the synth strings in the background. There are also cascading piano tones of the highest regions embedded; a slight feeling of Far Eastern places is encapsulated in every note. The interdependence of tone sequences in both major and minor causes incessant shifts between mystique and shadiness, but also short glimpses of success fanfares and elation. The reverb of the gelid vibes is noteworthy for its long sustain and its depiction of space, and the polyphony of the mallet instruments is soothing and works best when the trumpet doesn’t intervene, although the latter is important for maintaining both intimidation and tension. My guess is that it’s a synthetic trumpet, for it sounds surprisingly thin in the given context, but lets the vibes shine all the more. Sit Back is proper Lounge music with Space-Age fragments. The exotic factor is rather slim, but since I’m loving the vibes so much, this isn’t a problem per se, the song does only lack one thing, and that is a bright mood.


Enter Barcelona, which merges the former mystique of Sit Back and places it in oxymoronic sun-soaked night surroundings loaded with iridescently glittering synth swirls of the delicious kind, clicking claves in juxtaposition to Latin maracas, and stereo-panned wind gusts that waft around pulse rifle sounds. While this song is heavy on the sound effect side, these sound never distract from the main attractions, the vibraphone and space organs. While the former instrument is almost reduced to a backing device, playing deliberately rudimentary chords that are scattered throughout the composition, the organ whirls and floats in a dreamy fashion. This is a strong track and one of my favorites. The upbeat tempo and the permanent thicket of synths in the background round it off, and it is yet again the equilibrium of neon luminescence and nocturnal blackness that make this a towering tune.


While Lazy With A Cup Of Tea is again focusing on the artificial trumpet whose four-note motif is entangled with another trumpet layer and further accompanied by ethereal synth strings, particles of Balearic guitar twangs and a deeply floating bass line, the Bossa Nova-heavy Ball Chair remains true to the endemic sound spectrum thanks to its gorgeously meandering synth creeks of the glitziest nature, icy piano shards and an unexpectedly piercing trumpet that thrones over the vibes and the staccato organ pulses. Shuttling between an unvarnished Lounge mélange and the mercurial madness of the trumpet, Ball Chair is spellbinding Space Latin music.


Brass And Delay already gives its formerly secret potion away in the track title, and it delivers what one expects: incisive trumpet notes are echoed and remind of doleful lamento arrangements thanks to their sizzling-hot depiction of a murky mood. This very mood is boldly lessened by polished organ ornaments that tremble along in a galactic fashion, as the upwards spiraling, wind chime-evoking vibraphone glitters add plasticity and fragility to the mix.


Womp reintroduces the synth string-heavy sleaziness that runs as a golden thread throughout the album and meshes it in a focused way with fuzzy shakers, occasional claves and a wonderful jazzy vibraphone melody that inherits the arcane enigma of the opening track Sit Back. The brass layers are much reduced, only a dark trombone-esque accentuation serves the proper exposure of the vibraphone. Womp is thus the perfect counterpart to Brass And Delay, the latter of which got rid of the vibes in favor of the brass layers, while it’s vice versa on Womp. It is the task of 670 And The 671 to bring brighter colors to the album by injecting an effervescence that cannot get rid of a certain duskiness, but can be called the exotic anthem of Music For Lounge Chairs. Bas unleashes a tropical vibraphone euphony in technicolor that works well with the resonating rapture of the strings and the double entendre of a hymnic-melancholic brass layer. The middle section of the track mutes this layer and focuses on bouncy synth stabs, galactosamine organ streams and the whitewashed phantasmagoria of mellow vibraphone mists which blur and intermix, creating a resplendent mirage of coziness. With 6 minutes and 30 seconds in length, this could well be the centerpiece of the album despite its inclusion towards the end.


The final Sunday Evening changes the soundscape, making this another great track. Absolutely catchy Italo piano chords are embedded in-between a liquedous bongo base frame, chirping organ schemes, the most convoluted vibraphone melody of all tracks, intensive synth strings and ooh-ooh chants by Vera that eminently resemble Barry Manilow’s famous Copacabana composition. When additional sound effect layers of warbled gales are dropped, the song fades out slowly, leaving me with the impression that the Sunday Combo really wanted to fathom out the interlacing sound structures with this outro by delivering the biggest pool of instruments plus vocals yet.


Even though the album has ended, there’s in fact more to discover, as I’ve purposefully omitted three tracks which altogether form a torn apart triptych. Placed in-between the material, the auspiciously titled Galactic Seats revs up the album’s overarching space theme even more, delivering magnanimously coruscating scintillae of the aural kind by augmenting the psychedelia aspect of the Space Age. Galactic Seats Part 1 launches with an anacrusis of bongos before a hypnotic couple of glued vibraphones and enigmatic organs are playing a vestigial two-note melody – at one point joined by the voice of Bas – in order to let the cherubic cyber curlicues coalesce with the dark space in the distance. High synth strings are cutting through the vacuum (a contradiction in itself), all the while an electric piano induces star dust memories. This is deep Lounge music, and in comparison to the potpourri of all involved instruments, even the dubby bass line seems to be overly bright.


Galactic Seats Part 2 increases the glacial aura with filtered and flangered waves of spectral mist. An Italo piano plays a nostalgic melody, an accordion-like Moog synthesizer is warped into the panorama, followed by entrancing vibraphone droplets. Yet again do the melodies serve one goal only, namely to create the feeling of floating in space… while sitting in a chair, of course. The trio is completed with, well, Galactic Seats Part 3, and it’s the best entry of the three. This five-minute-piece rounds off the galactic suite with soft hi hats and emerald-green jungle-evoking vibraphone gleams which are accompanied by thermal-heat Rock organs as well as various sirens, lasers and bleeps. The melodies on the vibes probably don’t remain stuck in the head, but the organs are memorable thanks to their classical textures. They don’t need to be overly galactic anyway, for the sound effects send the listener to another dimension indeed.


Music For Lounge Chairs is a straight-forward space album for Lounge fans. Since it isn’t titled Music For Exotica Chairs, vintage Exotica fans might be put off by the strongly electronic nature of the release. The Sunday Combo focuses on an ethereal superimposition that is spiced with galactic sound effects. The vibraphone remains the only real instrument, and it is deeply encapsulated within synthesizer sweeps, synthetic strings and faux-trumpets. But what a lot of Lounge-related albums lack in soul, the duo delivers here. Instead of pumping 4/4 beats, the omnipresent bass line is always Dub-related, laid back, easygoing and deep. Mystique and sleaziness both keep the pace, and only rarely are there moments of glaring glee, but this is yet again totally expected in modern Lounge music that mediates between gloomy nostalgia and a paradisiac evening at a modern bar. As such, the album succeeds. For the future, I would wish for a slightly more diverse approach and a larger pool of instruments.


Naturally, there’s the risk of loosing the stringency and coherence when shedloads of synths and instruments are piled, but compositions like the whole Galactic Seats suite, the surprisingly sunny Barcelona as well as the vocal outro Sunday Evening show that slight alterations of the formula and careful additions remain true to the overarching theme, but expand the diversion and hence the memorability and kick of a song. Particularly noteworthy is the longest track of the album, 670 And The 671 with its clear-cut progression and change of style, omitting the brass layers in order to let the vibraphones twinkle from the middle section onwards. I believe that fans of the electronic kind of Exotica or Lounge music – i.e. fans of Kava Kon, the Narco Lounge Combo, The Karminsky Experience, Tipsy and numerous others – will definitely dig this album way more than many a vintage Exotica fan who finds the idea of fake instruments audacious. The Sunday Combo have their own style, thankfully, by relying on the galactic side of the spectrum, whereas the other bands create Oriental, post-atomic, sample montage-related or guitar-laden moods, but target the same audience otherwise. Even though the Sunday Combo is seen as a hobby by Bas, he has already started working on a new album to be released in 2013. So luckily, the Sunday Combo turns out to be a consistent hobby, for which I am grateful.


Further reading:

There's an interview of Koop Kooper with the Sunday Combo in Episode 229 of the famous Cocktailnation radio show (podcast is too little a word for this long-running package).


Exotica Review 110: Sunday Combo – Music For Lounge Chairs (2012). Originally published on Aug. 18, 2012 at