Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sun Araw - The Phynx (Not Not Fun CD-R)

Just got a few shipments in, one from Not Not Fun, another from American Tapes, and the last from killer distributor Tomentosa. Figured I'd start with my favorite of the bunch so far, Sun Araw's epic The Phynx.

Not Not Fun is known for some killer releases from the likes of Robedoor, Pocahaunted, and GHQ, none of which I'd heard of course (I always seem just a little behind on this stuff...) but I dig most of those band's catalogs and figured I'd go ahead and take a chance on some stuff I hadn't heard yet along with an album I'd been meaning to pick up for a while by Family Underground (more on that later... maybe tomorrow if I can get to it). After a little research and a nice interview with him courtesy of some site that I can't seem to find anymore comparing his work to Psych-masters Parson Sound, a favorite of mine, I opted to get hip on this Sun Araw character. Turns out he's a member of another group that I haven't heard but need to, Magic Lanterns. These guys are out of Long Beach, Florida, and apparently they lay on some heavy shit.

So anyway, Sun Araw is the moniker of guitarist Cameron Stallones, who I think I remember reading is big into Catholicism, though you wouldn't be surprised after hearing the record if you were told he was some medicine man in the jungles of Nepal. This is truly psyched out stuff, four tracks and forty minutes of expansive jamscapes. Of course, his being a guitarist, much of it revolves around that, but he pulls magic out of all sorts of noise-makers. I don't know whether he brought in other coherts for that or if it's just him, but either way this is a totally unified vision of grandiose space travel and karmic entropy (whatever that means!).

The album kicks off in grand fashion, with the fifteen minute "Fog Wheels." Chuttering along aimlessly in the beginning, clatters entering and exciting and guitar drones oozing in and out among the muck, it soon turns into a bedroom brawl of drug-induced euphoria. Seriously, the vocal line here is like something out of a well recorded (yeah, right) Les Rallizes Denudes build-up. Krautrock at its spaciest, psych-folk at its psychiest, Spacemen 3 at their most intricate. It's got all of the head-nodding mystery and zonked-out euphoria that Velvet Underground can culminate without any of the heroin. Acoustic guitar and drums ride under the waves and shrieks of guitar squawl and feedback, building into a mammoth beast that chugs along towards the rising sun, which sits at the edge of the desert panting, on its back. Really killer stuff. If this is just him overdubbing himself it's a real accomplishment. If this is him with his friends helping out, it's still a real accomplishment. Added bonus: tin whistle and organ work. Slaying.

"Harken Sawshine" opens with the sounds of night, frogs and crickets and the like, while a blues-drenched Delta line kicks off some kind of weirdo swamp blues thing. Harmonica, guitar, vocals, drums, the works, lurch along to serenade whatever nighttime excesses you desire. You know Junior Kimbrough? If you don't check him out. If you do, this is him playing in some reefer-filled opium nest in the Florida Wetlands. Is that an egret lying on the floor over there? Me thinks it is. "Hive Burner" goes for a noisier approach, much less mellow, all clattery driving rhythms and nutiness. This track might be the most zoned out of the bunch, really all hard driving psych stuff, megadrones, and mystic frenzy. This almost breaks down into the noise category but really its much more focused and rock-driven than that. Perhaps most note-worthy about this stuff is the clarity of its construction. While so often these psych-rock blubber build-ups leave you cold and stranded atop the highest peak, just out of reach of the heavens above, Sun Araw is in enough control to come down from his haven anytime, scoop you up in his feathered hand, and deliver you to the skies above.

The last song, "The Phynx" opens with a monolithic vocal part that somehow reminds me of that killer scene in the "Neverending Story" with those two massive sphinx sculptures whose laser eyes attack any who pass. Like some Gregorian monks descending into some cavernous dungen where spirits lurk around every bend. The vocals keep building for a bit on this bad boy, warming, cooling, warming again, slowly etching out of stone some strange concoction of spacey chant. Stallones adds all the right ingredients here, and then let's this one simmer just right. The guitar drones that emerge from the back, harsh and distorted, perfectly complement the strange vocal musings. Halfway through, the drone dies done, maracas chide in, and some of the heaviest guitar work on the album comes in with skull-crushing fervor. Did Fushitsusha just join in? Or Skullflower? All out psych rock freak out till the end on this one.

Definitely still available, and definitely worth snagging for the meager $6 price tag, this is a killer debut. Can't wait to hear more from this guy, but I guess first it's time for me to go seek out some Magic Lanterns and see if they can match this kind of organized mental destruction. More coming soon.

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