With only a few trips made on Sean McCann’s Music For Public Ensemble and alongside Laraaji on Professional Sunflower and the S. Araw “Trio” XIII to quench our thirst in the meantime, this loosely strung and sprawling set renders Cameron Stallones and the gang at their most ir/reverent and dare we say, North American; delivering a subtly funny and playful suite that’s more Billy Crystal on magic beans than Alejandro Jodorowsky on mescaline, as far as desert trips go.
Incorporating a phalanx of drummers including Butchy Fuego, Jon Leland and Caitlin Mitchell, plus Dave McPeters on pedal steel, Sun Araw come off like a gang of cattle-ranchers who lost their herd a long time ago and subsequently decided to follow old dirt tracks deep into the desert, navigating their way by the stars and with only a batch of turnt haricots for sustenance. What ensues is a progressively light-headed and sorta-mystic journey of discovery following an unstitched narrative which leads them right up to a sincere yet lysergic cover of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released - as previously worn by Jeff Buckley, Joan Baez, The Deftones, Nina Simone.
As you might expect from a trip to the desert with Sun Araw, you’ll lose your own herd quite quickly, and mirages, fata morganas and the like become commonplace; with expectations perpetually teased and thwarted from the fusion of heat-warped synth strokes and pitch-bent steel licks in A Golden Boot thru the quicksilver clip-clop of A Chute, and the tropical, latinate influences that creep over the border into Orthrus, which also features McPeters’ pedal steel at its most plangent; with Campfires framing a charmingly ludicrous scene of quiet, acousmatic rustle pierced by parping modular spurts, and even allowing for a spot of sun-dazed native folk dance in the jerky boned jig and processed croon of 40 Hooves, serving Sun Araw at his most alien and yet uncannily familiar.
This is exactly what psychedelia should be for us; weird, silly, cryptic, inexplicable - not earnestly unimaginative and derivative. It would take a fool to accuse Sun Araw of the latter, and this album should hopefully be a smoke signal to all those pedestrian churners who call their music “psychedelic”.
2LP housed in Stoughton tip on gatefold jacket with A1 newsprint poster