Wednesday, October 24, 2012

sun araw: the inner treaty (drag city)

He’s certainly not the only one, but Cameron Stallone really likes to fuck with time. Sonically, the woozy THC-addled reggae-psych underwater space jams1 he makes as Sun Araw never quite go anywhere. Then again, they never quite stay still either. The effect is one of transit without arrival. Ebb, flow, cycle, and return. Tracks have a tendency to merge into each other. On and on and on and on. Swelling bass lines, bubbling percussion, flabby synth stabs, languid guitars. And all of a sudden the record’s over, the silence startling after all that timeless fog.

Stallone is an artist for whom the term hypnagogia has always felt particularly appropriate. And I mean that in the strictest sense of the word. Sun Araw’s music is “presomnal.” It’s located precisely at that point between sleep and wakefulness when sensations get simultaneously drawn out and suspended.

Then there’s all the talk of the ancients, mythology, “neo-primitive vibes,” Stallone’s encrypted references to his musical idols. Not only does the music fuck with your sense of time as you experience it, it’s in constant and self-conscious conversation with its own history too. Even though this latest record, The Inner Treaty, has been released by Drag City, the long-standing association with Not Not Fun makes total sense in this respect. Sun Araw’s music always feels totally idiosyncratic to me. I couldn’t imagine ever mistaking it for anyone else. But it situates itself firmly in that interzone between then and now. Time out of joint.

It’s an attitude — an ethos actually — best exemplified on Stallone’s extraordinary collaboration Icon Give Thank with 70s reggae legends The Congos and fellow L.A. resident M Geddes Gengres from earlier this year. Honestly, my ears are still ringing with the utter blessedness of it. Sunshine. A ray of joyous reverberant light. The record brought together three very different perspectives on dub history, two from one end and one from the other, and the combined effect was magic. In 2012, not a helluva lot has sounded better. Testament to the fact that innovation does not always need to mean the unceremonious discarding of what has come before. Retrospection, not Retromania. A healthy kind of respect for the past without being beholden to it...

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