1/17/12

My favourite albums of 2011 (#25 Sun Araw - Ancient Romans)

Hmm, I'll have to admit, this feels a bit awkward and wayward of me, my starting this list now, six weeks later than I really ought to have done. Even that notorious tortoise Karl appears to be putting his list to bed over on those geese (it's an excellent list by the way; you all should read it, but come back here won't yis). The path ahead looks lonely and punishing as fuck...and to think I started blogging because I thought it would be fun.

THIS YEAR...IN A WORLD...ONE BRAVE MUSIC BLOGGER'S JOURNEY AGAINST THE ODDS...HE SET OUT TO WRITE A LIST...BUT ENDED UP WRITING THE STORY OF HIS HEART...YOU'LL LAUGH...YOU'LL CRY...YOU'LL EVACUATE PSYCHEDELIC SUBSTANCES ALL OVER YOURSELF AND HOWL WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM LYRICS AT THE MOON IN A VOICE THAT IS NOT YOUR OWN WHILE YOUR EYEBALLS TREMBLE AND SQUEAK IN THEIR SOCKETS AND YOUR EARDRUMS IMPLODE AS LANA DEL REY SKITTERS BACKWARDS DOWN YOUR STAIRS ON ALL FOURS LIKE THAT BIT IN THE EXORCIST...[Huge subwoofer sound effect. Screen dims to black. The flaming words 'Asleep on the Compost Heap' fade slowly into view]...ASLEEP ON THE COMPOST HEAP...[Words dim to black followed by scratching record needle sound and goofy surprise gag, precisely 1.5 seconds long, featuring Rob Schneider].

#25 Sun Araw - Ancient Romans

There's a long tradition of psychogeographical holiday making in freak-out music, and such excursions through both time and physical geography are particularly evident in krautrock. Popol Vuh, for example, explore ancient Egypt on In den Garten Pharaos; on Alpha Centauri, Tangerine Dream aim their spaceship for that particular star; and so on. There's an earnest desire to seek on such albums, a desire that is irony free and feels a bit quaint or even innocent in this era of inverted commas around everything.

Sun Araw's Ancient Romans is spiritual kin to those records that bring to mind the illustrated covers of old science fiction books at jumble sales and afternoon escapes to inward panoramas. It's a serious minded album of expansively rolling jam music which has a single, pure, function: to free the imagination from stifling real world associations so it can travel to places vast and strange.

The album's conceptual 'thing' is that it is loosely based on the mystic bacchanalia rites of ancient Rome. As classics students find out in University (according to Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' anyway), the world of the ancients is separated from us not only by time and space but by systems of thought. One reason the average Ancient Roman lives in a different world to us, is that he perceives the world differently. Teleport him into the present and he will still exist in a reality that is profoundly altered in relation to ours.

Stallones clearly wants us to get inside that lad's mind, and he fiddles with the hinges of this conceptual window using colossal dubby soundscapes and submerged rhythms that speak of ritual and trance. The tunes unfurl slowly and luxuriously, more often than not breaking the ten minute barrier, with giant parts shifting slowly in relation to each other like scenery in parallax. Vocals, meanwhile, are used sparingly. They are dreamlike and dissociated in a reverb-heavy fog, ecstatic yelps and exhortations that serve to draw the listener ever further into this mysterious and fine album in the krautrock tradition.

MP3: Sun Araw-Crown Shell

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