Very pleased to see the love is spreading for Sun Araw, judging by the comments here when I mentioned “Heavy Deeds” the other day. A few days on, I’m still feeling it’s one of my favourite albums of the year so far.
Thanks in no little part to Cameron Stallones’ determined productivity, I’m now suspecting that I blog about the poor guy (here and here, for example) as much as I do about James Blackshaw. The thing is, Stallones’ music as Sun Araw is so immersive and compelling. It’s rich with psychedelic ambiences, but also, increasingly, has a sort of stoned, head-nodding groove which could feasibly cross over to a world which was summed up by those early Mo’Wax comps.
“Heavy Deeds” is Stallones’ third Sun Araw album. Ghost images of Stevie Wonder and Bo Diddley adorn the cover, and there’s a distinctly heavier, funkier vibe to his music: it may still be obscured by the heathaze – and Lord, this is sweaty music – but things are definitely coming into focus.
Consequently, the snaking, wah-wah freak-out guitar is a lot higher up in the multi-layered mix, along with a stinging R&B organ vamp (check out the swinging title track, in particular) and Stallones’ still-muffled tribal chants, and the general drifting ambience which epitomised much of “Beach Head” has been sacrificed in favour of more rhythmic, upfront, cumulatively hypnotic tunes. Someone mentioned Spiritualized on one of the earlier blogs, and that influence (accidental, quite possibly) comes to the fore on “Hustle And Bustle”, which reverberates with a comparably languid fervour.
The second side of the vinyl is especially wonderful, with the potent, explosive “Get Low” – his most accessible moment yet, maybe – leading into the vivid, low-slung dirge-funk of “All Night Long”. Stallones lets his tunes roll on for about ten minutes at a time on average, but he could let them evolve for a good time longer if he was so inclined.
In the past, I’ve mentioned New Kingdom and Sunburned Hand Of The Man circa “Jaybird”, and those reference points seem more apposite than ever on “Heavy Deeds”. I’m reminded, too, this time, of Funkadelic’s cosmic slop, and particularly of Brightblack Morning Light: sticky, horizontal, hot night music. It’s fantastic, and I should also mention that the CD (which I don’t have yet) also features “Hey Mandala”, which came out a while back as a split with Predator Vision, another incarnation of the guy from Ducktails.