Last autumn, after I’d placed a Sun Araw track on an Uncut psych CD called “Seeing For Miles”, I fell into an occasional email correspondence with Cameron Stallones, the LA musician who records under that name.
Mostly, I would tell Stallones that a couple of things were being sorted out for him, and that I loved his music. In response, he would talk allusively about being an impoverished artist, and punctuate his emails with some powerfully cosmic heptalk. One phrase he used kept coming back to me, not least because I saw him deploying it in various other places around the internet. “Mind psalm, get on it,” he said.
Now I have no clue what this precisely means, but as a way of articulating something profound about his muggy, psychedelic dronefunk, “Mind psalm, get on it” seems to do a better job than any number of adjectival strings I can come up with. Since I started the Wild Mercury Sound blog, Stallones’music has been something of a recurring obsession, to the degree that I’ve pretty much exhausted a certain critical vocabulary – “sweaty”, “voodoo”, “tropical”, “heat-haze” and so on – to try and describe it.
But then Sun Araw records, and the way they are packaged, are full of signifiers that summon up specific imagery: dense jungle foliage and a kind of occult geometrics; ghostly images of Bo Diddley and Stevie Wonder; an album called “Beach Head”; a single, “Boat Trip”, with songs called “In The Trees” and “Canopy”. Last year’s “Heavy Deeds” was an ecstatic peak of sorts, with a stinging R&B organ driving the jams into territory that recalled Dr John as well as contemporary astral travellers like Brightblack Morning Light.
This month, there’s a great weight of new Stallones music on the Not Not Fun label. First up, a new Sun Araw double album called “On Patrol”. “An album for heavy-steamin’ late nights in the city, inter-dimensional back alleys, ghost cabs, and midnight-sweat locker rooms,” says Stallones, pitching “On Patrol” as a deep cop show soundtrack. The concept isn’t entirely obvious from the eight long tracks, though some of the fuzzed-out layering that epitomised previous Sun Araw records has been stripped back to reveal starker, though no less hypnotic, tribal head-nodders. “Conga Mind” roughly resembles Terry Riley recording at Black Ark Studios, and features the lyric, “Mind psalm, on patrol. Get on it!” It’s fantastic.
As is, more or less, the new Pocahaunted album, “Make It Real”. Pocahaunted made a load of records a year or two back, with the focus on a sort of gothic post-punk chantsong: their “Chains” album was a sequence of hot dirges that slowly coalesced into a great version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. “Make It Real” is their first in a while, with a reconfigured lineup that includes Stallones (he also guested on their excellent “Passage” album). The sound is now not entirely dissimilar to Sun Araw, especially the organ, but there’s a spindly post-punk vibe here, too, coupled with the wayward vocal invocations that posit Pocahaunted as a millennial Slits.
Stallones’ Sun Araw trip originally grew out of a band called Magic Lantern, who have also reconvened for a superb third album, “Platoon”. This one fleshes out Stallones’ trademark grooves with a freak-out rock battery, managing to be a little heavier and hairier – the 11 minute churn of “Friendship” is like a mystical take on “Funhouse”, with added Eddie Hazel – while still radiating the horizontal intensity that Stallones seems to bring to everything he becomes involved with. Mind psalm power, I guess.