Thursday, December 05, 2013

Music Library: Summer Hymns, Sun Kil Moon, Sun Ra, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Sunburst, Sunn 0))), Sunset Rubdown

Summer Hymns - Voice Brother & Sister (2000) and Clemency (2003). This is a pleasant Athens, GA-based band with quiet, sometimes barely-there folk-songs with little odd psychedelic flourishes.

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts Of The Great Highway (2003), Tiny Cities (2005), April (2008), and Among The Leaves (2012). This is Mark Kozelek's latest music project following the Red House Painters and his solo albums. Kozelek seems to be getting quieter as he gets older, although he occasionally unleashes his inner Neil Young and kicks it electric. His songwriting is excellent throughout all of these, with the exception of Tiny Cities, which is a cover album/acoustic reworking of Modest Mouse songs.

Sun Ra - The Nubians of Plutonia (with His Myth Science Arkestra, 1959), Jazz In Silhouette (with His Arkestra, 1959), Angels and Demons At Play (with His Myth Science Arkestra, 1960), We Travel The Spaceways (with His Myth Science Arkestra, 1960), The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra (with His Arkestra, 1961), Bad and Beautiful (with His Arkestra, 1961), Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow (with His Solar Arkestra, 1962), Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy (with His Myth Science Arkestra, 1963), The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (with His Solar Arkestra, 1965), The Magic City (with His Solar Arkestra, 1965), The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Volume Two (with His Solar Arkestra, 1966), Strange Strings (with His Astro Infinity Arkestra, 1967), Continuation (with His Astro Infinity Arkestra, 1968), Soundtrack To The Film Space Is The Place (with His Intergalactic Solar Arkestra, 1972), Space Is The Place (with His Astro Intergalactic Solar Arkestra, 1972), Astro Black (1973), Lanquidity (with His Arkestra, 1978), Nuclear War (with His Outer Space Arkestra, 1982),  Reflections In Blue (Sun Ra Arkestra, 1987), Purple Night (1990), and The Singles (compilation, 1955-82). Born Herman Blount in Birmingham, AL, Sun Ra was a cosmic philosopher and jazz musician who hailed from Saturn and woe becomes the person who does not believe. His jazz music ranged from bop and swing to avant-garde fusion with the Singles album delving into doo wop, rock & roll, and even disco. Although I have 20 Sun Ra albums, this is a drop in the bucket of the hundreds he released. The earliest are straight-up bop and swing. Around 1961-62, the Arkestra apparently relocated to New York and began embracing free jazz. Bad And Beautiful has a bit of free jazz tossed in, but Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow is a full-on free jazz album, as lovely and chaotic as free music at its best. From there, Sun Ra's music took on cosmic significance all the way to Space Is The Place, a conceptual album and soundtrack album to accompany Sun Ra's film of the same name. The later albums aren't quite as exciting, although Nuclear War is excellent (the title track was covered by Yo La Tengo), Purple Night is pretty extraordinary, and The Singles is mindblowing. However, the albums on this list between Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow through Space Is The Place are all five-star, must-have albums. I'd say my favorite is The Magic City, but I'm not sure I would say the same five minutes from now.

Sunburned Hand Of The Man - Jaybird (2001). Trippy psych-folk-avant-jazz-rock that is sort of like Comets On Fire jamming some Sun Ra tunes.

Sunburst - 3-Song Demo (2000), WPRB (2003), 2003 Demos. These are some outtakes and demos from a band with Glenn Mercer and Stan Demeski of the Feelies along with some of the members of Speed The Plough. I don't think that Sunburst ever had a proper release, but this is good stuff.

Sunn O))) - The Grimmrobe Demos (2000), The Flight of the Behemoth (2002), White 1 (2003), White 2 (2004), Black One (2005), Oracle (2007), and Monoliths And Dimensions (2009). For a band that basically has one gimmick (Satan-dudes play long, loud, droning chord-noise!) in a genre that sounds like a joke (ambient metal?), Sunn O))) sure has a lot of tricks up their sleeves. I think the Grimmrobe Demos are a little dull and Flight of the Behemoth is a little more interesting thanks to the inclusion of noise-artiste Merzbow. The two White albums, though, are basically a battering ram of textures in the drone that pummeled me into submission. Black One goes further, working all kinds of unlikely sounds into the evil drone, surprising me with its depth, which becomes even more interesting on Oracle, which is practically a minimalist composition, and Monoliths, which has so many unlikely sounds that it may not even qualify for minimalism. I mean, don't get me wrong. We're still talking about music that 99 percent of listeners will only hear as an annoying drone pastiche of brown notes, but once you have ears for that sort of thing (and the intestinal fortitude, natch), it's amazing how it opens up for you.

Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover (2007) and Dragonslayer (2009). This is emotional indie-rock from Canada built on a solid foundation of classic rock tropes, and no I am not talking about the Arcade Fire, although it sure seems as if I could be. Anyway, the second of these is better than the first, so here's a video from that one.


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