Monday, August 15

Record Review: Sun Araw [Ancient Romans, Sun Ark]

By Jennifer Graciano
Sun Araw's catalog continues to grow alongside the ancients in the form of the double LP, Ancient Romans. Los Angeles' psych king, Cameron Stallones seems to have a bottomless bag of tricks; just when I think he’s maxed out his style, along comes a solid full-length that feeds the psychedelic hunger he's created in many a fan. From start to finish, Ancient Romans offers tracks teeming with curiosity, psych drenched sounds that present a drama Sun Araw had never really shown before. The inspiration is clear: civilizations of times past, classic poems, and the romantic. Fitting then that Ancient Romans plays out like an epic tale written by the likes of Aeschylus.

Opener “Lucretius" could seem off-putting at first listen and is one of the murkier cuts we’ve heard from Sun Araw. The gruff chiptune-like jangle is muted and swiftly morphs into a dainty psych backdrop for the remainder of the album. “Crown Shell” and “Crete” are clear examples of just how skilled Sun Araw is; layered pieces breathing new life into tried experimentation stand out with ease. “Lute and Lyre’s" head-bobbing beat meanders along seemingly endless chords for one of the most engaging songs on the album. "At Delphi's" gurgling style is vaguely reminiscent to sounds on 2008's The Phynx; experimental at its core with some of the most shrill sounds I’ve ever heard. The fixed pace on "Fit For Caesar" could soundtrack a march to battle, as its ten minute playtime is no excuse for leeway. And “Trireme’s" slick grooves play up the Sun Araw’s well-established specialty. Album closer "Impluvium" is the star of the show; at over fifteen minutes, its length is enough of a presence. It’s surprisingly rigid track with reverb overload on Stallones’ indistinct howls. It serves up something different from the loose jam-like tracks that have become customary for Stallones.

In true Sun Araw style each cut of the double LP goes well beyond the standard track length; the longest at almost fifteen minutes, patience for this sonic adventure is to be expected. And that patience will be well rewarded as Ancient Romans takes experimental and psychedelic music to a new level. From album opener “Lucretius,” to the closer “Impluvium,” an ambiance is established and played out exceptionally well. Sun Araw’s strengths have always lied in the atmosphere created within full-lengths and this album is no exception. Brimming with untried efforts and peculiar vibratos that can only be praised, Ancient Romans parades Sun Araw’s skill and sets the bar a bit higher for future releases.

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