Album Review: Sun Araw – Off Duty EP




Sun Araw‘s excellent On Patrol was the cornerstone of a big year. The man behind the band name, Cameron Stallones, has even more in his bag of tricks for you, all as the dial has almost flipped over to ’11. Stallones and the label Woodsist put out this new, three-song EP, which they packaged with a sort of re-issue of the two-track Boat Trip EP, which originally came out way back in 2008. While Woodsist might conjure up certain aesthetics to those familiar with the label (as did Not Not Fun when other Sun Araw releases came out of that camp), this goes beyond being another clone-ish, light haze, noise-y thing. Stallones makes music that one-ups the epic, droning, oozing mass of other already great Woodsist/NNF bands like Real Estate, Ganglians, Ducktails and Wet Hair. It doesn’t always have the subtlety, but it is a beast that grooves and destroys simultaneously.

Off Duty follows in those giant, crushing footsteps, reveling in the same affective goodness of On Patrol (though the title perhaps implies otherwise). “Last Chants” opens the disc like the soundtrack to a dystopia of large proportions; the pounding tribal drums, anxious ambiance, sci-fi synths, and distant, buried vocals combine to make up a scorched earth scenario with something big rummaging through the ruins. The piece winds up collapsing inward, a huge, bassy groove all that remains before itself fading into nothing.

“Midnight Locker” follows, the even-more-destroyed emptiness that much more intriguing. Its dark, almost angry ambiance is sparse, uncontrolled. The plunking synths and thunderous percussion weave in and out, angular guitar wafting in the background breeze. It never quite hits a satisfying climactic moment, yet the atmosphere is arresting and mood-altering.

The shamanistic, ritual “Deep Temple” rounds out the new material, pushing even further into the darkness. After a semi-bright, wide-open beginning, ringing and crying guitars push against each other, a good portion of the 11-minute track a test of when the thing will explode under its own weight and what will happen when it does. The song delves into a rich, evil-tropical jam, a journey deeper and deeper into a twisted, gnarled jungle. The chaotic storm grows and challenges, the noise swirling and striking as synths and percussion make their presence felt at the base.

While this EP didn’t make the Top 100 cut either, it’s an excellent example of the kind of stuff Stallones is so good at. When things are controlled, they’re marvelously orchestrated to hit all of the cinematic points. When they’re out of control, they’re perfectly out of control, the sonic storm so natural and pulsing with energy. Off Duty is no On Patrol, but it certainly is a solid second helping.