Special Edition - World Listening Day
Sun Araw is the working title of a musical project helmed by Los Angeles-based artist Cameron Stallones. Sun Araw has released a number of well-received and consistently innovative albums, with his eighth, The Saddle of the Increate, released by Sun Ark Records (an imprint of Drag City) in 2017.
Structural and spiritual inspiration for Sun Araw comes primarily from investigation into the nature of experience by the transformative power of simple observation. The goal has always been the creation of a psychedelic music, by which is meant a psychotropic music: not an aesthetic sensibility but a method of discontinuous experience. Supporting every Sun Araw composition is the fact of mantra: the ability of repetition with attention to change the perception of a melodic object. By means of this constantly changing perception, the possibilities of improvisation become infinite. More recent works attempt to effect the mental activity of the listener even more physically and investigate the expansion of the time-experience when the composition removes a fixed place from which to listen.
Since the project's inception in 2007, eight full-length LPs, three EPs, six cassettes, and innumerable collaborations have emerged, partaking in a musical spectrum spanning psychedelic drone and melted afrobeat, warped dub and minimal composition, all the while remaining distinct from any possible genre classification. In 2012 a posthumous split 7" with minimalist psychedelic legends Spacemen 3 bent the circle of influence into a spiral. Sun Araw's releases have been praised in Wire Magazine (who selected Heavy Deeds as one of the top 50 records of 2009, On Patrol in the top 50 of 2010, and Ancient Romans in the top 50 of 2011), The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Uncut Magazine, Mojo, Pitchfork, and beyond. Sun Araw has toured extensively domestically and abroad, performing in Europe, Russia, Australia, Mexico, South America, and Canada.
In early 2011, Cameron and M. Geddes Gengras traveled to Jamaica where they recorded and produced Icon Give Thank, a collaborative album with roots-reggae legends The Congos, which has led to a live performance at the Barbican in London and a concert in Manhattan with Lee Scratch Perry. While in and around Kingston, Cameron and Ged also began producing dancehall singles and tracking local vocalists under the name Duppy Gun Productions, and are currently releasing this material with the help of Stones Throw Records.
Cameron creates the artwork for each release, writes liner notes, and has started a photographic series of books and videos and a radio show under the heading: Second System Vision.
In 2015 for the album Gazebo Effect, Mitchell Brown and I conceived a "music system" which would allow me to improvise with several instruments while running through a 1/4" reel-to-reel tape machine that Mitchell was controlling and manipulating in realtime. The system we developed gives him the ability to dub pieces of my playing onto a repeating tape loop, sometimes allowing me to hear my playing before it's recorded, other times not. Sort of like playing an instrument into a wood-chipper. The general principle has held strong for years in our collaboration, although the equipment has been continually modified and optimised. The joy in this sort of setup is simple: mediated desire. The player makes a move, but what returns to the ears as audio is not quite the move that was made, it has been modified by the tape system. This is something that happens regularly in human experience: desire or will become modified by physics or the desire of another, and the difference between the original move and what "returns" holds a clue about the nature of the medium in which we find ourselves. Mitchell and I have found that mimicking this principle in our improvisational system continuously yields surprising and beautiful results, and makes us both better performers as we learn to adapt to and frolic with the medium in which we find ourselves.
Longform music and the act of listening deeply are incredibly powerful tools for the modification of experience. Surface level attention acts sort of like a dog, it sniffs something, decides what it is, and kinda plods away looking for another smell. The best deep-listening music gently suggests, by weight of some sort of internal vibrancy, another, deeper return of the attention. Each subsequent return of the attention gives something back: at first just the energy that would have been spent wandering off, but before long a gentle glow can develop, and a sound that perhaps has not changed (say, in an Elaine Radigue monolith) now holds three extra colours that it didn't before. It's not long before looking deeper becomes its own reward, and soon bestows the most important quality of all: a distinct modification in the normal feeling of time, which is the harbinger of all the best sorts of human experiences.