Whimsical choices occasionally pay off.
I know of Sun Araw. And, by know of, I mean I knew they’d recently played at All Tomorrow’s Parties. Still, considering the English festival’s reputation as a purveyor of the weird, the chance to catch Sun Araw for a measly $20 seems almost a no-lose proposition.
And that’s how I find myself at Woodland on a Saturday night watching three bands I’ve never actually listened to previously.
Blank Realm leads the line, and the Brisbane four-piece push all the right buttons with their messy pop-yet-not that’s full of little psychedelic guitar wig-outs. Add in Sarah’s Spencer’s vocal burrs and some crunching percussion, and there’s no chance of mistaking this for candyfloss.It seems a confession of failure to describe Prince Rama via Bollywood musicals. At a stretch, I guess you could make some Bhangra comparisons. The Brooklyn-based trio project the same vivacious energy, driving the music onward with similar bursts of pulsating tribal drums, cascading cymbals and soaring Sanskrit chants and mantras.
It’s thrilling in an unapologetically direct-to-the-hindbrain fashion — a joyous repetition of beats and chants working over and around groaning slabs of synths. Primally transcendent, if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms.
Sun Araw finally appear at a quarter past midnight (what is it with Woodland’s late start times?). The band’s insistent drone patterns immediately put me a little in mind of High Wolf.
But where the French psych outfit leans into spacious felt-as-much-as-heard shamanic stylings, Cameron Stallones’ Sun Araw is sonically dense and urban: a wholly modern claustrophobia of electronic glitchiness, complicated guitar lines, percussive jams and occasional bursts of free jazz saxophone overlaid on humid, slow-moving grooves.
For much of the time it’s hypnotic. But with the finale pushing 1am, all the hard edges of this whirling kaleidoscope of sound prove too much for one tired mind. Damn Woodland’s late start times.