Los Angeles-based sound architect Cameron Stallones, better known as Sun Araw, makes the kind of music that appeals equally to people on a spiritual quest and kids in need of a really wicked soundtrack for ripping that homemade gravity bong. Since 2007, he has ruled over his psychedelic sound kingdom with a sharp spear, and released a steady torrent of EPs, LPs, remixes, and singles unto the world. Stallones’ forthcoming Ancient Romans, his fifth album and first for Drag City (via his Sun Ark imprint), feels palpably cinematic compared to his previous work. With nearly 80 minutes of high impact cosmic riddim from the outer reaches of the observable universe, Stallones makes his grandiose intentions clear.
Adopting Latin and referencing archeological sites, Stallones offers a loose concept album that traverses time and space. Antiquated mysticism wrestles with foggy electronic futurism across the LP’s eight long tracks, yielding an eclectic cauldron of scorched ambient dub and psychotropic transmissions. Stallones dives headfirst into hypnosis on album opener “Lucretius,” evoking space age environs while knodding to Roman times via a synthesized harp. As Ancient Romans progresses, its M.O. is revealed: masterful repetition, tension, and release, split evenly between minimal ambience and dense synth grooves. “At Delphi“ blends ritualistic drones with pulsing signals for over 11 minutes, and would make for a perfect accompaniment to a ”birth of the universe” sequence in the upcoming Cosmos remake.
Stallones knows when to employ murky, aquatic tones when he needs to– and when a song’s movement demands colorful, crystalline rhythms and sharply focused bliss treatments. His growth as a producer is hard to deny, especially when paired with the dynamic mastering skills of Sonic Boom. ”Crown Shell” and “Crete” offer up a more expansive exploration of the dub-revisionist Scratch Perry-meets-Ummagumma space voyages that Sun Araw hinted at in the past– but this time in crystal clear stereo. Likewise, the playful, carnivalesque joyride of “Lute and Lyre” lets Sun Araw’s resplendent sonic palette shine though, rather than bury it under static-laden washes.
Toward Ancient Romans‘ conclusion, Stallones brings Djmbes, trumpets, saxophones, and live drums into his aresenal, building to a grand culmination on closer “Impluvium,” a quarter-hour of tectonic bass and broken worldbeat rhythms that could soundtrack a subterranean Morlock rave. While Ancient Romans preserves the grainy and galactic analog dub sound of Sun Araw’s own brief history, the concept and expanded instrumentation demonstrates exciting new directions, maturity, and ambition.
Ancient Romans is out August 23rd, and is available for pre-order from Drag City
Sun Araw – Lute and Lyre