May 2, 2014
As part of our ongoing Record Stories series, we asked Cameron Stallones aka Sun Araw to pick a record of particular meaning from his inimitable collection.
In his definitive rave history Energy Flash, music writer Simon Reynolds calls him a ‘musical polymath’; a product of “the Post-Everything Generation” taking advantage of the proliferation of “private-press New-Age releases, obscure Krautrock and acid folk, barely released psychedelia” more actively available on or at least via the internet. Having spent time deep in the Jamaican hinterland with M Geddes Gengras and The Congos on their collaborative 2012 acid dub LP Icon Give Thank and now on the verge of embarking on a tour with ‘private-press New-Age’ poster boy (if such a thing could possibly exist) Laraaji, Reynolds may not have been that far off the mark.
But Cameron Stallones, who records most visibly under the moniker Sun Araw, is harder to pin down than that. When we first made contact in late February, he was finalising his latest long player Belomancie; a collection of 9 ‘sonic portals’ peppered with “expanding and contracting synth refrains, mechanical flutter, jittered electronica and incessantly scribbled and punctuated guitar”. Belomancie, much like the record Stallones has chosen for this feature, squirms between genres and the parallels in both his and Clearlight’s “abuse of early sampling keyboards to great harmonically-dismorphic effect” could not be more astute. Not wanting to give too much away, we’ll let Cameron take it from here.
Words: Cameron Stallones
This is a relatively unsung recording from the Anointed Archduke of Philanthropical Charlatanism Jerry Hunt, a lifelong “laffer” in the healthiest mystical tradition. Hunt was a high-functioning engineer with sharp interest in the Occult, and applied this skill-set to such projects as translating the Enochian angelic tables “received” by 16th-Century mystic John Dee into a sort of control information for his home-built electronic performance system. His work under his own name involved mostly this system, which was a highly modified 16-track tape machine that would play randomized compositions based on gestures, sounds, and light changes in the space, but in a distant and coded way so that it was also hidden from Hunt how his movements and sounds would direct the course of the piece.
And so he flapped and hooted and stomped around stage, frequently leading people to relate his performances to strange rituals and see him as some sort of shaman-figure. His interests were perhaps more subtle, he was using the texts like a processor, translating their language into engineering style “instructions” to take a bit of a gander at the mind-body connection. Especially as it relates to “actions” and “effects,” and the wildly personal and subjective quality of such supposed links.
Anyways, anyways, Clearlight was an ensemble he was involved in that made two records, and about which there is not a lot of information. This record appeared to me at some point and upon reading the listed instrumentation (emulator, saxophone, pedal steel, percussion) my heart skipped a beat and I looked close enough to notice the enneagram on the sleeve and the fact that it was recorded and released in Dallas in 1984, the same year I was born in Austin. So being a Texan myself, I couldn’t resist the promise of the particularly pickled flavour of anarchic Texan esotericism. Turns out it’s an exceptional amalgam of things very close to my heart: abuse of early sampling keyboards to great harmonically-dismorphic effect, evocative saxophone figures, and tender, blushing pedal steel solos. It also sort of sounds like Lard Free, which is never a bad thing. But its tones are uniquely its own, with Hunt generating big shuddering waves of vocoded breath and wrenching metallic digital synthesis just around some dark corner from Peter Gabriel, all seasoned with truly lovely playing from Peter Brewer (sax), Larry White (pedal steel), and Ron Snider (percussion).
Photo: Alex Welsh for Fader