Personnel - Robin Amos: Sampler, Sequencer, Synthesizer - Glenn Jones: Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Electric Sitar, Electric Bass, Field Recordings - Jonathan LaMaster: Violin, Bowed Bass, Hunting Horn - Jon Proudman: Drums - Jake Trussell: Sampler, Sequencer, Melodica, Toy Piano, Hisses
Six tunes: Dust of Butterflies (9:54) - Bamboo Rockets, Half Lost in Nothingness, Searching for an Inch of Sky (4:29) - Turok, Son of Stone (7:26) - Bellevue Bridge (6:13) - Death of the Sun (8:46) - I Remember Nothing More (5:40)
Nearly four years has elapsed since instrumental avant rock innovators Cul de Sac released a studio album. Last year's sublime live radio performance Immortality Lessons (SAAH007) notwithstanding, just what has the band been up to? Cul de Sac went through a personnel shift, resulting in the arrival of both bassist/violinist Jonathan LaMaster and electronics/turntabilist Jake Trussell - a significant makeover signaling a change in sound was immanent. The band was commissioned to compose the original score to the Roger Corman produced film The Strangler's Wife (coming in 2003 on Strange Attractors). More recently, legendary ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki invited Cul de Sac to tour the US and Canada- as his band! All the while, Cul de Sac's fifth studio album (seventh overall) was gestating in the laboratory, meticulously taking shape. With the influx of new membership came a dramatic shift in creative direction, and soon the project began spiraling dramatically out of control, to the point that the album was almost aborted. Thankfully the seams held together and the band hurdled their many obstacles. Death of the Sun is the result, by far the most elaborate, difficult, melancholic …and heart-wrenchingly beautiful album of their career.
Death of the Sun is as much a musical and compositional departure in every way for Cul de Sac as their otherworldly The Epiphany of Glenn Jones, the infamous psychodrama in collaboration with the late John Fahey. Taking a cue from two tape-based pieces from that album, the band set out on a new path informed by their experience. By virtue of Trussell's modern electronics, augmenting analog wizard Robin Amos' role, a new approach to creating the music unfolded. Samples form the backbone of the album, the blueprint of the tunes. As the foundation became increasingly electronic-oriented, Cul de Sac responded with acoustic textures, and the juxtaposition works magically, a seamless integration. A heady, introspective mood is established immediately with the opening "Dust of Butterflies", as swaying vocal samples whisper through static electronics, sorrowful violin, and acoustic guitar yearnings. And onward: electric sitar meanders through folding rainforest samples and the mallet-massaged drums of "Bamboo Rockets"; incessant percussive mantras exhume mystical vocal spirits in the trance-inducing "Tarok, Son of Stone"; Field recordings weave through Glenn Jones' signature crystalline electric guitar, as "Bellevue Bridge" comes the closest to that familiar Cul de Sac sound, while the title track "Death of the Sun" makes the most jarring departure, melding tripped-out beats, dirge guitar, unsettling samples and acoustic textures into one wildly hallucinogenic ride. The haunting closer, "I Remember Nothing More", saunters morosely with acoustic guitar, sparse drums, and a ghostly vocal sample flowing over and under the song's moody current. Astonishingly, no two songs were created in the same way.
Death of the Sun is a challenging listen, pushing the Cul de Sac sound forward into entirely new realms. Folk, avant rock, electronica, turntablism, field recordings, percussive trance, ambient, Middle Eastern…the points along the musical plane are vast, but in the hands of Cul de Sac, the integration is spellbinding and atmospheric. With Death of the Sun, Cul de Sac have quite simply created their masterpiece.