Thursday, 24 June 2010

Lunar Eclipse: Cold Sun - Dark Shadows

A lot of prog music turns me off. So much pointless noodling, even noodling to the point where I can't even enjoy the music on a level of musicianship. You might as well be playing scales. I need emotion somewhere in there.

Cold Sun were a band that worshiped at the altar of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. And rightly so. They were also from Austin, TX, even sharing a rehearsal space and music biz tips with Roky Erikson at one point (and watched his brain melt like peyote in a pot in the process). The Elevators sweet, short life would make some lysergic ripples, eventually tsunaming over music. Cold Sun (sometimes calling themselves Amethyst and sometimes fuzzily remembered as being called Dark Shadows) however left no legacy or record. They were a failure locally. After sweating it out for 4 years, they had pretty much given up. The members went their separate ways and the project was summarily forgotten.

What they did do, however, was record. And this is that recording. As I said, I'm not huge into this stuff, but there's something about this record that is just... unique. Part of this is the autoharp. This is one of the most maligned, and seldom used instruments, but played right it has this otherworldly beauty. The music on this record sort of floats without settling. Each musician sounds like they are in their own space doing something completely alone, but it fits together perfectly and oddly.

It is fitting that this record didn't see the light of day until 1989. It has a very 90s feel to it despite being recorded in 1969. It just has a laid back Summer feel and a creepy cult-follower vibe to it (Roky Erickson worship?). For all its laid-backness feels weirdly uptight, especially with its stingy use of tambourine and harmonica to the point that it almost holds you at a distance. The vocals fall somewhere between a karaoke Neil Young and Alan Vega. The music vacillates between Velvet Underground liltings to full-on echoplex noise over Arthur Lee jams and doesn't like to stay in one place for a long time... until it does.

I shouldn't like this album as much as I do. Maybe it's because I grew up in the desert. Any way, if you are preparing for the Lunar eclipse this Saturday (get up early or stay up late!) maybe this will be your soundtrack. A weird, forgotten chip of South Texas psych and one of the few times you'll hear anyone rock an autoharp this hard.

If you'd like to read the whole mescaline-soaked story by Patrick Lundborg, click here!

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