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Sun - I'll Be The Same

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Artist: Sun

Album: I'll Be The Same

Label: Staubgold

Review date: Feb. 28, 2008

A few years ago, I attended a post-gig party at the Candlestick Maker, a now-defunct Chicago improv venue, that was attended by key members of the local, Boston, and Berlin free music communities. After an evening of making severe scrapes, gargles, and feedback cohere, do you think they wanted to hear more of the same? Nope – the host cranked up a Missy Elliot record. You’ll hear no banging beats on Sun’s I’ll Be The Same, but it amounts to something similar: a chance for Oren Ambarchi and Chris Townend to step outside of their usual musical roles and play some nice tunes.

Ambarchi has worked extensively as an electro-acoustic improviser and drone merchant, while Townend runs a studio. I can imagine the two men sitting around the monitor after a long night spent mixing and mastering long tones, cracking open a couple of beers, and saying “wouldn’t it be swell to just play something people can whistle for a change?” In Sun, they do just that. Their fragile, Beach Boys-dappled pop is reminiscent of the moment when Gastr Del Sol went Wilsonian near the end of their run, only it’s mellower and feels much less thought-out.

Which was probably a relief for Townend and Ambarchi, but makes the brief (six songs, 33 minutes) record feel rather slight. It doesn’t help that neither man is a very compelling singer, nor that their lyrics feel more like a shuffle through the back pages of their favorite singer-songwriters’ songbooks than anything that either guy really had to say.

Still, I’ll Be The Same is not without charm. On “Bruise Things,” playground field recordings and random drum machine thwacks tug at the wan melody, introducing some welcome tension. Then a swell of keyboard, probably played backwards, asserts the beauty of pure sound. Even better is the following track, “Help Yourself,” a delicate ballet of guitar harmonics, hand-drum patter, and winsome wordless vocals.

But easy-sounding pop isn’t necessarily easy to make, and the rest of the record feels a bit too casual and barely there to stay with you, even after a few spins.

By Bill Meyer

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