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Magic Lantern / Sun Araw - Platoon / On Patrol

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Artist: Magic Lantern / Sun Araw

Album: Platoon / On Patrol

Label: Not Not Fun

Review date: May. 7, 2010

Guitarist Cameron Stallones is a busy man. Following the migration of the members of Magic Lantern to disparate locales, Stallones began his highly productive solo project Sun Araw, and has been releasing a steady stream of wah-focused psychedelia. An overall cloudiness and some guitar stylings tie the two bands together, but the release of new albums from both makes for interesting comparisons.

While Magic Lantern is currently dormant, the full-length Platoon was recorded last summer and has now seen the light of day, with five songs continuing the band’s brand of cloud-covered riffage. The initial blues-psych experimentation of opener "Dark Cicadas" brings to mind Electric Ladyland, as its foundation is fairly traditional beneath the low-fi layers of synth and wah-guitar freakout. Being based in a blues-band idiom, Magic Lantern provides a safety net, as it were, before going out on its extended voyages. The recordings often sound distant, as if Stallones and friends are playing from the other side of a large room, with everything awash in reverb. The manic use of guitar wah often lends things a funk feel amidst the slow-boiling waves of psych, and at times the band veers into outright Funkadelic-inspired space jams. "Friendship" is the only song that breaks the 10-minute mark, and arguably would have benefited from a stronger editing hand. Its slow, stomping rhythm and endless guitar leads will either draw you in or chase you away, depending on what you’re looking for at the time. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, but somehow its languid flow left me not minding all that much.

Stallones’ Sun Araw recordings are the product of late-night jams in Garageband, the results of which are edited for release. In the case of the double-LP On Patrol, he eases up on the editing and lets things hang out for longer, with mixed outcomes. Overall, the songs here have a similar hazy atmosphere and shambolic dreaminess, filled with watery synth, dub and, of course, wah guitar. Immersed in reverb and shadow, even the shorter tunes are like a drunken, narcoleptic stumble home after too much weed. Oddly, the rhythms and guitar often give things a tropical feel, abetted by the humidity of the guitar, occasionally sounding as if heard from underwater. As an evocation of a stoned evening beneath the palms, the album paints a vivid picture.

Given the extended jams here, it’s inevitable that some of them will overstay their welcome. Both "Conga Mind" and "Holodeck Blues" take too long to start saying their piece: each spend their first nine minutes dwelling on static drones before movement starts, at which point they become noteworthy. The first develops into a fine collection of dreamy keyboards, guitar and periodic vocal chants; the latter, which fills all of the album’s side D, eventually reaches brain-twisting peaks of echoing freakery. Had the song been more aggressively edited, it would have been a strong end, but as it stands, your patience will be tested.

The opportunity to give both of these albums a listen together doesn’t result in any true surprises. Sun Araw is the murky, wah-wah driven aspects of Magic Lantern with the blues-psych foundation pulled out from under it. Gentle percussion and dub-influenced bass replace that framework with something altogether more amorphous and malleable. The previous Sun Araw album Heavy Deeds had a more solid form, closer in some ways to Magic Lantern; On Patrol is the spirit floating free. Each will have its admirers.

By Mason Jones

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