So I've had this epic Stunned review planned, taking on like 12 or 13 releases and, anyway it's become this beast unwilling to be tamed. So upon having the realization that I don't have to write about 12 Stunned releases at once I decided tackle it two by two so here is the first of like six installments catching up on all the amazing shit Stunned was up to the last part of '09.
Despite his immense popularity in the underground, I have yet to write about Sun Araw in these digital pages and In Orbit is maybe his best release so it works out that this is the first mention. This tape also marks the first(?) collaboration of Mr. Araw with Matthew Lessner. Not sure what each of their duties were here but I like the result. The tape is split into two live sessions recorded at the Sun Ark, whatever/wherever that is. "Luther" is the first side and it's great. There's all sorts of pseudo-Carribean ghosts floating about and what really makes the track is how they work jumbled hand percussion seamlessly into the mist. It's got a relaxing tropical vibe but it's much too heady to tag it as simply "tropical." Effected vocals coo and electric guitar provides some counterpoint melodies/improvisation and everything just breathes and grooves in an effortless manner. Would have been great to see this live. The last minute and a half cuts to a great neon-tribal freak out that I sorely wish there was more of.
The flipside is "That Geosynchronous Feeling" which is in a similar vein. Disembodied vocals, organ vibes and insistent percussion. Wah-wah guitar slips in subtly as well. The jam slowly builds on that initial vibe expanding the arrangement to include frantic hand drums and guitar. This culminates in fuzzy swells of guitar which shines an unexpectedly melancholic light on the piece. This is also one of the sharpest looking Stunned releases to date.
One of my favorite things about Stunned is their A&R work. They are always bringing great artists I've never heard of to my attention. This Portland duo is one of those names on a very long list. The duo employs (brace yourself) analog synthesizer, reel to reel tape loops and manipulation, tenor guitar, 5 string banjo, trapset, electric guitar and Hungarian flute captured live and analog to 1/4" reels. The sounds of the tape are suitably varied as well. Starting off with a sidelong piece, "Yucka Drucka" is a weirdly pulsating bed of synth and banjo and whatever else. It sort of reminds me of Sean McCann's tape on Stunned but if a section was chopped, stretched and looped or whatever. It's pretty infinitely fidgety. That section of the piece slides into another with someone going wild with slide guitar. At some point, some weird ass cricket noises crop up and I don't know if it's a tape loop or synth or guitar or what. That Hathor included an instrument list is a reviewer's dream cause I can say with some confidence, later in the track Hammer of Hathor whips out a Hungarian flute and goes to town. Everything drops out save for the flute and some pervasive cricket noises. Drums show up with authority and they're soon joined by a really zonked guitar riff. Totally gong-like cymbal hits definitely put this section over the top making it my favorite part of the piece for sure. It's a slammin' piece of work and they just ride to the end. As they damn well should.
After a creepy, spoken intro sample Hammer of Hathor unleash my favorite track of the tape, the unruly "Bee" brimming with wigged out percussion. At the heart of the track there is a lot of shit being banged on but it's all clouded and garbled with effects, tape loops and whatever the mighty Hammer are doing here. It's relentless, confusing and excellent. I'm a big fan of weird percussion acts but I've never heard anyone do fucked percussion quite like this. "Left Foot, Right Foot" is the final jam and there's another radical aesthetic shift. A pair of stringed instruments, banjo and tenor guitar I think, partake in one of the friendliest duels I've ever witnessed. It's a really simple track, the two instruments keep grooving on the same basic melody throwing in odd little improvisations where they see fit. It's sort of cleansing to find something pristine and gentle like this at the end of the tape after all of the hectic, bizarro manipulation of the previous jams.
The tapes are definitely out of print like just about everything with the Stunned brand. Check the distros? (shrug)