I never expected to see another Black Sun Ensemble album. The last one was 2008’s Across The Sea of Id: The Way to Eden, and even that was a surprise, given band member Eric Johnson’s comments about founder and guitar guru Jesus Acedo’s state of mind when I interviewed him in 2006. Jesus sadly passed away in March of this year, but it turns out that the band had reassembled in the fall of 2012 after a 5 year hiatus with the intention of seeking a new direction toward, as the promo sheet describes, “combining its well documented interest in ethnic music with ambient electronics and other keyboard-driven sounds.” The album was only half done when Jesus died, but supported by a grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council, the remaining musicians recruited former members Bridget Keating on violin and Otto Terrorist on drums, plus other guests on oud and ethnic percussion to complete Behind Purple Clouds.
The album consists of 13 tracks and is just under an hour in length. Black Temple (a tribute to Popol Vuh) will transport you to a paisley colored Arabian desert, with its mind-bending combination of haunting keyboards, acidic psych guitar, siren seductive violin and ethnic percussion. Egyptian Magician will, on the other hand, transport you to a dance party in the Arabian desert. This is one of the new direction songs, with its electro beats and spaced out effects nicely embellishing this melodically bewitching groove tune. Dig that brief but cool stoned guitar. Mandala and Bastet are rocking and grooving ethnic psych tunes. Lotus and Jasmine are similar, though more trippy than rocking. Valley Of The Kings consists of psychedelia tailored made for belly dancers and dervishes, and includes a killer combination of oud and percussion. Jesus’ guitar and Bridget’s violin make for a luscious duo on Blue Thunder, a slow paced but intensely passionate and psychedelically symphonic song that would make great soundtrack music to a film. Captain Wormwood and Apollo Wolf are both classic Black Sun Ensemble rockers with Jesus in trademark dirty ripping psych guitar solo mode. I like the deep space effects, haunting atmospheric keys and pounding percussion on the psych rocking Watch The Stars. Red Temple has a cool and strange mixture of Middle Eastern and Reggae-ish grooves, plus a heavy Hammond sounding organ. Finally, the title track could not be a more fitting finale. Its just the trio of Jesus on guitar, Bridget on violin and Eric Johnson on organ, and is a tug at the heartstrings beauty, all the more emotional when I read in the promo sheet that this is the last piece of music Jesus recorded.
So this really is the Black Sun Ensemble swan song, and I must say they have gone out with a bang. Jesus Acedo was a hugely talented and creative though troubled soul who leaves behind a body of work dating back to 1985. CLICK HERE to catch the band in full flight on this 45 minute concert from 2005 I found on YouTube
For more information visit the Slow Burn Records web site at: http://www.slowburnrecords.net
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz