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Spiral Joy Band - Wake of the Dying Sun King

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Artist: Spiral Joy Band

Album: Wake of the Dying Sun King

Label: VHF

Review date: Nov. 21, 2007


Spiral Joy Band - "Long Shadows Beneath the Moon" (Wake of the Dying Sun King)


A great thing about Jack Rose, Pelt and sister group Spiral Joy Band is the almost total lack of studied art “seriousness” that they bring to their recordings. Though the product of the latter two is admittedly esoteric, it’s easy to imagine this being the music your friends make, albeit friends seriously into Tibetan trance and the Alga Marghen catalog.

Formed in 2001, Spiral Joy Band played live for years before putting out their first album, Lullabies for Jeff Dean. Rather than opt for studio experimentation, the group basically lay down their tracks in lengthy recording sessions without overdubs – Wake of the Dying Sun King was recorded in three sessions, one of them, according to the liner notes, an “all-night flight at Glade Baptist Church” in Blacksburg, Virginia. More than an immediacy, there’s an honesty in this approach, as if a different tack would dilute the interplay and ring false.

Core members Mikel Dimmick and Mike Gangloff return on Wake, with Nathan Bowles and Amy Shea completing the quartet. The addition of Shea on fiddle in particular is a revelation, making the Americana links between Pelt, Rose and Spiral Joy Band much more explicit. It’s absolutely gorgeous work that, when not obtaining Tony Conrad-levels of hypnosis, easily blends into the rustic atmosphere. Imagine if Ben Vida brought the bulk of his Appalachian influences to Pillow, rather than Town and Country, and you’ll have a sense of the dynamics at play here.

All four tracks are top-notch, but "Long Shadows Beneath the Moon" showcases what the band does best. Amidst simple pump organ, fiddle and who knows what percussion, the band captures the cover's outstretched hand in sound. Much improvised music is based around the idea of the musicians playing off each other, batting ideas back and forth. On this track, Spiral Joy Band demonstrate that the most affecting strain of improv is that where the players play with each other and unite individual ideas into a cohesive whole, to the point where everything seems not spontaneous, but inevitable.

By Brad LaBonte

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