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Eternal Tapestry and Sun Araw - Night Gallery

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Artist: Eternal Tapestry and Sun Araw

Album: Night Gallery

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jul. 22, 2011

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this unexpected collaborative album between Portland psych-rockers Eternal Tapestry and one of the most feted figures of the Californian lo-fi/dub/hypnogogic scene. There really isn’t. But, somehow, despite a sum of parts that is pretty attractive on paper, I’m nonplussed. It’s certainly “good music,” with nothing that wouldn’t theoretically appeal to all “outré” rock fans. It was recorded completely live, with no overdubs, in one 45-minute session at the University of Texas after the two acts became best buddies during the course of the SXSW Festival. So, it has that rawness that can make many a jam session as electrifying on disc as it would have been when witnessed live.

There are delicious swathes of fuzzed-out electric guitars, the kind of unending riff-meets-solo that has become somewhat de facto on the modern-day psych scene. Eternal Tapestry favor a twin-guitar attack, with Nick Bindeman and the appropriately moniker-ed Dewey Mahood Wah segueing in and out of each other’s solos, taking it in turn to try and dazzle with the distorted strings of their axes. But maybe therein lies the first problem. Despite their obvious talent, the riffage feels a bit stale and overly familiar. Occasionally, one will suddenly rip free of the self-imposed reins; the first time I heard this happen on Night Gallery’s second track, my relief was probably the headiest trip of the whole listening experience. It seemed that something brilliant was going to transport the album out of an unremarkable rut into the stratosphere of musical wonderment in the manner of all great psych bands, from Jefferson Airplane to Comets on Fire.

With drummer Jed Bindeman and bassist Yoni Kifle locked into a thunderously repetitive and heavy groove, and Cameron “Sun Araw” Stallones darting through the ether on keyboards, Night Gallery was turning into something not dissimilar to the glory days of German psychedelic music, as encapsulated by Popol Vuh (pre-Hosianna Mantra), Amon Duul II and The Cosmic Jokers. It’s the hazy, drug-addled, uneven and rapidly spliced-together spontaneity of the latter that springs to mind most when listening to Night Gallery, but on the second track, as things build in intensity, the six players lock into one steamroller of a groove, honing in on the heaviness of latter-day psych legends such as Oneida or Acid Mothers Temple.

But Eternal Tapestry and Sun Araw never achieve the focus of those acts, and instead head back down The Cosmic Jokers path, where things collapse. The third segment seems positively slight in comparison, drifting on a flimsy raft of wavering ambience, as if the bands realized they’d peaked too soon. Stallones’s presence is especially muted, with none of the unsettling weirdness one usually associates with Sun Araw. Even with 13 minutes to work with on the fourth part, the players seem uncertain where to go.

It’s a shame, as with a bit more time and effort, this could have been a winner, and it certainly shows that one should not underestimate the focus and dedication of an outfit as outlandish as Acid Mothers Temple. As I said, there is nothing really to fault, at least superficially, with Night Gallery, but it just never builds on the decent ingredients at play. It’s simply far too easy to forget once you’ve heard it.

By Joseph Burnett

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