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Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos - Icon Give Thank

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Artist: Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos

Album: Icon Give Thank

Label: Rvng Intl.

Review date: Apr. 9, 2012

Icon Give Thank records the journey of prolific Los Angeles psychmonger Sun Araw (Cameron Stallones to the California DMV), his friend M. Geddes Gengras, and a couple of documentary filmmakers to a leafy suburb of Kingston, wherein the two musicians collaborated with the storied roots reggae outfit The Congos. (A hagiographic documentary film, Icon Eye is being released simultaneously.) The album is not a follow-up to Heart of the Congos, the group’s 1977 collaboration with Lee “Scratch” Perry, an undisputed classic of the genre. Which is fine. That is not its agenda.

Stallones sketched out most of these tracks before he left the States, and it’s his project through and through. It’s not even a dub record. As is his wont, Stallones borrows some dub elements for his dense, humid, repetitive compositions, and the final product’s “magical rhythmic synchronicity” naturally leans on his collaborator’s practiced strengths. But it’s never far afield from the feel-good psych soup of his Sun Araw dispatches.

An e-pal of mine called out Stallones on his “Bonnaroo vibe,” and that’s not an unfair characterization — his take on earthy psychedelia is not entirely different from that of Animal Collective. Fortunately, the playful harmonies of The Congos, and particularly the damaged falsetto of Cedric Myton, have no problem pulling Icon Give Thank out of its music-major mysticism, sometimes catching some rare, soulful air.

The singers can riff on whatever their collaborators give them, lacing the most drearily hypnotic soundscape with their transcendent salutations to Jah and celebrations of everyday pleasures and perseverance. Like most things that result from improvisation, it doesn’t always sound as new as it thinks it does, but the reggae stalwarts’ freshness is timeless. Their enthusiasm keeps things listenable, often downright soothing. The mutual joy of muse-summoning is ever-palpable.

Things gel best on “Sunshine,” a mix of buoyant vocals, lighthearted lyrical ad libs and sinister guitar squiggles that recalls Roy Ayer’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” in the best possible way.

By Emerson Dameron

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