Eternal Tapestry & Sun Araw Eternal Tapestry & Sun ArawNight Gallery
On paper, this collaboration between Eternal Tapestry and Sun Araw seems like it was destined to occur - two exponents of very different strains of modern psychedelia coming together to BLOW YOUR FREAKING MINDS. They've come close before, sharing several bills down the years (often with Sun Araw's former band Magic Lantern) and treating fans to a pincer assault from both sides of the left-field.
Can the left-field have two sides? Well, in this case it does – far out and further out. The Portland, Oregon five-piece are an authentic echo of the early-seventies, when psychedelia cast off its ballast and flew straight into outer space, all charging guitars and Krautrock rhythms; while Sun Araw, not unlike his near name-sake Sun Ra, appears almost like a hallucination from the future, his abstract, dubbed-out soundscapes taking the genre into hitherto uncharted territory.
Anyway, after one shared gig (an impromptu performance in an Austin car park at last year's SXSW) Eternal Tapestry invited Sun Araw to help record a radio session they had lined up. The result is the sprawling, heady jam that constitutes “Night Gallery”.
The title comes from the early seventies TV show hosted and co-written by “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Sterling, a program all parties became obsessed with during that stint at SXSW. While there's no obvious thematic influence on the music (blood-curdling screams and eerie cackling are mercifully avoided), the program's multi-narrative format is reflected here - 38 minutes of music is split into four untitled suites, distinct from each other but very much part of the whole. Even the shortest of these feels epic, but none more so than the 14-minute closer which takes a stoner riff (and tempo) and distils it into a spiritual feast of reverence, somewhere in between Om and Alice Coltrane. It sounds almost transcendental at points, and must have felt electric in the studio.
However, this is the only instance where the collaboration really matches the high expectation. “Part I” is the section that sounds most like Sun Araw, but while the overdriven guitar at its peak is exhilarating, when that fades there's not much going on underneath. “Part II” meanwhile is the most typically Tapestry, but again, apart from the odd unexpected vocal interruption, there's not all that much to get your claws into.
By “Part III” though the atmosphere starts to stick to you like hash oil. The high-pitched keyboard drones and hypnotic repetition recall Spiritualized at their most tripped out, and it segues nicely into the drawn out coda of “Part IV”. In fact, for an entirely improvised piece the progression of the music is nicely developed; especially considering there are no overdubs and few edits. Of course, as with most improvised jams it does drag sometimes, but rarely to the point of irritation.
In fact the main problem seems to be one of ratio – there are five weaving the Tapestry but only one Sun shining. Thus the latter, without the opportunity to cast his usual magical production spells, gets subsumed into the mass. His flute and keyboard contributions are fine enough, but it generally feels like he's a guest on their session rather than a true collaborator. Of course, with improvised music it's usually a mistake for any individual to try and imprint their personality on it too strongly, and Sun Araw does the right thing and tries to enhance the texture rather than dominate it. But while the results are immersing, they're rarely diverting.
Therefore, when you consider the prolific output of both parties you might want to invest in their respective studio albums first, at least until such a point where they decide to record a proper collaboration. This jam certainly whets the appetite in anticipation of such an event.
Which is the key thing to note before you buy this record – it's not an album, it's a jam. Treat it as such.