The four tracks of Beach Head, like much of Sun Araw's work, capture Cameron Stallones at a certain place and time; its re-release some years after its first limited run in 2008 almost makes it more of a flashback than something new. But his ear for constructing open-ended explorations in drone and texture in the context of the thriving early 21st century L.A. underground noise scene was already notable then. "Thoughts Are Bells" begins the album on a calmer and slightly shorter note, with wafts of feedback sounding very much indeed like shaken bells or hand cymbals over empty space before a simple but still attractive rhythmic pattern of sitar notes -- as well as some actual bells! -- emerges to shape an arrangement that feels somewhere between a murky processional field recording in Southeast Asia and some utterly unknown place. "Horse Steppin," in distinct contrast, is a straightforward lyric song on the face of it, except the heavy echo on the vocals and soft, distanced swathing around the whole arrangement turn a sort of country-rock song into something stranger, more like a lost broadcast where the levels are all over the place. (The keyboard part that recurs at points in its own three-note pattern is usually the most clearly heard thing.) "Beams" finds a bit of a middle ground where a slightly similar song in the first half becomes a gentle jam in the second, and a bassline provides the anchor for all kinds of murky noise, feedback and otherwise. It's almost Pink Floyd 1970 without much in the way of drumming, but also a few rooms over in classic New Zealand meets FSA style. "Bridal Filly" ends with more flowing rise-and-fall tones, as well as calling, invocatory vocals that suggest a ritual most clearly on the record, a sense of progressing somewhere, somehow -- into a massive ocean sunset, the depths of the desert, a vast void. It all seems right, in the end.
Beach Head Review
by Ned Raggett