Following a few improvisation-heavy collaborative ventures, including a live double LP with new age pioneer Laraaji and a few recordings by various configurations of the S. Araw "Trio," Sun Araw returned to being primarily a solo venture of Cameron Stallones with the 2017 studio album The Saddle of the Increate. Yet another sprawling double LP, the album plays like a warped cosmic Western, self-described by the author as both "a jackfruit rodeo" and "a metaphysical comedy of self about the roping and directing of cattle." Instead of dub or new age being the album's main inspirations, the album liberally draws from country, with pedal steel guitar and harmonica joining Stallones' loopy electronics and wobbly vocal interjections. There's even a shout-out to Johnny Paycheck during the relatively upbeat "A Chute." On many tracks, the drum machines and hand percussion seem to imitate the clip-clop rhythms of horses' hooves. A lot of the rhythms seem to stumble around, following only their own logic, and the beats continually accelerate during the queasy "40 Hooves." While there's certainly a pastoral, high lonesome feel to these pieces, they're far from being campfire ditties. More often, they seem like strange tales of the West at its wildest, set to sun-baked minimalist art pop. "Hop Along" appears to be a weird story about a speaking mule and a flaming sword. On opener "A Golden Boot," Stallones sporadically calls out the names of objects, and it sounds like cryptic instructions for some sort of bizarre game or quest. Near the end of the album, there's a surprisingly straightforward cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," which surrounds Stallones' echo-covered crooning with sparse yet jittery percussion. Finale "On Plateau" is easily the album's calmest moment; Stallones seems to have come down from his trip and seems content with basking in the sun out in the peaceful desert. The Saddle of the Increate seems both like a new chapter in the Sun Araw saga as well as a return to Stallones' Texas roots, and it's one of his most down-to-earth works, even if it still seems beamed in from another dimension.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson