Black Sun Ensemble - "Sky Pilot" (Camera Obscura 1999, CAM033)
From Aural Innovations #10 (June 2000)
Based in Arizona, Black Sun Ensemble released their first recordings in 1988. Guitarist/leader Jesus Acedo is a phenomenal musician, but due to personal and chemical problems disappeared from sight in the mid-1990's. This new disc marks Acedo's return and includes tracks from over the years, as well as one new track, the 22 minute "Sky Pilot Suite", which features Eastern influenced acoustic psychedelia. The hand drums are a real plus, and combined with the lulling guitars and wailing horns are cosmically entrancing. Fans of Holy River Family Band's first album would love this. It's a gorgeous 22 minute head trip, but this isn't the track that really excited me about this disc.
From track 3 on, Black Sun Ensemble prove themselves to be a BLISTERING rock band with guitar work that takes flash well beyond mere technical proficiency. What makes this disc so great is that the musicians can PLAY! Creativity and well-crafted ensemble work alone has often produced some amazing psychedelia, but the guitar work on this disc is mind blowing. The assault comes from numerous directions, usually with some thrashing and one or two guitars piercing the listener's brain with fiery leads. So unlike the opening Suite, most of the tracks are far more heavy rock focused, though still (but not always) based in psychedelia.
On "Moby Worm" we really start to cook. The music still has that Eastern psychedelic feel but the guitar work is stunning. A brain thrashing, mind melting sonic assault. Yet it still retains its floating quality. I just kept wishing the frantically soloing guitar would have been brought a little more upfront in the mix. "Cherokee Mist" and "Whirlpool Ocean" are similar tracks that feature highly intense, guitar driven head-fests.
Acedo's guitar is pure passion and fury unleashed, and his instrumental prowess is supported by an equally capable rhythm section. "Dangerous Pussy" is a standout blistering rocker, and "667" has a punkish feel to it. "It's Not The End Of The World" and "Baby Serpentine Love Sea" are tunes that I would offer as the definition of great trash rock, with their multiple layers of bashing chords and licks. "Lord Of The Fleas" has a metallic anthem-rock feel. But don't let that analogy scare you because the guitars still worm their way through your brain performing their shock therapy. Finally, long-time fans will be interested in "Staying Power", which had been intended as a single and includes Acedo in a [thankfully] rare vocal appearance.
In summary, if you want great kick-ass guitar driven rock that's set in a mind melting psychedelic stew than you can do no better than this. I hope these guys really are back and working on a new full-length release. One of the best guitar albums I've heard all year. Highest recommendation.
Available through Camera Obscura.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz