The long-running Tuscon band led by Jesus Acedo comes out of hiatus for a career-summing album of sunny guitar meditations and shimmering textures of sitar, as warm and welcoming as a psychedelic album can be.
Jesus Acedo's Black Sun Ensemble has been recording since the late 1980s, employing a changing mix of musicians and a varied ethnic palette of sounds. After a long hiatus in the 1990s, due to Acedo's own struggles with drugs and mental illness, the band re-emerged in 1999 with Sky Pilot (from which this disc's 13-minute instrumental suite is drawn) and has gone on to record three additional full-lengths and a two-disc live album in the 00s. Acedo has hinted that this latest, Across the Sea of Id: The Way to Eden, may be his last Black Sun Ensemble, and if so, it is a marvelous cap to a long and obstacle strewn career.
Across the Sea of Id revisits the Black Sun Ensemble's catalogue, resurrecting not just "Sky Pilot Suite," and "Blues from Rainer" from Sky Pilot but also "St. Cecilia" and and "Baphomet's Curse" from 2006's Bolt of Apollo. But where earlier Black Sun Ensemble materials relied heavily on electric guitar, these cuts are softer, warmer and more acoustic. "St. Cecilia" lopes easily along, strummed acoustic chords intersecting with rich tones of bass, a saxophone blaring bright bits of emphasis. "Baphomet's Curse" layers radiant, slow guitar tones over drum kit and hand percussion. The mood is sunny, hopeful, glowing with positivity. "Blues for Rainer" stretches slow-shifting guitar notes and feathery violin strokes from horizon to horizon, unwinding a measured, meditative melody.
These songs are melodic and easy to listen to, though not by any stretch "easy listening". Indeed, "Sky Pilot Suite" is nothing if not challenging, as it plays off droning feedback against a lambent sitar melody and morphs from slow march to urgent freakout. Yet it's never a strain, just a steady unfolding of ideas, easily followed. The newer material is also quite inviting. For the title track, Acedo hauls out his sitar, plucking a wavery, otherworldly melody in "Across the Sea of Id". Other new songs, "Eden Spirit" and "Perelandra" return to the acoustic guitar, the notes clear and warm and welcoming. If some psych conjures the cold endless purity of space, Black Sun Ensemble seems to reside in a friendly forest, light shading down between branches, birds singing.