Sun Arcs: Clear Vinyl LPTU002LC
Label: Tonal Union
Release Date: 26th January
It's a little bit Texas, it's a little bit Denmark, it's hygge meets the old America, it's a spiritual record but its new age and it's a folk record, it's the zither as a jazz instrument and the acoustic guitar with a soothing drone and hum. A really absorbing record.
For those who dig: Maxine Funke, Laraaji meets William Tyler, Steve Gunn, North Americans, Ernest Hood, Movietone...
Weaving between self-built zithers, drones, clarinets, slide guitars and drum machines, ‘Sun Arcs’ presents a unique sound space formed by an inventive approach to acoustic folk and jazz.
The starting point of ‘Sun Arcs’ saw Jason travel for a week alone to Andersabo, a cabin set in the Swedish woods just outside of Unnaryd, known also as the music project, festival and residency space which has been run by Dungan since 2016, hosting artists like Sofie Birch, Johan Carøe and Ellen Arkbro. Whilst writing 1-2 pieces per day, a conscious decision was made to leave behind everyday distractions and shut out the outside world to instead focus on the natural passage of time as Dungan recalls:
“My only sense of time came from these daily walks out in the woods with my dog, and an awareness of the sun’s path as it moved across the sky each day.”
The album’s immersive world unfolds with the opener ‘Dallas’, a musical synthesis of these two disparate spaces (Texas and Denmark), the touchstones of Dungan’s life. A folk-esque single acoustic builds to a flowing arrangement of clarinets, organ and cello drones coupled with percussion. ‘Green-Yellow Field’ chimes in as the first of two solo oriented zither recordings twinned with the dreamlike title track ‘Sun Arcs’, both densely rich as cascading and overlapping harmonic tones resound. ‘Bloom’ emerges with a krautrock psyche before an eruption of cello drones, slide guitar and free-ranging zither playing, ushering in the anticipation of spring.
“The title and the feel of the song comes simply from my summers in Sweden – when the plants and insects are opening up everywhere, and there’s this almost too-intense feeling of life outside.”
With half of the recordings conceived in Andersabo, Jason returned to Copenhagen to form the album's centre piece ‘Rain Cycle’ which features a tempered Roland drum machine alongside shifting zither improvisations. ‘Writing’ explores the shimmering harp-like qualities of sweeping playing figurations with Dungan mapping out adjusted tuning “zones” on the zither for unconventional but creatively liberating effects. ‘Fur’ captures the feeling of openness and the momentum of time, seeing Dungan perform waves of solo clarinet, often in one takes and embellished with textural drones, a zither solo, and layers of guitar. ‘Wavelength’ the album's closer is fondly inspired by the film works of Michael Snow and Don Cherry’s seminal live album ‘Blue Lake’ (1974), as it builds out from a drone-generated zither chord and features an alto recorder solo. Dungan found a deep connection to Cherry’s stripped back performance ethos, focusing on the core beauty of minimal instrumentation creating a genre-less meeting between folk and jazz. A dialogue is formed between the solo and the bandlike performances, interlinked in a geographical duality with all finding a sense of commonplace as musical sketches of visited landscapes. The bountiful instrumentation ebbs and flows as further layers emerge with Dungan constructing his material by recording and reviewing, adding and subtracting.
Musically it portrays a life led by an American person living in Scandinavia, responding to both the local music and landscape while looking back to American influences. Dungan concludes:
“Both places feel like “me”, I think on some level the music is always some kind of self-portrait.”
‘Sun Arcs’ depicts the intricate balance of nature’s cycles and the paths outlined by the seasons, from a winter dormancy to a warm sun drenched scene. The album scales new heights and further defines Dungan’s musical narrative, inhabiting a unique space in left-field, improvised and experimental music, bearing his most accomplished compositions to date. A singular and visionary expression, drawing on an array of instruments and sound worlds with a renewed sense of joy and discovery.
The album's rich tapestry was mixed by Jeff Zeigler (Laraaji, Mary Lattimore, Kurt Vile / Steve Gunn) and mastered by Stephan Mathieu (Kali Malone, KMRU, Félicia Atkinson).