"Death of the Sun" CD
Attractors Audio House
Genres: experimental rock, post-rock
PO Box 13007
Mar 3 - 9 2003
can anyone not like Cul De Sac? From their humble
1990 up until the present time, they've released some of the most
beautiful albums ever to see the light of day. And now, with the
release of Death of the Sun, they can add another
peg to their growing legacy.
Death of the Sun has an interesting premise. The band
have decided to incorporate samples into each of the pieces on the
album, basing each track on a specifically-made digital sequence.
Extensive liner notes explain the sources of each of the samples.
The first track, for example, is based on samples taken from an
obscure 1933 78 RPM record by the Comedian Harmonists, who were
supposedly Germany's answer to American a cappella group The
Revellers. Cul De Sac uses only a small snippet from
the five-part harmony vocals of the Harmonists' "Creole
Love Call" - taken straight from the actual 78 and then digitally
edited and sequenced to fit into the band's ten-minute "Dust of
Butterflies." The results are astonishing. The sample
fits perfectly with the band's instrumentation, composed mainly of
violin, guitar, drums, and melodica.
"Bamboo Rockets, Half Lost in Nothingness, Searching for an
Inch of Sky" then uses Michael Bloom's Peruvian rainforest
field recordings as its source, with the band accompanying the
atmospheric sounds with a well orchestrated drum and sitar part.
Sparse and yet mystically powerful, the piece is a technical
achievement - a beautiful track that's only enhanced by the inclusion
of exotic field recordings.
Later in the album we have "Bellevue Bridge," which takes
field recordings from the Bellevue Bridge, a toll bridge that connects
Bellevue, Nebraska to Iowa across the Missouri River. Band
member Glenn Jones had grown up in Bellevue, and as a child had
attempted to cross the bridge via the iron support beams under
it. He never succeeded in making it the full way across,
however. Upon visiting it 40 years later, he had found that
Bellevue had become a
very different place. The only thing that
remained the same was the Bellevue Bridge. Moved, he took some
field recordings and then used them as the basis for "Bellevue
Bridge." The resulting combination of guitar, drums, and
violin with the faintly-heard cars passing by in the background creates
a beautiful, subdued sound experience.
The last track on the album is "I Remember Nothing More,"
and it could be the best. After hunting for years for a 78 RPM
record that Robbie Basho had
covered, Cul De Sac member Glenn Jones finally tracked down Adelaide Van Wey's
Songs one day at a flea market . It contained the song he wanted,
"Salangadou." He listened to it a few times and then
filed it away in his personal collection. When it came time to record Death of
the Sun, though, Jones remembered it and decided to use it
for the album's last track. Instead of
merely sampling a small clippet of the song, the band decided to take the
one-minute song, multiply it, and then accompany it with their
instruments. The result is an eerie blend between the past and
the present. As the record plays, each scratch on the 78 can be
heard - the record is ancient, but this just enhances the
effect. As the band's beautiful acoustic drums, bass, and
acoustic guitar accompany the scratchy old piece, the listener's world just melts
away into a puddle of archaic bliss.
Death of the Sun doesn't just see Cul De Sac at its
best, it sees music at its most powerful and rewarding. Hunt
this one down, you won't regret it.
Fun Fact: "Cul de sac" means
"dead end" in French. As if you didn't know that
already. Also: our specialized research has uncovered that the
Bellevue Toll Bridge's official name is actually the "Grand Army
of the Republic Bridge." You can read an article here
and see pictures of the dilapidated old thing here,
12 songs, distributed by the
label, released 2002]