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Black Sun Ensemble – Behind Purple Clouds

Behind Purple Clouds is the final record by Black Sun Ensemble, and in many ways it’s a fitting coda to the life and work of Jesus Acedo. The death of Acedo came as a shock to the band BSE who were in the midst of recording their Captain Wormwood 7” single and laying down tracks for this recording. While Jesus and his guitar are on many of the arrangements on this record, it really is remarkable that everything sounds as focused as it does. This is due to the tremendous musical vision of Eric Johnson the bands bassist, multi-instrumentalist, writer-producer who has helped take Black Sun to the realm of the dying and back again. The opening funerary track ‘Black Temple’ helps transport the listener to the shifting sands that surround Tucson. What you notice is the ordered chaos of Jesus’ playing while still there, is set against a celestial backdrop of Bill Laswell-esque Axiom Mango top level musicianship. The summoning of a council of musicians set on not only paying tribute to Jesus, but sending him off musically on a spiritual journey that is this record. Visions are stirred up of listening to this under moonlight with the spiritual southwest as a backdrop.

The Southwest, the desert, saguaro cactuses, blistering heat, many have paid tribute to this region of the US. Like master filmmaker Sergio Leone in his spaghetti westerns, back then Spain had to substitute for El Paso. While a master like Leone could capture elements of the southwest, they were disparate shreds pieced together and filtered through an Italian romantic vision of this period of American History. This record taps a vein that courses through life in the southwest. I can see the faded cars, peeling paint, the dust storms, the tumbleweeds, and the relief one feels with the setting sun. It also manages to capture Tucson in all its hypnotic glory. Tucson is a city filled with people trying to hang on by the tips of their fingers. Jesus was one of them, although if history had been kinder he might not have been.

‘Mandala’ is the second track on the album, and is one of BSE’s strongest tunes in years. It has a flamenco/middle eastern gunslinger vibe about it. This track says before we close the book on Black Sun Ensemble we’re going to get you on your feet for one hell of a celebratory jam. Once again the production has to be mentioned, I really enjoy that there are so many things going on in this track, and love the flute, and the hallucinogenic visions it conjures, as if the cobra has come out of the basket for one more trick.

The band keep the high spirits rolling with a really cool foray into Psychedelic orb inspired middle eastern trance which they call, ‘Egyptian Magician’. One can easily see that the band didn’t lack curiosity and were certainly willing to try something new and uncharted. ‘Egyptian Magician’ while unexpectedly shocking in some ways upon first listen makes sense for those of us who’ve followed the bands progress.

‘Valley of the kings’ finds the listener with the sun positioned at 12 noon shining through an amulet on Harrison ford’s staff, giving the listener an aural map to unlocking the inspiring creative undercurrents in Tucson’s music scene. Michael Henderson the BSE’s Oud player is smoking hot on this number. This is what makes the Tucson music scene so interesting. However one has to ask why does a talent like Michael’s remain largely hidden. The answer is that there are so many amazing musicians in Tucson that just seem to fly under the radar, and that in itself is what makes the scene so interesting if not frustrating.

In the middle of the record is ‘Captain Wormwood’, which is an amazing version of this BSE classic anchored by Otto Terrorist’s skin smashing talent. Jesus Acedo is all double track glory slithering up and down the fret board playing with and against himself, in a way that would make Buckethead happy.

Scott Kerr’s ‘Bastet’ makes the listener feel as if they’ve happened upon some Arabic ritual where the hypnotic state will be ruined with a bloodletting.

‘Watch the Stars’ begins in a dilaudid haze. The production here is fantastic, the drums have the right amount of space to resonate to give off that tribal vibe.

Several of the tracks on the record don’t contain any Acedo guitar, that isn’t to say that he isn’t present in all of the music on the album. In fact the album can be seen as a very specific loving tribute to the man and his palate of influences.

Jasmine with Tucson Legend Al Perry playing oud is a gift to Jesus and band. It’s a song of subtle beauty much like its namesake. The tune is laid over a hypnotic undercurrent on which Perry plucks each and every note coaxing the spiritual essence of the Oud to pay tribute to Acedo’s departing spirit.

‘Red Temple’ has a Deep Purple/Ozric Tentacles/Santana vibe about it. It’s one seriously heavy jam its also one of the most interesting numbers BSE has ever committed to tape. This track feels like one hell of an emotional release for the band. Eric Johnson’s fretwork, while radically different in style than Acedo’s is some of the best I’ve ever heard, completely funky psyched out bliss.

‘Behind Purple Clouds’ closes the album. It’s a beautiful piece written by Acedo, that shows off how beautifully sensitive his playing could be. It sends the album off on the right note. It’s Jesus saying goodbye for now and letting us know that he’s in a good place free of the pain he had while walking amongst us.

It’s sad to say goodbye to Black Sun Ensemble. This final album wraps things up nicely though. I think its great that many in the city of Tucson came together to contribute to this album and pay tribute to such a cool guitarist. The band has now moved on as Cobracalia. I wish them well. For more info on the band check out their website via the link provided.

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