Released 17th February via Caldo Verde Records
Sun Kil Moon is the project of critically acclaimed musician and your sad uncle who ruined Christmas dinner, Mark Kozelek. Now three albums deep into his inimitable style of an entire human consciousness set to music, Kozelek’s highjacking of what exactly constitutes a ‘song’ has reached its climax with such lowly notions as melody and song structure being taken as hostage. In Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood Koz lays out his demands: the listener’s time, social media accounts and in my case sanity. That’s not to say this is a bad album, it’s just asking an incredible amount from its audience.
Each track is a lengthy unfiltered stream of consciousness which can meander from a meditation on mortality to a Manny Pacquiaou fight Kozelek lost a bet on — and by lengthy I mean lengthy, as in the album is over two hours long. When you sit through a man essentially reading out his diary for two hours, the words ‘self indulgent’ eventually lose all meaning. But as easy as it is to knock this album there’s also something uniquely enticing about it.
This is a stranger spilling their guts out to you, a rare trip through someone else’s head. While Kozelek is ostensibly an old grouch with an axe to grind for millennials, he is also capable of joyous testaments to love and the power of music, of melancholic reminiscences of his forgotten hometown in Ohio, and the people who live there. There are strange fabricated true crime stories concerning the murder of an Eric Clapton tribute act, an 8-minute long obituary to a roadie named Butch and touching tributes to the greats we lost in 2016.
While many musical artists take their experiences and reduce them to general truths, this album does the opposite, with detailed descriptions of daily life in all its minutiae. Beauty is often found in the detail, and by the end you are left with a very real sense of both the wonders and contradictions of life. Unfortunately the size of this project obscures its merits. The same goes for the music which backs these monologues, set largely to minimal synth-driven bass lines and powerful drum loops which mostly works but grows monotonous. While musical diversity is offered in the form of sun-drenched guitars and the occasional trumpet there’s never quite enough of it.
This is an album full of surprises but it’s hard to be surprised when your brain’s leaking out of your ears. Somewhere between Mark detailing how he had to change hotel room because a lift was making too much noise and the unabridged reading of a cancellation letter from a club owner, you find yourself asking, what did I do to deserve this? And more importantly what did he do to deserve this. I’m giving this man more time than I would probably give my own father unless he was dying. In the age of Trump are the endless ramblings of another bloated old white man really what the world needs right now?
So it’s a hard call. Maybe it needs a good edit, or maybe that would destroy the very thing that draws me to it. It could be that Mark is trailblazing the next hot genre, ‘Podcast Rock’, and the world simply isn’t ready. Or he could be the musical equivalent of an old drunk muttering to himself at a bus stop. It heavily depends on the listener. If you’re a fan of his music, and you have the time, then this album can be an incredibly rewarding listening experience, if not an infuriating one. It might be that I’m a fool with too much time on my hands, and an unearned reverence for a certain kind of asshole, but I think I might have loved it. Then again there’s a high chance I’m never going to listen to it ever again.