You might think, like I did when I first heard this song, that this is music as building, as construction; music as hammering, welding, concrete-pouring, cutting, binding. But it’s all a little less solid and defined than that. Above & Beyond has a thick and kinetic rhythm track that fluctuates and shapeshifts over the course of the song. Over that, a sax delivers an argument, calm and elegant at first, then with increasing passion and vehemence (because you weren’t listening before, you didn’t get it). It’s thrilling how you can’t quite get a handle on it. Above & Beyond is incredible, as is everything on Makaya McCraven’s newest album, Highly Rare.
Keith Fullerton Whitman wrote about this Sun record 15 years ago in an amusing list for Pitchfork and I have listened to it, on and off, since then. Sun is Oren Ambarchi—the Oren Ambarchi who usually does stuff like last year’s Hubris—and Chris Townsend, and their debut album is a collection of sweet tunes, none sweeter (in my opinion) than Moon. The song is sort of deceptively delicate, with slow, soft drumming, Ambarchi’s whispered vocals, and carefully plucked notes allowed to ring out; then, later: a small detonation of distortion interrupts the song. The song builds again, in the same pattern, and Ambarchi takes a slow, beautiful solo, and sings, then, over another eruption of distortion, adumbrated or cordoned off by the clear notes of a secondary solo. I’ve probably listened to this song 40-50 times in my life and that moment at 2:58, when the song is disrupted again and Ambarchi’s vocals come back in (with harmonies), still astounds me. It’s a great song, great album.