Sun City Girls – “The Imam” (Stereogum Premiere)

I think I have more albums by indescribable, absurdist, Phoenix-born, Seattle-based avant everything trio Sun City Girls than any other band in my record collection. For a time in the ’90s I purchased everything Alan Bishop, (Sir) Richard Bishop, and Charles Gocher released — including the cassettes, the “Apna Desh” b/w “Rookoo Bay” 10″ 78 rpm, the etc. (My friend John and I would compare notes, see who was the better completist.) Outside of the recordings, a slow, spacious, piano-fixated show I caught of theirs in Seattle in ’97 (or so) remains one of the most uncompromisingly intense, strange, beautiful live experience I’ve witnessed. I lost track of the band a few years ago — their output is vast — but the 2007 cancer-related death of drummer Charles Gocher brought me back to the fold. Now after 27 years together, this new/final album, Funeral Mariachi, ranks among my favorite (first and foremost, Torch Of The Mystics and then Horse Cock Phepner, 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda, Piasa… Devourer Of Men, Dulce, the Napoleon and Josephine, Eye Mohini and Borungku Si Derita singles, etc). It features their last recordings with Gocher, which obviously colors my reading and appreciation — as does the album title and the “dedicated to you know who and the souls who know” in the liner notes. But, like all of their work, it’s bigger than just one thing (even death). They get psychedelic, nod to their Indonesian and Arabic influences, reference Italian cinema and old Westerns, bring on the prairie folk, establish esoteric rituals, create mournful/celebratory drone, get behind a piano and make you want to cry, etc. Take a listen to “The Imam,” a track that does a few things.

Sun City Girls – “The Imam”

Funeral Mariachi:

01 “Ben’s Radio”
02 “The Imam”
03 “Black Orchid”
04 “This Is My Name”
05 “Vine Street Piano (Orchestral)”
06 “Blue West”
07 “Holy Ground”
08 “Mineral Wells”
09 “El Solo”
10 “Come Maddalena”
11 “Funeral Mariachi”

Funeral Mariachi is out 10/26 via the band’s own Abduction. “Come Maddalena” is Morricone. I keep returning to the strange (for them) heartbreaking simplicity of “Vine Street Piano (Orchestral),” the Om-like “Holy Ground.” Not to get noise-fuck Hallmark, but SCG really are one of our greatest underground treasures, though they’ve manage to remain fairly underground, so start excavating. For some more background, I interviewed Alan Bishop about his Sublime Frequencies imprint for Arthur in ’05, stayed in touch here/there for other recommendations. I still think someone needs to do an oral history.