Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek brings up the topic of Charlie Sheen briefly within his collaborative effort with Jesu, which is funny enough considering that on the spectrum of difficult egos Kozelek tilts toward, but obviously not close to, levels of Kanye West. He’ll talk about the fair score he received on Pitchfork for the mixed reception clinging to his Universal Themes record, while also being humoured by the idea that hipsters only love the man for 2014’s Benji. Kozelek also reads a couple of fan messages in their entirety, both praising his candid depth and emotive pain. Yet even the most bitter of hearts will find that going into Jesu / Sun Kil Moon will be something that blindfolds bias.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Sun Kil Moon collaborated with Jesu, an act with its links to Godflesh, the band mentioned in “The Possum” from Universal Themes. Anecdotes make San Francisco’s Sun Kil Moon what they are, like how a rough, low sound dictate the Post-Metal of Jesu. Though the latter group’s instrumentation lingers on and on with the same phrases, these posit an adequate bridge for Moon to cross on, talking about spans of days or even a particular one in ways that feel less like rambling and more so the act of telling a story. Moon might have their heads in the sky, but their perceptions of the exterior and interior conflicts of life create a poeticism that brings life to time, making it more than only dusk and dawn.
The two don’t approach the world like people wanting to scorch the earth to proceed with their heavy nature, nor do they already live in such a post-apocalyptic dread. These two are too busy dealing with anxieties too big for adolescents, yet just right for adults versed in how the world, in its screwed up way, works. Moon’s concerns always bring them back to the news and death. There’s a fear in Kozelek’s voice when he realizes that mass shootings have become normalized by the media (“Carondelet,” “Father’s Day,” “America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek”). Hurricane Katrina becomes more than something tragic–it becomes something that burdens one’s walk, makes it difficult to try and live in the world. Complexity of family and parenthood become apparent when he talks of Arthur Cave’s and Chris Squire’s deaths (“Fragile,” Exodus”). Whether through a Sufjan Stevens-friendly guitar line or a haunting piano, Moon handles this beauty well on their own. Jesu adds the devastation when they can. Jesu / Sun Kill Moon makes everyone in its story feel suffering.
Moon’s story is long, continuing life by adding on to the importance of the discography’s characters. Kozelek is his own soul, so, too, is his lover Caroline, both with their own particular loves and hates. The band’s interest in boxing clearly shows through Kozelek’s headstrong attitude (“Good Morning My Love”), while the lover in the man is demonstrated by his looks-ugly-when-he-cries position in “A Song of Shadows.” The latter is important in how it pierces the man’s invincibility, creating an alternate world without Caroline, one where those he flirts with will laugh at his pathetic attempts as soon as he walks out the door. These shifts in power turn biases around, positing the man as a complex soul akin to Tony Soprano of The Sopranos.
Although a key flaw is how unimportant some rushed details spurt from Kozelek’s mouth, as well as a cheesy Deafheaven-esque melody courtesy of Jesu (“A Song of Shadows”), the album’s beauty lies in its desire to return to a perfect harmony. Like a TV show’s season finale, closer “Beautiful You” rests on the bed that “Good Morning My Love” prepared. This is the bed where concerns of the world’s disharmony become paired with thoughts of wondrous union. Where the frailty in the body of Jesu / Sun Kil Moon conquers any hope, the act of putting Kozelek back in bed with his sweet Caroline makes the world out to be something survivable. To Moon, love is returning home from the hellish chaos of man, coming back to someone special. This album doesn’t go the cliché route of claiming that life is war, but it finishes its story the way an average day does, and it does so in pretty shades of grey wanting to turn into something brighter.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.