Sun Kil Moon Perform “Lost Verses”

Sun Kil Moon AprilListen to this track by Mark Kozelek-led folk-rock-slowcore musical concern Sun Kil Moon. It’s “Lost Verses”, the opening track to the stellar 2008 album April. This record was the second to be released under the Sun Kil Moon moniker. But, Kozelek had been in the game for a lot longer, initially as the prime mover behind Red House Painters, as well as in the release of albums under his own name.

This particular musical vehicle was named after a Korean boxer Sung Kil Moon with boxing being a sport to which Kozelek has made reference before in his other material. Boxers Ruben Olivares and Salvadore Sanchez also serve as references in song titles. Yet, the music is far from what you’d consider to be combative. As evidenced here, it is music that takes its time, delivering a contemplative, expansive, and emotive tone.

This is not to say that the music is one-dimensionally gentle and with no punch – pardon the pun. “Lost Verses” is imbued with folk-rock textures, including a crunchy Neil Young with Crazy Horse-style outro to underpin it. Further to that, this particular song deals with a theme that certainly requires a great deal of bravery, both as something to write about and get right, as well as something to actually face when the time comes.

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Mark Kozelek Sings ‘Find Me, Ruben Olivares’

markkozelek_rocknrollsingerListen to this song by former Red House Painters/current Sun Kil Moon linchpin Mark Kozelek.  It’s “Find Me, Ruben Olivares” as taken from his 2000 album Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer, on which he also reinterprets a selection of Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs in a similarly contemplative manner.

I first heard this tune thanks to a compilation album on British Music and Film Magazine Uncut, with the first impression that the guitar playing is the lushest, fullest acoustic sound I’d ever heard.  Then, I was struck by Kozelek’s voice; it’s a down to earth voice, as if a friend is sitting next to you.  And then the song itself hit me, a certain beautiful sadness to be found there in what comes off as a kind of road song, a song of searching.  I’ve always been interested in the idea of the hero’s quest.  And this song suggests this idea to me very strongly, which makes it my favourite of Kozelek’s.

Ruben Olvares is a boxer, which perhaps might be seen as an odd namecheck in this gentle folk-rock tune.  Or maybe not so odd.  Since this is a song seemingly about travel and about the trials along the way, it seems to me that the life of a fighter, moving from city to city, and making a name and a living for himself by putting himself at risk could also be the life of a musician doing the same, albeit in a different context.

Really, that what AC/DC’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” is about as well, which might be the thread with which Kozelek followed in the making of this album.  Ultimately, what comes across to me is the idea of displacement, of searching for a home, and maybe trying to connect with kindred spirits in the process.  This is true of anyone who makes a life on the road.  Beneath all of the bravado and machismo of rock n roll singers and fighters too, this is the layer  which is common to everyone. And this is really what’s being explored by Kozelek here.

And whatever the context of the search, the hero’s quest out in the world,  I think this idea of questing for connection with others is really the chord that is struck here.

There is a world big as a mountain
There is a world to be shared
Still there is love tall as a mountain
Still there is love.

If we are talking about the quest, what better goal is there than this?

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Sun Kil Moon Perform “Floating” from Ghosts of the Great Highway

Here’s a clip featuring Red House Painter Mark Kozelek’s outfit Sun Kil Moon performing one of my favourite tracks of of 2003’s Ghosts of the Great Higway, “Floating”.

Mark Kozelek, photo by Debra Zeller
Mark Kozelek, photo by Debra Zeller

I was blown away by this track when I heard it; everything about it appeals to me. The lushness of the sound, which is almost like late 60s folk-pschedelia but not quite as deliberate as music from that genre seems to be. And there appears to be some British folk influences in there too. To me, this is like a love song as uttered directly from the soul, picking up language along the way as it issues forth from whatever mystical places it started from. Kozelek’s falsetto, the guitar lines, and the general atmosphere of the song remind me of the music that sometimes plays in my head just as I’m falling off to sleep – plaintive, mysterious, and strangely elusive.

When this album came out, I had some idea of Kozelek’s work with Red House Painters, and I’d heard some material from his solo EP, the misleadingly titled “Rock n’ Roll Singer”. Although I say “misleadingly”, the title reflects his cover of AC/DC’s song of the same name, albeit in a less testosterone-fueled manner. Kozelek would record an entire album of AC/DC covers in his What’s Next to the Moon and more recently do the same for Modest Mouse under the Sun Kil Moon moniker on Tiny Cities.

In addition to covers records, and solo EPs, Kozelek made an appearance in Cameron Crowe’s paean to 1970s rock journalism and groupie culture, Almost Famous, in which he played the taciturn bass player for the fictional band Stillwater.

For more music from Mark Kozelek, explore these fine websites: