Halfway through Angel Deradoorian’s Find the Sun comes a loose, minimal drum-and-flute jam that goes on for just over nine minutes. Titled “The Illuminator”, it stumbles along an unpaved back road. It dribbles along as if it has all day. Once you’re in the middle of it, you’ve forgotten what else is on this record, or perhaps even to whom you’re listening. A vocalist known for majestic harmonies and a voice not unaccustomed to center stage, where she talks in clipped, background phrases such as “The power of speed / The power that gives pleasure / The power of being.” It’s less a song, and more a meandering affirmation of uncertainty as bliss, Deradoorian’s flute providing winking commentary as the track goes nowhere, and therefore everywhere. And it’s simply one of many tracks that make this album a pure joy to visit in this bizarre and awful year we’re now unsteadily surfing, hoping to avoid getting cut on the reef.
Such experimentalism shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s heard some of her earlier EPs, the long-form drone-packed Disembodied Improvisations Vol 1 or the fever dream of Eternal Recurrence among them. Projects that started to give her ideas room while she was otherwise a member of Dirty Projectors have shown what happens when we give over to our best selves, making a clean break with a social structure that neither encourages nor supports such an endeavor.
The plan was to drop this record and hit the road with Stereolab. But the album’s attention to pulse, including lyrics dealing with metaphorical waterlilies, spiritual acceptance, and what appear to be some unsettling dreams, feels tailor-made for these times. A short video shows her praising Alice Coltrane’s Transcendence LP; an interview in Culture Collide allows her to speak of hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains. Elsewhere, she explained the title of her debut LP, 2015’s The Expanding Flower Planet, as a “metaphor for the expanding of consciousness.”
So it’s no shock that Find the Sun includes some wandering meditations, especially since the songs were left in sketch-like states and recorded in a Marin County, California studio overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Mt. Tamalpais. There’s the obvious Can homage, “Saturnine Night”, which snags its motorik propulsion from “Mother Sky” and its vocal melody from “Spoon”. Album opener “Red Den” has a slow, vigor-less charm that opens into multiple guitar and keyboard tendrils. “Corsican Shores” glides on a cushion of snare drum and guitar-driven restraint as Deradoorian coos about a newfound solitude as bold and peaceful.
But it’s perhaps the final track “Sun” that truly places Find the Sun among her best work, even as the album sounds nothing much like her past. Vocals echo off a bass pulse; she references the Buddhist term for liberation, Vimoksha, circling the word “Law”, holding it, chewing on it, and egging her guitar, as well as the rhythm section forward. This is punk rock as hypnotherapy, a translation of sweaty, stoned energy into daylight. Her voice, multi-tracked, crawls all over itself, repeating “sunlight” as darkness is trounced. What this album shows is what’s allowed when an artist turns doubt into trust. There’s humanity skating across this record, a collection of barely-touched ideas that allows listeners to float in place.