April in the Bay Area is a genuinely confusing patchwork of alternating temperatures, feeling at once like summer and winter, like a calendar gone manic depressive. And Mark Kozelek’s latest release as Sun Kil Moon revels in this lost month where intelligent commuters pack at least three outfits for every day.
April is Kozelek’s first slab of all-original songs since Sun Kil Moon’s 2003 debut, Ghosts of the Great Highway, and the new record’s endlessly streaming folk-drones and Kozelek’s signature crooning continue the general trends established with Red House Painters’ extensive back catalogue and Kozelek’s solo releases with a few minor tweaks and adjustments sprinkled throughout.
Kozelek’s songs have always found their pace in the patient textures of nature: waves turgidly flowing toward distant shores, silt expanding and drifting across rock-bottoms of streams, tall grass lilting in the faintest of breezes. April is no different, as multiple tracks gently unfurl at lengths nearing the ten-minute mark. Opening track, “Lost Verses” invites listeners into the warm endless, a monotonous swirl of displaced heat and pockets of lingering tears. Slight electric guitars lift off like leaves caught in minor updrifts, eventually folding up onto buoyant acoustic guitar strains, each instrumental layer tightening like the bits of clothing and cover referenced in the song. “I came out from under her warm sheets,” Kozelek begins, eventually inciting the cold winds and peaks of the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais, where the drifting winds off the bay incite the narrator to put on his father’s wool coat. The track plays out like a long hike uphill, morphing into a downward sweep in it’s final reel (after a slightly awkward meter change) that slips into Kozelek’s other mode: that of just-off-kilter fuzz guitar drone. Various tracks are accented by guest vocals from Ben Gibbard, Will Oldham and Eric Pollard. Oldham’s dusty ghost yodels provide added depth on the slow-churn dirges of “Unlit Hallway” and “Heron Blue.”
Sun Kil Moon has always been about atmosphere, but with Kozelek’s vocals dipping deeper into the swaths of acoustic textures and warm currents of electric guitar, April comes close to pure ambiance, which can be as frustrating as it can be listlessly mesmerizing.
Favorite Track: “Lost Verses”