I recently got a great batch of tapes from Matt Erickson's Bezoar Formations label down in San Fran, which motivated me to do this double write-up of Sudden Oak tapes. These guys caught my ear with their release on Stunned a little while back and this latest has me excited for what the future holds for the duo (be sure to read the post-script at the end of this post, though). OK, on to the tapes:
Sudden Oak - Causeways of the Sun - Bezoar Formations
Chronologically, I think this is Sudden Oak's most recent material but it really could have come from any time in the last twenty years, by the sound of it. Everything is steeped in tape-hiss and there's a nice cut-and-paste organization to the B-side, which lend the tape it's pleasantly mysterious quality. But beneath the patina the duo are in top form. What really stood out for me hearing Sudden Oak the first time is J. Ward's phenomenal guitar playing, which is as wigged-out as it is measured, assuredly placing one note after the other as he travels into the outer reaches. It's really, really nice to hear this kind of playing completely free of mindless thrash. And Matt is right there with him, playing sax and god-knows-what -- as a duo they remind me a little of Golden Retriever, except ecstatic and Californian where that group has a more David Behrman/old-guard feel. Excellent tape that covers a lot of ground, I'm really digging the field recording from a boat or pier or something at the end, really ties things together. $5
Sudden Oak - Banquet Years - Stunned Records
Great tape that makes it clear how comfortable these two are playing together. It has such an unassuming start, some nice but maybe a little characterless clatter, but then slowly, confidently builds into a giant swaying tower of fried psychedelics. When this tape gets going, it's one of my favorite stretches of sound to cross my ears lately. Erickson's sax playing is discreet but pivotal, keeping the pace just right. These guys work a really great balance, keeping the playing fresh without letting it get sloppy or sound tossed off. $7
OK, here's the somewhat harrowing post-script: J. Ward, the guitarist in Sudden Oak, suffered near fatal injuries earlier this year when he fell from a three story building. Erickson and a few others are rallying support from the community with a limited edition LP featuring exclusive material from quite a few heavy-weights of the underground, which is being sold to help fund Ward's recovery (which, from what I gather, is going well). The whole scoop and information about the LP can be found here.