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Sun Ra: The Magic Sun

AAJ Staff By

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Phill Niblock featuring Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra
The Magic Sun
Atavistic
1966/2005

Stunning visuals and the sounds of Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra fill this classic 1966 black and white short experimental film by composer/photographer/ filmmaker and multi-media artist Phill Niblock.

The Arkestra provide its characteristic spacial sounds in conjunction with visually abstract images - severe closeups on hands and heads to ornate cosmic/psychedelic patterned costumes. Opening spooky reed exclamations, pulsing bass bellows, syncopated percussion, blistering yet warm-toned trumpet - the Arkestra eventually is heard in its disorienting orchestral glory, ideally suited to the morphing visuals. The 17-minute extended (pre-MTV) music video would have served as an appropriate backdrop to an Arkestra performance at Bill Graham's Fillmore, its unique negative processing creating a medley of X-ray footage.

With much of the video in complete, or at least significant, darkness, the surreal visuals, resulting from bright backlighting, become M.C. Escher-esque. The dark silhouettes of musicians and instruments obscure and flutter past as if through a high-speed camera shutter, each frame an abstract painting unto itself. And like a lit sound board, the film reflects the highs and lows of the instrumentalists and the collective.

The DVD also includes a sampling of Sun Ra's cosmic and philosophical otherworldly narratives (or "audio proclamations as appropriately credited on the back of the DVD case). The musings come primarily without musical accompaniment but with a gallery of rare mid '60s photos of Ra and his Arkestra during a time period he was hardly ever caught on film, so this indeed is a true treasure trove of Ra's own personal universe.

Special Features:
Gallery of mid-60s Sun Ra photos
Additional audio material by Sun Ra

5:1 Sourround Sound


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