CD Review: Sun Kil Moon “Admiral Fell Promises”

Mark Kozelek loosens his tie on Sun Kil Moon’s third LP. He certainly hasn’t adopted an easygoing ethos, he simply writes with a seamless ease we haven’t witnessed from him since the Red House Painters days. Marrying hypnotic guitar with his typically pacific folk, Kozelek rejuvenates his oeuvre by expanding its instrumental parameters. Traces of American Primitivism and flamenco alter Sun Kil Moon’s identity from static to serpentine on Admiral Fell Promises. The numbers still knit a dusky atmosphere, only now they travel in indistinct gyres rather than rigid roads.

The scenic route serves Kozelek beautifully as the spare arrangements grant him a cushy latitude with which he can unfurl his tropes at their own pace. There’s little concern for pop convention in these commodious cuts, evidenced by ‘Half Moon Bay’, ‘You Are My Sun,’ and ‘The Leaning Tree’ – entries that aren’t shy about biding their time, riveting throughout on account of enchanting double-tracked vocals, coupled with wonderfully dense and vivid guitar work.

Admiral Fell Promises is easily SKM’s most accomplished outing to date in regards to technical proficiency. Though this very freedom to follow through and indulge in the patient game yields a handful of sleepy songs as well. ‘Sam Wong Hotel’ and ‘Australian Winter’ are the two guiltiest culprits; poor in direction while merely serviceable in texture. More often than not, Kozelek uncovers a sturdy platform for his folk’s mournful and occasionally meek tones. They remain decidedly gray, but they’ve multiplied in nuance by incorporating slow-burning depth into his dispirited Americana. He has more to say and he bolsters this inclination by peeling layers away to deliver on the promise of an unfastened Sun Kil Moon. A touch roundabout, perhaps, but opening his music up to a vaster landscape has generated a second wind long on earthy mesmerism.

Score: 7.7 / 10

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