As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Sun City Girls.
We stand at the precipice, witnessing the end of a 30-year run from one of the unappreciated. The passing of Charles Gocher spelled the end of the spectacle known as Sun City Girls, so it comes to pass that the band bids farewell with the worldly traditions they’ve openly embraced and skewered. Celebrating death with the same communal joy of The Day of the Dead, Funeral Mariachi showcases a band that could very well be at the top of their game despite a deceased member and two brothers who have found themselves wrapped up in other projects.
Combining the aesthetic of both Sublime Frequencies — the international archive label ran in part by Alan Bishop — and the band’s own Abduction label, Funeral Mariachi is a crafty blend of modern short-form experimentation and the Mediterranean, Saharan, and Middle Eastern music that has long influenced the band’s output. Sun City Girls are able to switch between genres with ease and yet create cohesion without a hint of strenuous effort.
Americana tracks such as the frenzied “Ben’s Radio,” and the spaghetti western tones of “Blue West,” stand as traditional SCG stakes holding the global village of Funeral Mariachi intact. The African/Middle East ragas of “The Imam” and “This is My Name,” lend the community its flare. Toss on the Ennio Morricone composition, “Come Maddalena” (which builds upon the “Blue West” saga), and it’s easy to see why SCG had such a loyal following for nearly three decades. But it’s the album’s sad farewell that stands as the band’s last impression. “Funeral Mariachi” is a somber Charlie Parker wail surrounded by faint psychedelic swells and the smoky echo of noir; the hangover of old liquor and cigars after a long night of remembrance and celebration. It is on this note that we tip our caps, hang our heads, and raise a glass to the memory of Mr. Charles Gocher and bid a fond farewell to Sun City Girls.
Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He is currently at work on a new column which will debut on the KEXP Blog in the coming weeks. You may follow him on Twitter.