Buried Treasure ‚Äď Black Sun Ensemble‚Äôs ‚ÄúLambent Flame‚ÄĚ
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‚ÄúLost in the Dark Star‚ÄĚ
By Martin Aston
‚ÄúSpecial thanks to John Lennon, Isis, Apollo, The Round Table, Mt. Olympus, Sisters of the Moon and all the divine fools of Jupiter and let us not forget Master Therion,‚ÄĚ ran the credits on Lambent Flame, the 1989 album by Tucson Arizona‚Äôs psychedelic warlords Black Sun Ensemble.
However calling out the talismanic properties of this predominatly mystical and occult cast didn‚Äôt help. Lambent Flame‚Äôs line up never recorded another album; in March 2013, band linchpin Jesus Acedo had a fatal hart attack, by all accounts a shadow of his former self. Singer Odin Helgison drowned six months later. Few outside Tucson lamented the loss of Acedo, a virtuoso with the fluidity of a Randy California, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page combined, but the personality of a Roky Erickson. Yet Acedo‚Äôs youthful gifts made Lambent Flame a fabulously fried experience, as intense, spirtual and wonderous as a Arizona desert night and in parts, prescient of the eastern-tinged feft Jeff Bluckley captured on Grace.
Born in Tucson on Christmas Eve, 1962 to Mexican parents, Acedo was drawn to Ravi Shankar and Led Zeppelin while learning guitar in high school, but soon was experimenting with his own tuings, which labelled ‚ÄúPeacock,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúEye of Horus.‚ÄĚ Beyond the Indian influence, Acedo said aimed in incorporate Middle Eastern influences. While channeling something unique for the period ‚Äď ‚Äúworld music‚ÄĚ was not yet a genre ‚Äď Black Sun Ensemble‚Äôs trippy echoes saw them distantly hitched to LA‚Äôs Paisley Underground bandwagon.
Backed by Michael Glidewell (bass), John Brett (drums), Acedo released a vinyl album and five cassettes, all instrumental. But the only deal offered came from Reckless, the London based record store that had just opened in San Francsico with a label attached. The first BSE Reckless album raided older recordings; for a new album, Acedo decided to branch out. One night, he approached Duane Norman, saxman in local ‚ÄúCeltic‚ÄĚ rockers The Host, who frontman was Chuck Ellick; ‚ÄúHe called himself Odin Heligson ‚Äď it had all went to his head,‚ÄĚ Norman recalls, ‚ÄúHe acted kinda demonic, exuding total arrogance, but he could be gracious too. Jesus wanted both of us, but I‚Äôd never heard any Black Sun Ensemble so I blew him off. Then I heard a tape blasting BSE from a car, and I was like, ‚Äú‚Ä¶fuck!‚ÄĚ‚Äė
After three months of rehearsals, recording took just two days. ‚ÄúThere were no third takes, most were first, ‚ÄĚ says Norman. He credits engineer Eric Westfall (Giant Sand, Howe Gelb, Blacky Ranchette) with the album‚Äôs luxurious sound, capturing the band‚Äôs mystic essence. That, and sleep deprivation. After the first night, Helgison and Acedo stayed up for 72 hours writing lyrics. Besides weed and psychedelics, ecstasy had come to town; in that state, Heligison lifted quotes from Aleister Crowley‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Book of the Law‚ÄĚ for Lambent Flame‚Äôs tranquil breather ‚ÄúLilith‚ÄĚ while a loved-up jam between singer, guitarist and tabla player Merlin conjured the instrumental ‚ÄúThree Picks in a Bottle.‚ÄĚ The pro to-metal ‚ÄúLeviathan Song‚ÄĚ and blessed finale ‚ÄúBlues For Rainer‚ÄĚ were two more instrumentals, putting Acedo‚Äôs rippling progressions center-stage. ‚ÄúJesus was an innocent and completely unassuming guy, but a fuckin‚Äô monster on guitar,‚ÄĚ Norman quotes. Guitarist/engineer Eric Johnson, the principal mover behind BSE this century, refers to Acedo‚Äôs ‚Äúheightened sense of harmony and dissonance. Its stuff you can‚Äôt learn.‚ÄĚ
Commented Acedo: ‚ÄúBlack Sun Ensemble comes from the southern desert, where there is organ pipe cactus, prickly pear, coyote, rabbits, wolves, tarantula spiders‚Ä¶Our music is not like everyone else‚Äôs, its pretty weird, pretty profane, pretty spooked‚Ä¶ghostly.‚ÄĚ
Despite Acedo‚Äôs shyness, Norman claims, ‚ÄúJesus was out there, a born shaman. Outside the LSD, he could see shit no one else could, like Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books.‚ÄĚ Yet the drug cocktail consumed was hardly conductive to a settled band. ‚ÄúEveryone that ever talked about Lambent Flame says it was one of those projects that made itself,‚ÄĚ says Johnson. ‚ÄúGet the right combination of people, magic happens. Unfortunately, I don‚Äôt think they understood what they had, and egos, self-sabotage and drugs ended that era before it began, really.‚ÄĚ
Departing members and Acedo‚Äôs increasingly fractious mental state didn‚Äôt stop him assembling a new line-up for 1991‚Äôs harder, proggier ‚ÄúElemental Forces,‚ÄĚ at which point Reckless pulled out. Despite time in psychiatric wards and jail, Acedo would spear heard nine BSE studio albums ‚Äď the last five with Eric Johnson steering. ‚ÄúNo one knew how to take the band,‚ÄĚ he reflects. ‚ÄúWe played SXSW three years running to ecstatic reviews, then come home and played pizza restaurants. ‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThey don‚Äôt make guitar heroes like Jesus anymore. At full power, I‚Äôver never heard anything like him. There was such beauty and utter darkness in his playing. He could be a royal pain in the ass, but he had a kind heart. I miss him a lot.‚ÄĚ
MOJO MAGAZINE FEB 2015.
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