[ANTI-; 2020]

Many of us are spending extensive amounts of time in self-exploration, and Find The Sun is an album borne of just that. For her second long-player, Angel Deradoorian has much to tell us about this process. Turns out there’s at least as much to unlearn as there is to learn: “There was nothing out there / nothing in here / and nothing is here to stay,” she sings on “It Was Me”, explaining about her journey inward, teaching us that we will always be reckoning with ourselves even if some force of nature destroys society; or some force of will rebuilds it. After all, the album was long finished by the time Covid became a global anxiety.

As a concept, this is a beautiful impetus for a piece of art, and Deradoorian tackles introspection with grace. Bookended by its best songs “Red Den” and “Sun”, Find The Sun is a time capsule into the half-dozen or so genres that have inspired her most. As stated in the press release, psychedelic heroes Can and Pharaoh Sanders were huge influences; “Saturnine Night”, “It Was Me”, and “The Illuminator” tackle these styles to an almost simulatory degree. Even the production has an early-70s fidelity to it, made ever-more apparent with headphones. Deradoorian recommends giving it a listen while lying on the floor, and such an experience would certainly drive home Find The Sun’s meditative qualities.

The reasons behind the record and how the lyrics enforce it are often more interesting than the album experience itself. This isn’t to say that it’s a musical failure – the contrary is often true since Find The Sun never fails to be compositionally bold. Opening track “Red Den” has an exquisite, in-the-room-with-the-band feel to it, and when she sings the album’s first lines, it’s a whisper. We journey to her native Armenia, temples in China, and, most importantly, India. Yes, the track and the album at large clearly reflect an Eastern journey through solitude, and “Red Den” sets it all up perfectly.

Although it shares a recording quality with the other songs, Deradoorian often chooses instrumentals that sprawl to extremes far flung from “Red Den”’s gauzy claustrophobia. “Saturnine Night” propels itself into ecstasy over seven minutes; ever the backbone, Samer Ghadry’s drumming persists and persists, never stopping for a break, hook, or even a coda. Deradoorian is left to sing for her life: “Give me infinite skies! I die! I die!” she intones breathily – the crescendo and drama are well-earned.

Find The Sun goes on to find Deradoorian’s voice more than anything. The hyper-focused, high fidelity of her work with Dirty Projectors is so far in the rear view it almost feels trite to mention. What’s found here is much more subdued. Almost underselling her talent, the vocals on “Monk’s Robes” are lost in a swirl of rapid piano arpeggios before a chime signals an effective gong bath of a coda. The resulting feeling is a peaceful one.

The chameleonic, guitar-leaning multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington rounds out the band, and things get tricky when you try to find out which member of the trio played what and when. Ghadry has the drums covered, mostly, but Deradoorian and Harrington share talents to the point where many parts could have been played by either. Sure, this concrete information can be found somewhere, but it’s more fun to imagine the sounds coming from some unnamed musical force. The litany of treble instruments on “Monk’s Robes” follow this mystery, the video featuring a ghost-like Deradoorian strumming a stringed instrument. Look closely and you’ll see that her fingers don’t move with the chord progression; the strum is merely for show. Even in a visual medium, the album continues mysteriously without a real conclusion.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s also kind of the point. “Find the Sun is a record to sit and listen to, and ask yourself about your Self,” Deradoorian says. However, a hook or two across these songs would be welcome – but considering adding some is a frustrating conundrum given Find The Sun’s themes. Yeah, there’s not much dynamic pull to these songs, but we’d probably have to rethink the album from the ground up if there were. Asking for more excitability may be a misguided request.

Regardless, most artists who borrow so generously from other genres don’t nail it this well. Deradoorian’s impersonations of classic psychedelia and krautrock are solid, except perhaps “The Illuminator”. A blatant free-jazz homage, this track is nine minutes of spoken word delivery, flute improvisation, and repetitive drumming. Although one of the weaker performances, the poetry remains well in-line with the album’s mission statement. “Devil’s Market” has the same trappings; the flute, although well performed and produced, is the only moving part of the track while the narrative, once again, remains the most compelling component. Deradoorian views her temptations one by one, and by sticking to her mantra of “say no, say no, say no,” she continues to clue us in on what successful self-evaluation looks like. If the performances used some of the dramatic build from elsewhere on the record, it’d be much less dull.

There’s little else to complain about. The narrative is crystal clear, with poetry often perfectly matching the tone and feeling of the production. Find The Sun could easily be the soundtrack to one’s own meditative experience, but this is a personal record, and hearing about Deradoorian’s individual experience is its finest quality. Closer “Sun” is a wonderfully-paced example of this, only climaxing in its final moments before several drums and voices shout the album’s title. We’ve come a long way since the foreboding “Red Den”.

Writing fun songs is not easy, but fitting them into a mythos is even harder. Deradoorian and company handle the latter perfectly. It’s less playful and more focused than her last full-length, 2015’s The Expanding Flower Planet, and the concept record suits her well. Any indie artist should start taking notes on how to construct such a complete statement. The rest of us now have a guidebook for an effective personal journey right when we need it most.

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