The term Swan Song comes from the myth that a swan is completely mute during its life, until just before it dies, and then it’s last breath is a beautiful moan. It isn’t true, but the story is sweet and sad and what good legends and fables are made of. Listening to Sun City Girls’ last album Funeral Mariachi is unexpectedly but fittingly just this.
Better known for bracing sounds of nonsense and mysticism, SCG has put out more than 50 releases that, like most great things, went critically acclaimed and widely unknown. Their penchant for making a listener uncomfortable was bolstered by a backbone of technique that made it hard to question their esoteric music and spoken word; it’s better just to go with it, no matter how unprecedented.
This last album, recorded before drummer Charles Gocher’s death, escapes the deviance of some of their other records and opts for a cinematic and musical personality with direct nods to Ennio Morricone. Other influences include, but are not limited to an orchestra of sanctified folk, Arabic, and blues, all woven into a soundtrack made for traveling deserts into the afterlife. Vine Street Piano, Blue West, Holy Ground – each track stands independent of the other, but musically creates space for lonely pianos or made up language. The album collectively presses onward through somber, cloaking songs laden with beauty, ultimately culminating into the album’s final and title track, which is simple and familiar and sad.
Excellently produced, Funeral Mariachi promises an easy gateway into their music for people new to the group, and a favorite for any listener.