Album Review

Admiral Fell Promises

Admiral Fell Promises

by Sun Kil Moon

9 / 10
12th August 2010

Reviewed by Jeremy Taylor

Mark Kozelek is a very obsessive man, and his latest record, “Admiral Fell Promises”, his fourth under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, is possibly the bleakest and most obsessive in his lengthy back catalogue. And whilst it is unlikely to attract the casual listener, performed, as it is, entirely solo on nylon string acoustic guitar for a full hour, it is a most singular artistic statement.

From his earliest releases in the Red House Painters, Kozelek charted the depths of human emotion and relationships, albeit with a sheen of slow-mo, slightly shoegazey indie rock. Since then he has dabbled with spooked-out folk, dusty Americana, and reinterpretations of songs by artists as diverse as John Denver, AC/DC and Modest Mouse.

“Admiral Fell Promises” was largely inspired by two things – the premature death of his ‘muse’, Katy (as in the ‘Rollercoaster’ album’s undisputed highlight ‘Katy Song’) and a 5CD set of the music of classical guitarist Andre Segovia that he bought during his New Zealand tour in 2008. Somehow these two have been fused to create some of the most spectacularly beautiful and melancholy music of his career, and both the singing and especially the guitar playing are quite magnificent, and clearly heavily influenced by classical guitar technique.

Standouts include opener ‘Alesund’, where this Norwegian city becomes the setting for his floaty, ethereal alienation, and the title track, a re-recording of a track from 2001’s “White Christmas Live” – one of his most beautiful, bruising songs; “A thousand days have passed in this house she and I were sharing, and I hate myself for it, but I have stopped caring, the Maryland sky tonight, so black and blue and beautiful...”, as the nylon strings flutter around him - stunning.

But it is a little futile pointing out highlights in such a densely packed set – it is very much one of those ‘mood’ records (like The Cure’s “Disintegration”), where every song sounds like it was hewn out of the same fabric, smaller parts of a greater whole. Indeed, the only lows feel like they come when it seems like Kozelek’s nerve deserts him and he feels compelled to lighten the sombre mood with cheerier fare such as the pretty, slight ‘You Are My Sun’.

A bleak and beautiful record, some of which feels almost too gorgeous and intimate to listen to, it is both a touching lament and a towering achievement from an artist who has followed his own unique path.

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