BEAUTY IN THE BEEST

Sun Sawed in 1/2 bring a new sound to their Bewilderbeest

Rose says it didn't matter: "I was thinking of taking something I love and something they love, and throw it together. So I showed them my songs. They had no problem learning them. I was only able to take my acoustic guitar and hum things. The instruments they used were violin, stand-up bass, cello, Pan flutes and accordion. Most interesting was this instrument called the tscymbal -- like "cymbal' with a "ts' in front -- which was something completely different from anything we've ever seen before, like if you lifted the back of a grand piano and hit it with mallets." Rose was enchanted. "I had originally planned to do a whole album with them. And I'd found a vocalist from the Congo. She had this rich, rich voice and she was singing Beatles songs in a cowboy bar in Kiev. She didn't understand any English; she was singing phonetically. Well, I asked her to sing."

But instead of forming what might have been a world-music Blondie, Rose returned to his homeboys. "I kept e-mailing Doug and Ken Kase and my brother, and they said, "No, we really have to do a Sun album. We need to do another one.' I brought the tracks back to Matt Martin, our drummer, who played on top of it."

Eventually the band finished its masterpiece -- and all by themselves, save a little otherworldly luck. The Sun's last couple of albums were produced by Keith Olsen, who's worked with Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead (on the wonderfully atypical Terrapin Station) and about every '70s superstar there ever was. This time, though, the band produced itself, putting the tricks learned from Olsen in their own magic hat. But Rose says there was no magic to replace the logistics: "Just pulling our collective butts back together from four corners of the world was a tough thing to do. We had to fly Matt up and back from the mountains. Matt moved up to the (Colorado) mountains to live in peace and harmony." It's fitting, because harmony is a big part of the Sun. And that's not the half of it. Despite the band's hook-crazed music, they aren't really valued in St. Louis, a town largely in love with cover bands.

In a sense the Sun are analogous to XTC, who could hardly pass for local celebrities in their native Swindon, England. And in the case of Sun Sawed in 1/2, there's another place, besides St. Louis, where they get no respect. Although Rose plans to move there, he reveals that "in Italy, they don't care much for rock & roll -- except Elvis. They don't have time for it. When we were playing in Italy -- when our group was there -- people would scratch their heads. So we'd launch into this sort of disco-synth thing. It was kind of like one of the programs on the synthesizer, like a test program. They loved it; they started dancing." To a man who's danced with death, it was a moment to cherish.

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