There’s a fine line between creating an ambient, sprawling tribute to classical antiquity and a soundtrack to the latest Civilization computer game. Sun Araw’s Cameron Stallones lazily strolls along that line on Ancient Romans, crafting the perfect atmosphere for his titular theme, and sometimes making interesting music in the process. Stallones gets props for sticking with the concept throughout: Each song on Ancient Romans finds a different way to recall the era, whether with expansive electric guitar, thudding bass, heavy synths, idle keyboard noodling, bongos, synthesized harps, a hodgepodge of trumpets, incoherently reverberated vocals, or wailed saxophones. It’s a goofy, disorganized mess, but Stallones swirls the noise together into a cohesive whole and never gets off-topic.
Hazy, swirling loops of drone-dub capture the setting of the subject matter, a backdrop to a montage of jumbled jam sessions and half-baked psychedelic experiments. As with every other Sun Araw album, appreciating the 80-minute entirety of Ancient Romans requires a high level of patience in order to uncover the record’s best moments of mysticism and wonder. But while Ancient Romans doesn’t always make captivating music, it does create awesome scenery.