Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part XIII - Che, Candlewolff ov Thee Golden Chalice, Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age, and compilation appearances.

Written by Craig Hayes.

Self-proclaimed 'power ambient' duo Sunn O))) was formed by guitarist Stephen O’Malley and bassist Greg Anderson in the mid 90s, and since then, the band has explored the possibilities of sonic and emotional reward via thundering and increasingly more adventurous drones. Recently, Sunn O))) put their entire catalogue up on Bandcamp, and over the next few months I'm going to look at every release. Call it my 'Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions' project, or call it a fan biting off far more than he can chew. Whatever the case, here we go... unto the breach my friends; I hope to see you on the other side.


Thanks, from the bottom of my rotting little heart, for following this Monoliths and Opinions project. This post is the last in the series, at least until Sunn O))) put another thundering work on Bandcamp. Cheers to, (L) LORD <------(((O)))------>SOMA (R), and their numerous collaborators, for crafting the abundant victuals to review in the first place, and thanks, of course, to Metal Bandcamp's overlord Max, for indulging my (((drone))) obsession.

Photo by Metal Chris.

As much as you could argue that without drone architect Earth there would be no Sunn O))), you could also construct a pretty solid argument to say that without the avant-garde sound experiments of New York legends Suicide in the 1970s the world of droning and dissonant guitars and electronics would be a far more timid place. In 2008, label Blast First commissioned a series of 10" EPs to celebrate the 70th birthday of Suicide vocalist and no-wave hero, Alan Vega, and Sunn O)))'s contribution to that series saw the band collaborating with Finnish experimental electronic duo Pan Sonic on, "Che". The track sees Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson bring warmer, albeit still intimidating, riffs to the table. Wrapping those in Hammond and Moog, and adding in deep vocals from Joe Preston, and splintery electronics from Pan Sonic's Mika Vainio, there's a fitting sense of eccentricity and awe to "Che". It's six moody and textured minutes of buzzing and psych-fuelled grimness, all dipped in due reverence.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


As far as revered goes, British DJ John Peel was a hugely respected figure in music history too. A longtime supporter of adventurous music across the genres, Peel's BBC Radio 1 Sessions were famed for their importance in promoting non-mainstream bands. Peel was a huge fan of metal, putting Napalm Death on his show from the beginning of their career and, of course, he was a big fan of Sunn O))) as well. Peel died suddenly in October 2004, and Sunn O)))'s "Candlewolff ov Thee Golden Chalice" was recorded the following December – having been commissioned before Peel's passing. The 19-minute track begins gently enough, for a song from Sunn O)))'s universe, with the ebb and flow of subterranean riffing clawing its way to the surface. Moog and harmonium intertwine with the lava flow riffs later on, and a tamboura jangles away like a dark wind blowing through the wreckage of a temple. There's no doubt Peel would have heartily approved of the slow creeping tempo of "Candlewolff ov Thee Golden Chalice"


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Sunn O)))'s oeuvre is, obviously, primed for remixing. There's a lot of time, space, and caverns to explore and rebore, and that was resoundingly proven with the magnificent feast that Nurse With Wound provided on The Iron Soul of Nothing. Famed producer, mixer and mastering wizard James Plotkin – one of O'Malley's co-conspirators in the sadly departed colossus Khanate – leant his remixing skills to the band on single remix track, "Veils it White". Utilizing material from Sunn O)))'s Flight of the Behemoth recording sessions, Plotkin sculpted a lengthy, rumbling slab of minimalism and injected it with piercing pitches, stark piano, and industrial clangs – all twisted around feedback and nose-bleeding frequencies. Similarly to Nurse With Wound's remix ventures, Plotkin took the familiarly Sunn O))) into unfamiliar and fascinating territory.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


As well as being remixed, Sunn O))) have also played the role of remixer, and Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age sees the band remixing a track each from Earth and Japanese noise legend Merzbow. The bare bones of the Earth remix, "Rule The Divine (Mysteria Caelestis Mugivi)" were taken from the original multitrack tapes of Earth's 1993 album, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version – which is, of course, the womb from which all metallic drone was born. The track can also be found on Legacy Of Dissolution, an album well worth seeking out, containing more Earth remixes from the likes of Mogwai, Justin Broadrick and Autechre.

Photo by Metal Chris.

"Rule The Divine (Mysteria Caelestis Mugivi)" was clearly a joy for O'Malley and Anderson to lay their hands on. The way in which they revel in amplifying the elongated passages of harsh scrapes and scratches brings more Stygian gloom to the track, and a hollowed-out midsection sees Carlson's guitar return for a powerful, reeling finish. In Merzbow's case, Sunn O))) remix the Japanese digital devastator's track, "Frog"– retitling it in the process to, "Catch 22 (Surrender Or Die)". O'Malley and Anderson burying the glitch and squalls in the back streets of a sci-fi nightmare, with the digital maelstrom burnished somewhat by a singular deep note that brings a prolonged undercurrent of doom to the fore.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Finishing up this Sunn O))) collection are two compilation tracks lurking on the band's Bandcamp page. "Isengard (chopped and screwed)" comes from the, Does Your Cat Know My Dog, compilation, and recorded live, the track is a grungy and grunty kick in the stomach, followed by another to the teeth. However, "BP//Simple", taken from the Jukebox Buddha compilation, sees the band toying with the possibilities of the Buddha Machine loop device to magnificent effect. The little heard track is actually one of Sunn O)))'s most beautiful, and it certainly deserves more attention. It's 10-minutes of sacramental hum and thrum, with chants carried on a circuitous, warm and fuzzy drone; very spiritual, very deep, and very... O)))hmmmm.

Maximum volume yields maximum results.
C)))


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Photo by Metal Chris.


The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.

Tagged with 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, Craig Hayes, doom metal, drone, Metal Chris, Sunn O)))
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