Sunn O))) Endurance Runn O))): Part 8 Erecting Grimm Cathedrals

Sunn O))) are a band who make music, if somebody tries to tell you otherwise they probably don’t mean anything by it, they’re just thinking like the Nazis who tried to outlaw entartete Kunst (degenerate art). I’m not saying they are Nazis, I’m saying they have aesthetic preferences similar to the Nazis.

As a side note the aesthetic preferences of the Nazis now appear to be the aesthetic preferences of most people in the western world, but thankfully they’re only enforced in the most casual of ways.

Now for some more live Sunn O))) albums.

Dømkirke (2007)

Dømkirke  is a live album recorded in the dømkirke (cathedral) in Bergen during the Borealis Festival in 2007. It’s also one of Sunn O)))’s better live records as it turns out.

Okay, so it opens with clapping, which is weird. Then there’s some silence. Then about 50 seconds in there’s some cathedral organ, maybe reinforced with some low synthesized sine waves. Imagine long tones, overtones, natural reverberation, various psychoacoustic niceties associated with church organs.

Attila then starts his monastic chanting shtick, and that’s cool and also appropriate. In fact this turns out to be some of Attila’s most convincing recorded work, from deep low rumbling throaty tones to chanting, to an occasional snarly growl. At some point the guitars may have entered, but they’re buried under a heavy accumulation of doomy organ. The end of the first piece resolves remarkably like the end of an organ recital.

Following this, we’re suddenly into abstract White-esque Sunn O))) territory, with added trombone for good measure. The second track soon develops into full-bore Sunn O))), but with a high-end twang. The organ returns, but this time  the guitar drones are on top.

Things proceed in much this manner for another two tracks. There is a strong sense that Sunn O))) are exploring the space here, finding the fundamental resonating frequencies of the cathedral, and weaving layers of drone around those.

The final track opens in a more minimalistic way, but slowly builds into a thick drone topped off with swirling atonal noise before it all suddenly gives way to a beautiful solo organ. What better way to end a cathedral-based Sunn O))) performance? Marvellous.

(初心) GrimmRobes Live 101008 (2009)

There’s a thing now, where bands like to re-assemble classic lineups and perform classic albums in their entirety, which is sometimes cool, but mostly a shameless cash grab. This endeavour, in which Sunn O))) return to their Grimmrobe Demos material is cool because it’s a departure from the increasingly Attila-fronted performances style they’ve developed over the past five years. It’s just guitars and amps.

This was a cassette-only tour release in Japan (surprise) and Europe, but included a digital download card. The material is presented on Bandcamp as two untitled 46 minute tracks, one per cassette side. There’s not a lot of variation going on, subtle tonal shifts for the most part. In the last five minutes of Side A and into the first half of Side B there’s a lot of additional subharmonics.

There’s no fade-out between sides so really this is one continuous 92 minute performance. Most Sunn O))) shows I’ve attended last around an hour, which is about the right length for that kind of experience, so this must have been quite something.

I realise now that I haven’t really talked much about the cover art for these albums, despite them all being pretty damn cool. This one in particular is a ProCo Rat distortion pedal, doctored with Sunn O))) member’s Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley’s metal monikers, plus their tuning (drop Ab). It’s cool.

There’s a hard amp switch off at the end, which as I have said before, is one of the most wonderful things to experience in the world. These live Sunn O))) albums have really improved over the years to the point where they’re actually as good as the studio records. Good job Geoff Gans, Randall Dunn and Mell Dettmer.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Or don’t! Join me for Sunn O)))’s greatest record to date. It’s monolithic in scale, though not in tone as it has a lot of extra dimensions to it. Do you see what I did there?

It’s called Monoliths & Dimensions, okay?

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