Sunn O))) Endurance Runn O))): Part 9 Jazz is Not Dead, It Just Smells SunnO)))y

Remember when I said this would be done by the end of the month? No? Good!

Monoliths & Dimensions (2009)

This is the best Sunn O))) record, I think.

It’s got everything you could want from a record. Except melody, rhythm, songs and happyhappyfuntimes! But in the absence of those things it is Monolithic, and it does in several senses have Dimensions.

No seriously though this is a really interesting record for a number of reasons. Take a listen.

The title is kind of a jazz allusion, which is appropriate, because believe it or not, Sunn O))) is a band full of jazz geeks. On this record they flex those, and several other new muscles, if those are muscles, which they are not, so forget I said anything.

Aghartha starts out the way a Sunn O))) album might. Spoiler alert: droning guitars. Attila’s there. Big bass-rich walls of simple slow chords ringing out into a dense foggy mess of texture and tone. Then certain elements kind of start dropping away one at a time, or at the very least changing shape or colour in subtle ways. The wall of sound gives way to a quieter, lighter drone, while Attila gives one of his most intelligible guttural monologues to date. It’s a spoken-word extravaganza about a hidden world inside the Earth, or something. Next thing you know there’s screeching strings and weird free jazz chaos everywhere. Then something starts creaking, like the bow of a ship – but it’s not that, it’s actually the other kind of bow being creaked slowly across muted strings. It’s a stunning noise. Hey and there’s a piano in there too. Oh look, now there are conch shells, or trombones, or Eastern trumpets, or maybe vuvuzelas, or maybe all of these at once. Attila’s still going. His voice is dry and low. And then eventually it’s just him and some water splashing against the side of that creaking boat that you weren’t actually in earlier on. Yeah.

This is a sort of “orchestral” version of Sunn O))), in that it uses a lot of new instrumentation and orchestration, courtesy of the great Eyvind Kang. The second track is a prime example of this new approach. “Big Church” or “megszentjégteleníthetetlenségestekért”… Oh I’m sorry, did I say “megszentjégteleníthetetlenségestekért”? I Meant “megszentségteleníthetetlenségestekért”. Anyway, like I was sayin’ “megszentségteleníthetetlenségestekért” is cool because it has Sunn O))) doing that Sunn O))) thing (you know with the guitars and all. No? You should check it out though!) but also some new alien element. In this case, a choir, and a bell.

Oh shit, I just realised I’ve called it “megszentségteleníthetetlenségestekért”, when it’s actually “megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért”. Oops. My bad.

The structure of Megazooticketstothehotgirlsleddinginaminiskirt is notable. Basically Sunn O))) do their thing, with some organ buried in there, then they kind of drop down a little and a female choir doubles their chords in a higher octave, with some light brass accompaniment. Then it gets intense and Attila chants something in Hungarian over a protracted chordal drone, which eventually runs out of breath, and then a single bell tolls. Repeat! AGAIN!

Eventually it stops though, without a bell, signifying the next track, “Hunting&Gathering” a very riff-oriented number, with some of Attila’s finest vocal work to date. There’s also a male choir backing him up, and hey, why not a brass band too? This song is AWESOME, it’s just a little less “inventive” than some of the others here.

After some icy abstractions and Oren Ambarchi bass bombs at the end, we drift into the final track.

This album is obviously much more of a production, so to speak, than any of their previous records, but boy is this last track something. No, no, it really is something.

“Alice” is, well, a tribute to Alice Coltrane. And the first half of it is an airier, mellower version of Sunn O))), establishing some rather languid chords. A few more orchestral elements sneak in, livening things up, and building in short little crescendos for a while. Eventually Sunn O))) seem to recede into the background while the whole affair devolves into a weird orchestral jazz session, with a decidedly strong melodic element. Then you know, A FUCKING HARP. Then jazz legend Julian Priester of Sun Ra is playing a GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL TROMBONE SOLO, man, what a way to end a record. A Sunn O))) record. And man, fuck you for not getting how awesome this whole thing is. Ugh.

Anyway…

Live At Primavera Sound Festival 2009 On WFMU (2009)

Another live record to slog through eh? Well, let’s get to it…

Oh, it’s Grimmrobes stuff? Cool. There’s something about that old school thick grimy smoky vibe the early material possesses that I’ve said before has been lost a little in their later stuff.

But is that people I hear talking over the music? As much as that’s a nuisance, I’m more surprised that they found it physically possible. Well, it was apparently an outside gig to 6,000 people, so that’s sort of a weird way to hear Sunn O))). I wonder how that even works. Part of the experience is the claustrophobia of it.

Anyway, it’s a decent set, lots of weird phasing and slow riffage. It’s fine, really. But man I’m kind of tired of that. It gets super bassy in the last quarter. And a guy seems to shout “Asshole!” and there’s even some false endings where the crowd start to applaud and then realise it’s not over yet. Which is funny.  Weird to think of Sunn O))) playing an outdoor festival.

There’s also an interview with Stephen O’Malley. It’s interesting enough. Lots of stuff about the Grimmrobes shows, the final Khanate album, and other miscellanea.

Che (Sunn O))) & Pan Sonic) (2009)

This is a single 6 minute “collaborative” song from a limited 10″.

It’s kind of a weird mix of Sunn O))), organ and spoken word. I say weird because Sunn O))) have used these elements plenty of times before before, just not in such an “electronic music” way.  Anyway, this seems like a remix of a Sunn O))) outtake more than anything. It’s okay. Could have been longer.

Well, okay. Almost there, I guess.

This last stretch is not that interesting, so I guess, look forward to that folks. Ugh.

Actually no, there’s some cool stuff, and a lot of stuff I’ve not actually listened to before. So it’ll be a funky adventure, perhaps?

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