Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions

The actual CD case comes in a fancy sleeve and is generally pretty cool, but you idiots downloaded it didn't you?It finally arrived. About three weeks ago.

After years of waiting for a new Sunn O))) record, here it is.

For this review, I thought I’d do some song-by-song observations, because on a four track album that kind of makes the most sense.

Aghartha, starts off Sunn O))) business as usual, huge crushing bass-oriented slow riffs. Then Atilla Csihar’s voice drifts in, in a monotonous drawl. Quite soon after this, all manner of instruments and sounds come screeching into the mix, predominently horns and strings. Soon you’re churning in a vast stomach of scraping and blowing and droning, but things begin to settle. And by settle I mean, the horns take over like a warbling underwater foghorn signalling arrival at a huge hole in the ocean where the water tumbles down into an ocean inside the Earth, while Atilla continues his epic monologue beckoning you in. Eventually it’s just him and you, and let’s face it, you won’t win.

But wait, Big Church starts with a choir. A female choir led by Jessicka Kenney. Oh, and then Sunn O)))‘s riff breaks down the wall and flattens them. Oh, but wait, the choir are fighting back. And then holy fuck, it’s Atilla on some kind of strange chant of the word “megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért” over and over again. Awesome. Oh, and now it dropped out back to vanilla Sunn O))). Excuse me while I restart this computer, Windows is periodically stalling.

Okay, I’m back.

So anyway, Hunting & Gathering seems to be the most Black One sounding cut of the album, with a monolithic repeating riff, Atilla in full on  Mayhem mode, and a rising choir of male voices to punctuate it. Not that it’s bad, but this track is certainly the least adventurous in terms of new elements. Sure, the vocal arrangements and the horns are new and give it a distinct flavour, but this feels more like Sunn O))) classic than anything else on the album.

And then, Alice. Alice is, well… It’s  a slightly jazzy progression that begins dark and sparse, with reasonably undistorted guitars twanging a simple motif, before becoming rich and warm with brass and woodwind parts gently taking over the second half. The journey to get there is slow and exhausting, but worth it. Several veteren jazzmen blowing away on this one, and you can really feel it. Aged like a fine wine from a dusty bottle. A soft plaintive trombone solo at the tail end leaves you refreshed and soothed as Sunn O))) themselves have apparently dropped their axes and are letting the guests carry this album to its conclusion. It’s good to see they’re willing to let that happen instead of insisting on some kind of background drone like you might expect. Those last couple minutes are down to trombone, harp and strings. I’m pretty sure that’s not what people expect from a Sunn O))) record, but it is fucking awesome.

So, Monoliths? Yes. Dimensions? Yes. Monoliths & Dimensions? Pretty much. As a big fan of the works of Eyvind Kang, upon discovering Sunn O))) had rectuited Kang to more or less orchestrate and arrange the whole record, I beyond excited. In an earlier review I mentioned his work on The Stares‘ album, but I never expected this collision of personnel to occur, and it has resulted in a fascinating album that builds upon everything Sunn O))) do, with new textures added to the drones, new harmonies, a new warmth and richness.

You should buy this record. You know, with actual money.

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