It’s the final push (not countdown, don’t think of that Europe song) men and gentlewomen. Guess what, this took a lot longer than I thought. Not much of an endurance run, with months in between some instalments, but you know how life is: demoralising and boring.
No wait, I meant unpredictable. But I guess it’s predictably unpredictable, so I should have predicted that before making wild proclamations. Never the less, I will stumble over this finish line shortly, and you can continue not to give a shit, and we’ll all be better off for it.
Agharti Live 09-10 (2011)
Patron: Agh! A hearty brew, good barkeep!
Barkeep: Certainly sir.
Patron: Let me tell you a story.
Barkeep: About what?
Patron: About Sunn O)))’s Live album Agharti, which was recorded on their Monoliths & Dimensions tour.
Barkeep: I don’t know what any of those things are.
Patron: Nevertheless, I shall tell you! It all began with their 2009 album Monoliths & Dimensions, which was notable for its incorporation of additional brass and woodwind orchestrations into their usual biodigital jazz, man.
Barkeep: Biodigital jazz? Man? That’s from Tron: Legacy you hack.
Patron: Is it? I didn’t see that.
Barkeep: You didn’t see it? It’s great! Well, it’s pretty good… It’s okay… Nah, actually it’s not that good. For that matter, the original wasn’t that good either. People are blinded by their nostalgia on that one. They probably shouldn’t have bothered, considering its relative lack of attention at the box office.
Patron: Okay. Can I continue now?
Barkeep: They had Jeff Bridges playing his character from the original, whatever his name was, Finley or something, but he was also playing a younger version of that guy and they put a weird digital face on him to make him look young, and it looks so fake that it made me figuratively throw up a little in my mouth.
Patron: Hey, this is supposed to be my story!
Barkeep: Oh I’m sorry, what were you talking about?
Patron: Sunn O)))! I was talking about the Sunn O))) 2011 live album Agharti Live 09-10! Obviously. What else would I be talking about?
Barkeep: I don’t know, women?
Patron: Women? What would I have to say about women?
Barkeep: I don’t know, something about the girl you were banging in the ass last night or whatever?
Patron: Woah, hey man! I wouldn’t do that. Firstly, I wasn’t banging anyone last night, let alone in the ass. I don’t really get that whole ass thing. But even if I was doing that, I certainly wouldn’t go around boasting about it. I would never treat women like they were objects and then boast about it afterward. What kind of guy do you think I am?
Barkeep: Loosen up man, it’s not the 1950s. We live in a more open society, recreational sex is not some big taboo you need to keep behind locked doors. It’s okay to talk about sex, and women, and two consensual adults using each other’s bodies for pleasure. That doesn’t make you a sex fiend.
Patron: Look, do you want to hear about Sunn O)))’s 2011 live album Agharti or not?”
Barkeep: No actually, I really don’t.
Patron: Fine then. Forget it.
Barkeep: Okay, man, I’m sorry. Go ahead, tell me about Aghardy or whatever it was.
Patron: No, it’s clear you don’t want to hear about it, so I’ll just shut up.
Barkeep: Come on man, don’t be like that. Tell me about the record. I’m listening.
Patron: Okay then, but not because you talked me into it. The interesting thing about this album is that it’s essentially a live re-framing of the entire Monoliths & Dimensions album, scaling back that material’s expanded instrumentation to suit the limits of a smaller ensemble live performance. The main elements of Aghartha are clear in Descent/Ascent, though unfortunately without the interesting second half and Attila’s inimitable vocal contributions.
Barkeep: Well that’s surely a crying shame.
Patron: Shut the fuck up, asshole, and listen, because you’ll be ecstatic to learn that A/Interior I/Eye is actually an incredibly cool stripped-down version of that second half of Aghartha. Just like the original, the guitars eventually drop out altogether, but unlike the original it’s just Attila on his own, replicating with his superhuman vocal cords some of the missing orchestrated elements and sound effects from the original. It’s actually genuinely astonishing. They manage to squeeze 40 minutes of material out of what was already a 17 minute song, the majority of which actually ends up serving as a unique and vital companion piece to the original.
Barkeep: Sounds fascinating.
Patron: It is! Unfortunately, with so much time devoted to Aghartha, there’s not as much time spent on the rest of the Monoliths material. As such we are presented with abridged interpretations of Hunting & Gathering and Big Church that, while serviceable, at only six minutes deserve more exploration. It’s also a shame that their masterpiece Alice is not represented here at all, although that’s understandable given how much of that song is a beautiful jazz improvisation. Anyway, that’s it.
Barkeep: You’re done?
Barkeep: Yeah. FOR NOW.
The Iron Soul of Nothing (Sunn O))) meets Nurse With Wound) (2011)
Patient: Nurse! NURSE!
Nurse: I’m here, what is it sir?
Patient: Can you get me a glass of water?
Nurse: Sure, it might just take a little whi… ugh…
Patient: Are you okay?
Nurse: Yeah, I’m fine, I just… Hurgh!
Patient: Jeez! You’re bleeding.
Nurse: Oh this? Yeah, somebody stabbed me.
Patient: Oh, so you would say you’re a NURSE WITH WOUND?
Nurse: Yeah, I suppose I would say… Nnnngh. Can you just give me a moment here?
Patient: Sure. Hey, sit down on the bed for a minute here. I’ll shift over a little.
Nurse: Thanks, that would be… OW!
Patient: Lie back, I’ll put some pressure on that wound.
Nurse: Okay, but don’t you think this bit has gone a bit too far?
Patient: No, I don’t, and I’ll tell you why. In the late 1970s, one Steven Stapleton was a founding member of a group called Nurse With Wound.
Nurse: Oh God, don’t tell me this is all just an elaborate set up for a review of Sunn O)))’s 2011 collaboration with Nurse With Wound Don’t tell me I got stabbed just for that? You know nobody reads these stupid features, right?
Patient: Well I’m sorry nurse, but it seemed funny at the time, and besides which, I’ve got to finish what I’ve started.
Nurse: Alright then, just go ahead, tell me about the record. I guess I’m going nowhere.
Patient: Okay so, it’s a remix of their classic early release ØØVoid, which was in fact their first proper album not including the Grimmrobe Demos.
Nurse: Naturally. FFFffggghhh!
Nurse: Be careful, this really hurts!
Patient: I will. So the Iron Soul of Nothing is basically a modern Nurse With Wound type album, full of airy ambient drones and noises, using as its source material the aforementioned Sunn O))) album. Apparently Sunn O)))’s brief to Nurse With Wound was to mold it into something in the vein of NWW’s 1988 classic Soliloquy for Lilith, but I’m ashamed to say I’m a bit of a neophyte when it comes to Nurse With Wound, so I don’t know if they achieved that.
Nurse: Hey, my name is Lilith…
Patient: Oh wow, really?
Lilith: Yes, for the purposes of this bit, my name is Lilith.
Patient: That’s a coincidence. Anyway, as an ambient album, it’s a bit more melodic in places than the original, exposing a side to the material that was originally buried in their signature swampy sound. It also has some signature acousmatic/electroacoustic extemporisations, which is to say, the haunting humming and churning of implausible and unidentifiable dark evil machinery. It is actually quite an interesting contrast to the original material, particularly in the case of Ash on the Trees, revealing to us the previously buried voice of Pete Stahl, recasting it in a David Tibet/John Balance-esque oratory role.”
Lilith: There were vocals on ØØVoid?
Patient: Yes, exactly my reaction. But then ØØVoid isn’t my favourite Sunn O))) record, so that might just be because I haven’t listened to it as deeply as I should. Anyway, that song also has some horribly violent breaking glass and other sounds. It is quite terrifying, in a way the original album wasn’t.
Lilith: That’s intriguing.
Patient: Well look, I’ve taken up enough of your time, we really ought to get you to a hospital.
Lilith: HAHAHAHAHAHA! OW! Goddammit!
Patient: Try not to laugh, okay? What’s so funny anyway?”
Lilith: Get me to a hospital? We’re in a hospital, asshole!
Patient: You’re right! Well ain’t I a silly sausage?
Join me next time won’t you, for the thrilling penultimate episode of “Biodigital Jazz Funksplosion”, where we listen to a rehearsal demo that Sunn O))) deemed adequate enough to release commercially instead of recording an actual new album and a curious split release between the two band members own labels for some reason. Ah, who cares?
In the mean time, don’t go in the water, it’s been contaminated with dihydrogen monoxide…