Release Date: Dec 4, 2015
Record label: Southern Lord Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Experimental Rock, Doom Metal, Experimental Ambient, Noise
Latest album from avant metal combo pays tribute to Buddha. Have you seen Sunn O))) live? You must, at least once in your life, see Sunn O))) live. It is an imperative for the deep-thinking hard rock fan; a necessary pilgrimage, the sort one might undertake to Stonehenge, darkest Scandinavia or Birmingham. .
When SunnO))) and Scott Walker released Soused – their collaborative effort of last year – perhaps the biggest surprise was in how melodic it was. Neither artist has any qualms about building harsh, intimidating soundscapes in preference to songlike structures. That drone metal band SunnO))) were the ones to tip the balance was indicative of a development in their sound, albeit a subtle one.
In recent years Sunn O)))’s recorded output has been mostly limited to collaborative works. The bescumbered escapades of Soused, their album with Scott Walker, opened the band’s drones and Walker’s scatological lyrics to a whole new audience, whilst collaborations with Ulver, Pan Sonic and Nurse With Wound gave the band opportunities to explore new pastures whilst retaining their identity. On paper, Kannon is the first non-collaborative Sunn O))) effort since 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions, but a quick scan down the list of contributors suggests that it is, in reality, very much a group effort.
Having found a wider audience with Soused, last year’s collaboration with Scott Walker, Seattle-based drone metal duo Sunn O))) counterintuitively rein in some of their more avant-garde tendencies (such as the choirs and brass section of 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions) on their seventh album. This return to their roots is still defiantly uncommercial, of course. The three lengthy movements that comprise a conceptual piece about the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy unfurl at funereal pace, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson’s downtuned guitars backing the unintelligibly guttural vocals of regular collaborator Attila Csihar.
When is nothing something? When is empty full? Kannon, Sunn O)))'s first "solo" project since 2009's Monoliths & Dimensions, poses these questions sonically. Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson enlisted old friends to assist: Co-producer Randall Dunn (who also plays synths), vocalist Attila Csihar, guitarist Oren Ambarchi, percussionist Brad Mowen, Rex Ritter on Moog, and a brass trio that includes Julian Priester, Stuart Dempster, and Tony Moore. The album title is named for the feminine Buddhist deity of mercy, Kan'on (or Quan Yin), who "perceives all the sounds and cries of the world.
Sunn O))) return after a one-off with Scott Walker and another with dark ambient innovators Ulver, and the result is nothing less than what you’d expect from the masters of spiritual buzz and drone. Led by Stephen O’ Malley and Greg Anderson, the group, along with fellow low frequency worshipers Earth, have redefined heavy music time and again since the band’s founding in 1998, causing critics to sputter and spurt and try in vain to develop a nomenclature that could capture the psychic and emotional depths of the music when, at the end of the ritual, the only thing that matters is that the soul has been elevated. And there has been elevation to new heights across the oeuvre: White 1 and White 2 served as a point of entry for many and those epic, avant heights were enough to make us wonder how long a band that was so solidly enveloped in this particular genius could maintain such a run.
Sunn O)))’s depth is, for some, their biggest attraction. Both in terms of sound – bowel-rumbling doom metal – and outlook: Kannon’s liner notes were written by critical theorist and performance artist Aliza Shvarts, who turned heads with her 2008 abortion-based work while studying at Yale. On their first album since collaborating with Scott Walker on Soused in 2014, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are on a deep dive again.
It'll be a damn shame if Kannon gets regarded as one of Sunn O)))'s minor works simply for taking up less vinyl real estate and possessing fewer aesthetic points of interest than its predecessors (burying guest vocalist Malefic alive in a coffin to get a creeped out performance being chief amongst these). So let's be clear: the riff mantras that comprise each of these three "Kannon" are among the most laser-focused and emotionally charged pieces ever to emerge from the camp; there's not an ounce of fat on this record nor were any navels gazed upon in the fabrication of this most experimental of doom metal records. Stripped of choirs, chamber orchestras, (actual) jackhammers, and most of the accouterments that have adorned their music over the years, the focus on the architecture of Stephen O'Malley's and Greg Anderson's guitar and bass work is a revelation.
The dark, droning metal of Sunn O))) must be approached with a reverence for its spiritual and aesthetic values. You don’t just listen to Sunn; you experience it. Built on repetition and atmosphere, the ambience created by Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson encourages introspection from its audience and a listening environment that allows such. The music of Sunn has become viable in the realms of yoga (aka Black YO)))ga) because of its visceral, transportive qualities.
From the Seattle birth of drone-metal duo Sunn O))), they’ve always imbued their creaking compositions with a sense of reverent, primordial purpose — as if on the fourth day, when God created the Earth’s two attendant heavenly bodies and all the stars that surround them, he might have severely f**ked up. Somewhere deep in the freshly expanding universe, where there should have been the spectral gleam of a newly minted gas giant was by chance mistake a yawning void — and ever since they’ve been fighting their way back to the world of light. Such mythos would be over the top for most other acts, but the music that Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley have made under the Sunn banner is too ancient, too incantatory, too wonderfully foreign to be greeted on the worldly terms that we offer other guitar-based bands.
After going off the deep end with Scott Walker on 2014's bleak and experimental Soused, long-running drone metal project Sunn O))) have scaled back the ghoulishness a bit on their new album, Kannon. That's not to say the amp-cranked washes of slow-mo guitar that have marked Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's back catalogue are any less gloomy this time around, but there's a transcendence threaded into the record that brings a special kind of calmness to Kannon.As always, O'Malley and Anderson's distorted string work is delivered in the red, but the cyclical melody of "Kannon 1" is never quite ear-piercing enough to aggravate. Instead, it's given plenty of space to breathe, its repeated measures landing like a mantra.
In 2008, Sunn O))) played a short series of duo concerts meant to acknowledge the band's modest, mimetic origins. Sunn O))) began as a tribute of sorts to Earth, the influential duo whose low, slow riffs and steadfast amplifier worship established the doom-metal mold that Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley were trying to fill anew. And for the first few years, that was the limit of the pair's output—lumbering riffs, played at a near-tectonic pace and deliriously high volumes.
The seventh studio album to be solely credited to Sunn O))) feels like a wilful effort to clean the slate, having dislodged it from the sides of the quarry via time-honoured methods of tone and volume. Founded in the late Nineties by Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, ostensibly to pay tribute to Dylan Carlson's then-dormant drone-meets-metal project Earth, in due course Sunn O))) begged the pun and eclipsed their predecessors for conceptual extremity. Chords dragged out for minutes at a time, at a dB level that distorts the air and blows up PAs (this happened on the most recent occasion I saw them, in Bristol this year): lazy detractors would have them pegged as a one-note band, in a very real sense.
Sunn O))) albums should be magic. In their previous work, they’ve accomplished great sorceries: they transported the listener to caverns deep within the earth and gigantic, fallen churches on Monoliths & Dimensions; on Black One, they buried us alive with a claustrophobic misanthrope and subjected us to the icy winds of the “The Cursed Realm of the Winterdemons;” even earlier cuts like “My Wall” from White1 saw Julian Cope building a fortress of magical protection, using the massive sound of Stephen O’Malley’s “gloom-axe” and Gregg Andersen’s “sonic doom” to forge the wall of the mythic Johnny Guitar. Where other efforts (and their celebrated live work) have focused on ambient mood and atmosphere to immerse the listener in cavernous spaces or to evoke massive structures, Kannon utilizes more concrete magical techniques.
For a group founded around the premise of turning heavy metal into something as slow, deep and tunes-light as possible, Seattle’s SunnO))) have gone a remarkable distance. The group – an open-ended ensemble, but based around the core duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson – have now turned out approaching a dozen albums and collaborations, winning the fealty of rock titans such as Julian Cope and Scott Walker along the way. Why have this difficult, experimental group endured so? Perhaps because they have elevated their droning, deconstructed rock into a sort of high theatre.
It's hard to write about records by super-loud, super-heavy, super-weird dronesters SUNN O))). How do you measure the effectiveness of the band's punishing sonic experiments? If your bones rattle so hard it feels like your skeleton is going to tear through your body and run away to find a more suitable host, is that a good thing? Does that merit giving the record five close-parentheses out of a total five close-parentheses? If your downstairs neighbour texts your landlord who then texts you to turn down the record because it's "too loud" (read "played at the appropriate volume"), does that mean it's working? If so, then the Seattle duo's latest is a bone-rattlin', landlord-alertin' success. The band's first proper non-collaborative record in over five years, Kannon may well be their heaviest offering yet.
Sunn O)))’s latest is an existential mirror covered in hoarfrost. Each of the LP’s three tracks is vast and indifferent, beckoning the mind to project its own imagery onto the aural canvas. Via Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson’s hopeless droning, these images are then reflected back in horrifically mutated forms. While the band’s past two releases, Soused and Terrestrials, were collaborative works, Kannon is Sunn O)))’s first solo LP since 2009’s stunning and masterful Monoliths And Dimensions.
Sunn O))) — Kannon (Southern Lord)&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://sunn. bandcamp. com/album/kannon"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Kannon by SUNN O)))&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;The image of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson precedes them.
Selling Sunn O))) to the uninitiated can be a little tough — glacially paced, gut-rumbling drones, with vocals that clawed their way out of your most terrifying nightmares, are not what the typical listener is looking for when it’s time to put a record on the turntable. But for those that are willing to step beyond the realms of contemporary form and traditional concepts of music, Sunn O))) is a sure bet. Over the course of 17 years and seven albums, Sunn O))) has become one of the avant-garde’s most esteemed acts, bridging the worlds of metal and experimental music while amassing a cult following like few others.
With all this festive merriment and commercially viable pop music filling the air, this seems like the time of year in which you’d be least likely to expect a new album from Seattle doom metal twosome Sunn O))). But here we are. Over the past few years Sunn O))) have made a habit of finding inspiration through collusion. The arch collaborators have set some impressive sonic presidents by teaming up with a diverse range of artists - from Scott Walker (Soused) to Ulver (Terrestrials) - but Kannon, the band’s seventh studio album, sees Sunn O))) taking a more independent approach and stands as the first ’solo’ Sunn O))) album since 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions.
The band Sunn O))) creates theater of and about sound. Its performances involve the expert handling of sustained low frequencies. These are made primarily by Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, with electric guitars and amplifiers, through drumless processionals of notes and chords in an improvised crawl. During a public interview in New York with Red Bull Music Academy two years ago, Mr.