23 05 2009

Aquarius Records on Monoliths & Dimensions

SUNN O))) "Monoliths and Dimensions" (Southern Lord) cd 15.98
The first thing we thought when we threw this on, was, man, it's gonna be pretty tough to top Domkirke. The last SUNNO))) release, vinyl only, found the duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley recording their low end Earth worshipping drone symphonies in an actual cathedral, incorporating the cathedral's church organ. Hard to imagine anything heavier.
For Monoliths and Dimensions, the duo drafted in all sorts of extra help. The usual suspects sure, Attila Csihar on vocals, guitarist Oren Ambarchi, but also, a veritable orchestra, French horns, violas, piano, hydrophone, English Horn, Conch Shell, double bass, and that's just on album opener "Aghartha", which on first listen sounds like the SUNNO))) of old, all churning low end, slow motion glacial riffage, but as the track progresses, the heavy riffage peels back, revealing, a sea of moaning horns, Csihar's haunting intoned vocals, creaks and groans, and the actual sound of water (the hydrophone?), eventually getting super abstract and minimal, before fading out completely.
"Big Church" featues four guitarists (Ambarchi, O'Malley, Anderson and Earth's Dylan Carlson) as well as trombone, trumpet, organ, tubular bells and a choir!!! The choir giving the track a definite Arvo Part vibe, haunting and choral, drifting ethereally over the slow burning rumble of the multiple guitars, before locking into a strangely melodic almost slowcore creep.
"Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)" featueres yet another expanded lineup, this time including a "Man choir", the track begins all standard doom, crushing lugurbrious riffage, growled gurgeled vokills, but the man choir's deep haunting chant adds a whole other dimension, creating a sort of choral doom hybrid, much like the other track, but this one remains much darker and heavier.
Finally, the record closes with Alice, this time with horns AND strings, and the song that probably is most responsible for describing this record as "SUNNO))) with strings". It starts out all woozy and twangy like some nineties slowcore jam, except for the Morricone-ish horn swells, the guitar crunches few and far between, the sound quite spare and skeletal, and weirdly enough, downright pretty, a shuffling slow motion drift, the whole thing surprisingly melodic, and spacious, quite possibly one of the loveliest (and most unlikely) SUNNO))) tracks yet.
SUNNO))) have done wonders with their limited sonic pallete, who would have thought a one time Earth cover band would have survived this long, and resulted in such an impressive body of original work, but the group have grown and expanded and explored, they manage to incorporate all manner of sounds and textures and guest players, to realize their ultimate vision, while somehow keeping the core sound intact. We only just got this in, and we've been listening to it like crazy (which should tell you something), and the more we hear it, the more we dig it, especially that last track. Quickly becoming one of our fave SUNNO))) discs...
Incredible packaging as always. Deluxe booklet, exquisitely designed, with lyrics, lineups, diagrams, photos, illustrations, some of the pages vellum, all housed in a transparent printed vellum slipcover.


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