Stephen O’Malley

L Magazine vs SUNN O)))

Posted: Sep 24, 2009

sonic brain sauna

I arrived in time to see Earth and Sunn O))). I am a long-time follower of both acts, and am perhaps biased in my fanatical review:

With a venue as grand as the Brooklyn Masonic Temple's massive hall, and an 8-foot-tall wall of fully restored vintage Sunn amps, there was no way I could have prepared myself for the sonic brain sauna that was last night.

Unlike any music venue in NYC, the Temple has absolutely no sound restrictions on its performers. That means that a band that has spent its entire career attempting to reach the lowest possible sonic limits at maximum volumes could finally reach its full live potential.

Earth soothed the audience with rich and clean guitar drones, the entire band slowly trudging through each measure and occasionally fooling the audience into thinking a song was over, when in fact it just took THAT LONG to reach the next bar. The overall effect was that of being lulled off to some ominous desert at dusk, the horizon disappearing into starry night as guitars echoed through the endless landscape.

Sunn O))) was next. Notorious for testing their audience's patience, the band played an elaborate trick on us. I was sitting smack dab in the center of the balcony, with a full view of the enormous hall. The stage lights dimmed and a recording of tibetan throat chants and percussion played over the house speakers. Dense fog emerged from the base of the un-peopled stage slowly, and over the course of 15 minutes, the entire hall was transformed from an already muggy dark room to a smoke filled sauna. In all honesty, all was rendered invisible and I could not see past two people to either side of me.

As the stage was hidden by fog, it took a moment to realize that the tape of the chanting faded out into an identical live rendition of the tibetan throat singing, provided by long-time Sunn collaborator, Attila Csihar, and seat-rumbling percussion and cymbals. The effect was a little too eerie for some, and a third of the balcony and floor dwellers left the venue before Sunn began their actual set.

Nothing can describe the physical sensation caused by the first rip of Sunn's guitars. The soaring feedback and barreling drop-B drones sent tremors through my entire body. For a moment, I was convinced that I was having a seizure and that I needed medical attention. After a good fifteen minutes of this, the guitars fell almost silent. Attila's draconian voice emerged from the silence, intoning an ancient riddle from Agartha (the opening track to Sunn's recent release, "Monoliths & Dimensions"). Green and Blue beams of light illuminated the fog as it shifted and casted swirling forms into the air above the crowd. This was not a concert. It was a full-on sensory incantation.

My reptile brain took over shortly after this point, so I'm afraid I cant very well recall what happened for the remainder of the show, but I ensure you:

Whether it be electronic current or plain-out sorcery, SunnO))) have succeeded in giving their audience a complete religious experience.

-Zev David Deans