There's a remark in the annals of music history that Igor Stravinsky once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that Antonio Vivaldi didn't write 685 concertos, but he wrote one concerto 685 times. For outsiders, it's assumed the same can be said for the Cali/NY duo Sunn 0))); on the surface, the group has been recording the same method of attack for five albums now. Riffs drive straight to the spine, embedded in a sea of deafening volume and minimalist approach. But once beneath the murky sludge, cloaked guitarists Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's wide terrain becomes more evident.
The group's appropriately titled White 2 serves as a bookend for last year's sprawling White 1. Heshers abound with jaws agape, the group took a subversive turn by focusing more on ambience (hence "white"), and abandoning the atonal riffs that crushed so many subwoofers on previous outings. An emphasis on vocals (thanks to weirdo mouthpiece Julian Cope and former Burning Witch eye candy/throat terror Runhild Gammelsaeter) and the occasional dusty drum-machine beat make for a new kind of doom, more open ended and nocturnal than anything a reshaped Sabbath riff could yield.
"Hell-0)))-Ween" revisits the ideas of yore, as a bed of turgid riffs lumber down your body like earthworms through dirt. This is the Sunn 0))) that brings to mind said Stravinsky quote; the kind of endurance test that was birthed by Tony Conrad, and revitalized for longhaired outcasts by The Melvins. Wise move on the duo's part to get it out of the way for more risky, but extraordinary delights. "bassAliens" has been the opening trademark of the last two Sunn 0))) tours, and in recorded form, it's reminiscent of the besetting paranoia while witnessing a stage – nay, a room – overflow with thick smoke and green light. With a repeated guitar phrase that wouldn't sound out of place on John Fahey's Womblife, the group experiments with a careful use of space, allowing touring member Rex Ritter's moog to carefully step in, out and around broken pickups, detuned E-strings, and completely fucked amps. This is the Sunn 0))) that spites said Stravinsky quote, as well as any idea of the exhausted phrase "stoner metal." Instead, it's the stuff that fevers are made of.
The duo aim for the bottom; they go beyond any sense of actual referenced music, and search for the base of sound itself, thus dodging comparisons to Metal, Psychedelia, Experimental, Minimalism, and Noise whilst gaining fans from all fields. In this, their artwork and legion of collaborators, they've created their own universe, one that allows them the pleasure of never saying "uncle" to anyone.
The group's artwork is full of reference to 16th century European gothic paintings, portraits of cheetahs devouring a four-legged prey, even a photo of Ozzy's epilepsy medication. Their choice of collaborators is unpredictable, from obvious contenders Merzbow and Joe "Thrones" Preston, to left-field picks like Petra Haden (daughter of jazz legend Charlie Haden) or Dawn Smithson (formerly of Rex Ritter's psychedelic groove robbers Jessamine). On "Decay 2 (Nihils Maw)," the duo brought in legendary black metal vocalist Attila Csihar (most notably of Mayhem) to – not tell a tale of brutal murder or dark worship – recite verses from the Sanskrit book, The Srimad Bhagavatam. Through Csihar's deep throat-singing and Sunn 0)))'s hellish drone-fuck monsoon, the group has built a bridge that starts with a book well over 5000 years old, meets La Monte Young in the middle, and then dissolves at the feet of black metal. The void beckons."
I'm sure all of you are familiar with SunnO))) but as I listen to this album as I write a paper, I'd much rather post it instead. Stone Age heaviness is the order of the day including that super paranoid doom freakout "bassAliens." I think this is great for studying but you be the judge. Hitherto!