July 05, 2007

SUNN O))) / Earth / Weedeater, The Independent, SF, 7/4/07.

1. This was my second sold-out show on a weekday (the first was the amazing Battles show, sold out on a Monday night). I arrived too late for Wolves in the Throne Room, a shame.

2. Weedeater: trio playing big lunkhead stoner riffs for the trucker cap and Bud (and bud) crowd. Most hardcore rock-and-roll moment: the lead singer / bassist (Dixie Collins from Bongzilla) turns to one side, proceeds to casually vomit at his feet, and continues playing as if nothing happened.

3. The first time I saw Earth was with the mighty lineup of Circle / Merzbow / Growing. And I thought they were rather dull before, though they must have been touring right after Hex came out. This time there was less fuzz, with Dylan Carlson creating entrancing desert soundscapes with his guitar.

4. And finally, SUNN O))). The setting: a fortress of amps, fog machines running full tilt, colored spotlights barely able to cut through the clouds of smoke. The players: five musicians in monks' robes. (Later the lead vocalist would return wearing a cowl and what looked like a bloody potato sack.) And the sound -- I could compare it to pinning your ears to a jet engine, but I've never done that myself. At some points I could feel a breeze on the hairs of my left arm -- and realized that the "breeze" was coming from the speakers. I can't emphasize enough the physicality of sound as a crucial element in SUNN O)))'s concert; I left the venue feeling pummeled and physically exhausted, though I was hardly moving. The series of YouTube videos from SUNN O)))'s Berlin concerts should give you a good idea, though they're not foggy enough. =)

The "set" itself is one long epic sludgy piece, but there's a beginning and end, to be sure. Guttural Lovecraftian chanting and cymbal scraping at the beginning; ear-piercing caterwauling and decaying piano at the end; time collapsing vertiginously in a black hole of bass rumble and guitar feedback in between.

(If this were an Italian horror film, the ministrations of the servant-monks would cause the altar of amps to crack open with an earthshaking roar, with the audience members convulsing in ecstasy and voiding their bladders in pure holy terror. Shafts of light would pierce through the opening, instantly blinding the audience, but not before they are bestowed with the vision of the gibbering, blind idiot god on its throne.)

SUNN O))) is clearly aware of the theatricality of their very deliberate musical gestures: raise the guitar pick high in the air, lifting it up for all the congregation to see, and bringing it down on the guitar with a flourish. Yes, it's cheesy and obvious, but such is the nature of ritual and worship. And if ritual's function is to unite its participants in collective, transcendent solidarity, SUNN O))) did just that: for 30 minutes (or 60 minutes, or 120 minutes, who knows), everything -- ribcage, cardiac muscle, nasal septum, bass, speakers, walls, everyone -- was vibrating and trembling as one.

Posted by the wily filipino at July 5, 2007 07:34 PM

Man, I am PRAYING that Battles come down to Australia. Mirrored is freaking amazing. Nice blog chief.

Posted by: Evol Kween on July 11, 2007 05:05 AM

Thanks, Evol Kween. Yes, Battles was just amazing. They mostly played stuff from "Mirrored" though (I think I still prefer those first few EPs). Tyondai Braxton was fun to watch, especially with all those processed vocal parts, but the real hero of the evening was John Stanier. Just an amazing drummer. Makes me want to pick up a Helmet CD so I can hear what else he's done.

p.s. I actually really liked "Hostel," but *loved* "Haute Tension."

Posted by: the wily filipino on July 12, 2007 10:24 PM
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