No staccato-style guitar riffs but chords, heavily distorted, slowly moving forward. Like bricks and grit that are poured into the ears of the listener. Welcome to the drone metal of Sunn O))). Minimal music made with maximum means. Minimal when it comes to changes in tempi and chord progressions. Maximum when it comes to the use of instrumental and vocal forces: guitars, accompanied by violins, cellos, trumpets and a choir. But minimal music is perhaps not the right term to use here because the absence of changing time signatures and changing chords every few seconds does not leave us with soundscapes that are short on ideas. Although this music draws on repetition this is not the Philip Glass copy-paste routine; music in which the curiosity towards the next note has vanished. The musical landscape of Sunn O))) is an organic hatch. It breaths, not unlike orchestral music, and is more versatile in composition that you will give it credit for at first hearing.
The musical landscapes of Sunn O))) are breathing, not unlike orchestral music
Their Monoliths & Dimensions is in my CD player for some time now. I simply can't stop listening to it. The music on this album is like a symphony in four movements. Eine symphonie des Grauens. A painting in black and grey. It's music for all moments of the day though. And music that works, like all good music does, on all volumes. In the morning it is, played on low volume, like a growling hound that's slowly waking up. A bit like the dragon that is disturbed in his sleep by Siegfried. But the dragon here is served by more than just a simple leitmotiv. More a leporello of a leitmotiv. A simple theme unfolded and expanded in time. Slow and heavy chords drifting in an ocean of stone and rock in the first movement: Agartha (like the Miles Davis album named after the legend city in Earth's core). The vocal lines for the choir in the second movement: Big Church have a neo-classical touch to it, say Schönberg's "Friede auf Erden" or Ligeti's "Requiem". When the choral singing starts in "Big Church" the beast illuminates. The dragon is gaining conscious or (in reference to the album's title and the movie 2001: Space Odyssey) the monkey has touched the monolith. An illumination short lived because in the third movement: Hunting & Gathering a grunted voice takes us back deep into the primal mind. With the trumpet in the fourth movement: Alice we reach the conclusion, the next evolutionary stage. Here the beast becomes civilized and the music, finally, shed some light. It's like the slaying of the dragon, PETA-style. With trumpets instead of swords.
It was around 1340 that the poet Petrarca noticed, walking on the Mount Ventoux, that the landscape he witnessed influenced the thoughts that were on his mind. Thus he advised everybody to take a good stroll, once in a while, for the benefit of an uplifting spirit. Nietszche sad "Yeah right!" more than 500 years later and added to Petrarca's finding that everybody should make his own landscape. For that landscape we don't need to leave our chairs anymore because we enjoy the benefits of recorded sound. Nothing better than music to give your imagination a boost and create landscapes in the mind. Wondering through mystical worlds of sound that marvel the brain, relief the mind and bring in new ideas. With the musical landscapes of Sunn O)))'s Monoliths & Dimensions that is no different. It's a marvelous and transcedental record.