Monoliths and Dimensions
And finally…. full potential is reached. Even the most ardent doom-fiend would be forgiven for occasionally wondering how much of drone doom band Sunn 0)))’s music is self-replicating or accidental. Flowers of evil blooming from molten feedback, the liberating powers of the infinite chord, or just leaving a guitar too close to an amp for about an hour? In Monoliths & Dimensions, Sunn 0)))’s seventh studio album, Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley shut every doubter up, concisely and lyrically pairing their brutalist approach to music with a commitment to evoking a sadness as old as time itself. And to accomplish that goal, Sunn 0))) has swelled from an ad-hoc gathering of distortion-pedal abusers to a full-on apocalyptic orchestra. Some three dozen musicians contributed to the four mammoth pieces on this album over a period of two years.
The list of collaborators is eye-popping: Dylan Carlson from Earth, Mayhem’s Attila Csihar, trombone player (and John Coltrane collaborator) Julian Priester, the Viennese Women’s Choir, Jessica Kenney, drone guitarist Oren Ambarchi — you’ll also hear upright bass, French horn, harp, flute, and a string ensemble. And I’m leaving people out!
Foreboding and evocative guitar feedback, simmering and straining fiercely, is paired with fever clouds of synth and organ, the lonely peal of horns, the twisting and splintering of stringed instruments, while angelic women’s voices rise and fall around Attila Csihar’s timeless, gnarled growl. Core duo Anderson and O’Malley toil with terrible intent, crafting an awestruck drone like somber, stately chamber music layered over and over with instrumentation from all parts of the musical work. Then, after the feral, Melvins-worshipping trudge of “Hunting + Gathering,” comes one of Sunn 0)))’s most surprising and affecting moments. “Alice” is a tribute to the late wife of John Coltrane, a powerful improviser in her own right. Ebbing waves and pulses of elegiac horns flow slowly into subdued guitar hum and minimal swathes of violin and harp, leading to a lump-in-throat moment as the song draws to an understated close.
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