29 June 2008

Album of the Week: Sunn O))) - White1

The Brainchild of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, Sunn O))) (pronounced simply "sun") plays a brand of music unlike anything you're likely to have heard before. Sunn O))) takes the lumbering and heavy sound pioneered by Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Pentagram and takes it to a new, earthshaking extreme.

Released in 2003, White1 is one of Sunn O)))'s more accessible efforts, although it still requires a pretty open mind to listen to and appreciate. Despite clocking in at just under an hour of playing time, the album features only three tracks. As you might imagine, these are long, slow and heavy. Like all of Sunn O)))'s outings, White1 is a slow, plodding behemoth--unlike most other forms of music, riffs here can take several minutes to develop, and they are crushingly heavy.

The album begins with "My Wall", a twenty-five minute piece throughout which runs a lengthy (big surprise, there) poetic monologue, written and delivered by Julian Cope, that is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot in his more nihilistic moments. Indeed, Sunn O))) is the kind of music that is ideally suited to accompany Eliot's poetry. "The Gates of Ballard" is next, opening with a recitation of "HÃ¥vard Hedde" (a traditional Norwegian Folk song) before giving way to a Sleep-esque bass riff. This is also one of the few Sunn O))) songs to employ percussion. "A Shaving of the Horn that Speared You" closes out the album with an eerie and unsettling ambient passage.

I'll be honest: I wasn't thrilled the first time I listened to Sunn O))). You might not be, either. Therefore, let me pass on to you a piece of advice that a wise friend gave me: to be properly enjoyed, Sunn O))) (and indeed all Drone Doom Metal) must be played loud. Maximum volume for maximum results, so the saying goes. To that, I would add that a good sound system is necessary. A good subwoofer is crucial, though with a pair of decent headphones one can still appreciate the music. Sunn O))) sounds godawful on laptop speakers (actually, this is true of all music, but especially so of Drone Doom).

White1 is probably the best place to start for those who are new to Sunn O))), as it contains "Gates of Ballard", one of their faster and more accessible songs. It takes some patience and an open mind, but an astute listener will find the album to be a rewarding experience (although their neighbors might not think so much of it).

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