The massive wave-pools Sunn O))) create are more akin to the precisely oscillating soundscapes of minimalist drone composer Tony Conrad than some flint-fingered pseudo-Sabbath acolytes.
Tapping into complex compositional practices without ditching metal's compelling visual aesthetic, the L.A./New York duo excavates and expands the genre, remapping its coordinates with the lowest frequencies imaginable, in the process mutating its compositional scope: an insistent, visceral buzz transforms sludge drifts into chiropractic chords that strike like thunder cracks. Loud though rarely harsh, the sounds start low, intensifying incrementally until they've transformed the entire listening area into a dank chamber teeming with elegant sustain. Adding to the sensory overload of the Sunn O))) experience, the duo obscures themselves in clouds of thick fog, dressing in hooded robes, periodically thrusting guitars toward the sky.
Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley formed the band in 1998, continuing a long-term collaboration after the 1997 demise of their previous group, Burning Witch (Anderson had left in '96 to form Goatsnake). Following the 2005 release of their sixth album, Black One, the two became unlikely crossovers. The black-metal inflected record, legitimately their best proper album to date, garnered New York Times coverage, Reichian exegesis in Artforum, shows at the Walker Art Center, and interviews for Swedish National TV and radio. Arguably it also sparked increased interest in USBM and avant black metal, something that's also been fostered via Anderson's Southern Lord record label, which has released and reissued important records by Craft, Lurker Of Chalice, Nortt, Xasthur, Striborg, Twilight (as well as non-black metal acts like Earth, Oren Ambarchi, Thrones, and The Hidden Hand).
O'Malley, who has been a well-regarded graphic designer since the mid-'90s, has lent distinct architectural deconstructions to Southern Lord (and other) album covers, flyers, advertisements, and clothing. Sunn 0))) has stepped further into the art world through collaborations with modern-gothic salt-sculptor Banks Violette, including the Six Channel Bleed piece in Rodolf Jansenn Gallery in Brussels and a major work at Maureen Paley in London. They are currently working together for a two gallery show in New York for June 07 at Barbara Gladstone and Team Galleries. Additionally, O'Malley recently completed a forthcoming theater piece with French director-choreographer Gisèle Vienne, the author Dennis Cooper, and laptop destroyer Peter Rehberg, a.k.a. Pita.
-Brandon Stosuy, 0407