Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunn O))): Droners That Do It

Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, the duo known as Sunn O))), don’t play songs as much as they craft noise, piecing together immense dreg-tone guitar chords one after the other. On Metal’s family tree, they exist on a branch opposing the earth-blistering riff-freaks like Motorhead and Metallica; Sunn O))) is simply a purveyor of Drone-Metal, with an approach disposing of just about every convention of composition.

Sunn O))) tracks truly are open for interpretation. Most fans praise the duo for peeling Metal back to its most intrinsic elements and presenting it as music, of which they enjoy for what it is: sustained distorted chords with a variety of overlaying druidic noises ultimately shaping out a dark minimalist trance. On the other hand, naysayers typically sum it up as pretentious, preposterous or just out-and-out bland.

The two, longhaired harbingers met in inner city Seattle in 1991. Sunn O))), named after the amplifier brand and pronounced simply as “Sunn,” came about in 1998 after both played separately in a handful of underground Metal acts across America. Since then, they’ve released seven studio albums under their self-owned Southern Lord label, the latest being 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions, where a worldly cadre of experimental collaborators bring strings, horns and a choir of sirens to the ambiance.

In a 2006 interview with The New York Times Magazine, Stephen O’Malley summed up the three types of attendees of any given Sunn O))) show: the music lovers, the spectacle seekers and then the “people who are more interested in the physical aspect of it … the people who are just like, I'm going to stand at the front of the stage for an hour and a half – can I take it? Will I wet my pants? Will I puke? I'm going to be at the very front, in front of these amps for 75 minutes, and then when it's done I'll feel liberated, or I'll feel like I've beaten the band or whatever, no matter how torturous it is."