Okay, yesterday was May Day and I forgot to say anything at all about it. But I have an excuse: it was May Day and I was fully against doing any work whatsoever (except band practice which was quite productive). Anyway, back to the grind...or in this case, not grind at all.
sunnO))) - Black One
Southern Lord Recordings
3 October 2005
This stunning album was released months ago and only recently made it to the office for review. At this point sunnO))) is a fairly legendary outfit in their circle, so followers of drone, doom and sludge probably already have this in their library. However, for those who are less familiar with these guys, you'll notice that I did not call sunnO))) a "band." At least they're not in the traditional sense. That is because there really isn't anything traditional about them. What began as a Steve O'Malley/Greg Anderson side project-cum-tribute to Earth (see review here) is now on their sixth - and apparently darkest - release.
As much as I have known about them and heard bits here and there, this is actually my first full descent into the depths. I guess part of sunnO)))'s original intent was to do live projects that would send audience members straight to the can from sheer low-end power. The intent here seems quite different, though it is difficult to gauge from just listening to a cd. Black One could be more accurately described a soundtrack to an as-yet-unmade horror film. A great listening atmosphere would probably be in a dank basement with a few candles and just your record player - i listened to this album on cd, but it was surely meant for vinyl (it comes in a 4 LP set).
Haunting and incredibly creepy, what feels minimal is really quite complex. There is no percussion, just music comprised of layer upon layer of distortion with notes, buzzes and echos that seem to hold for minutes on end. I must say that there are some truly fantastic guitar tones on here the likes of which i've never heard before. One combines an initial crunch that rings out with incredible sustain while another sounds like the distant buzz of a suburban weekend lawnmower or hedgetrimmer or something. I recently read a short review which trashed Black One, but I think the reviewer came in with completely the wrong attitude. When somebody locks themself inside a casket with a microphone to channel Lady Bathory from beyond the dead, you're not dealing with anything "normal" here. This isn't for everyone, surely, but those with open minds should really get into this stuff.