Music Reviews
øø Void

Sunn O))) øø Void

(Southern Lord) Rating - 6/10

There's something of Rothko about Sunn O))) records. Both work/worked with big canvases (quite literally so in Rothko's case), eschewing details in favour of bold, smudgy washes (at first glance at least) and both are open to charges to of “I/my kid/my dog could do that”, and, even more damningly, of being a bit too 'samey'. Which is a problem that definitely affects this reissue of the band's debut album proper.

Like Rothko, there's something profoundly, physically effective about the art created by Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson. It's not necessary to be able explain the effect of their music, or to even enjoy it, it's instead all about how it hits in unexpected ways. Play opening track Richard through a decent pair of headphones and the reverberating waves of bass-heavy sound feel like they're scraping away the inside of your skull (attempting to listen to it while sleep deprived is an almost hallucinatory experience), before what almost could be a melody comes in on the higher end, presumably to target any hearing registers that hadn't already been fucked with. While not entirely pleasant, it's an experience that's worth the price of admission on its own.

The rest of the album is slightly less abusive, and conversely slightly less fun. NN O))) starts in practically the same way as Richard (which doesn't help allay suspicions that the band is a bit repetitive), but then dials things back a little, instead choosing to offer some eerie distant yodeling here and there. Rabbit's Revenge is a track that's probably a bit more interesting in theory than it is in practice being a 'cover' of Melvin's Hung Bunny. Not that anybody would be able to tell if it hadn't been pointed out though, as Anderson and O'Malley really do a number on it, stretching it out and adding more sludge, to what was a fairly sludgy song to start with. It's an interesting way for the band to assert their own individuality while acknowledging their obvious forefathers, but it's so determined to be unpleasurable by burying and effectively disposing of the best moments of Hung Bunny, particularly its drum-line, that it's doubtful that anybody would choose it over the original. Closer Ra at Dusk is almost pacey by Sunn O))) standards, with its chugging guitars suggesting a march into hell, but it's still drawn-out and sluggish by practically anybody else's (this, of course, is an essential part of their charm, but it's also what makes them be seen as a bit of a difficult prospect).

Anybody interested in the possibilities of music needs some Sunn O))) in their life but, to be honest, probably a couple of their records would suffice. While there's nothing about øø Void that suggests it couldn't be one of those – it does see the band still refining the raw materials of their sound, but as they still sound pretty raw even when they're at their most developed that doesn't really matter – it doesn't stand out as an obvious choice. What it offers is merely four bursts of challenging (but interesting) noise, and when compared to the relative accessibility of Black One, the Nordic-inspired experimenting of White1 or the polish of Monoliths and Dimensions or Altar, their collaboration with Boris, that doesn't seem like the most appealing of offerings. On the other hand, there're no druidic witterings from Julian Cope, nor impenetrable growls from half man/half tree Attila Csihar, so that's bound to be a plus in someone's book.