Music Reviews

Sunn O))) Pyroclasts

(Southern Lord Recordings) Rating - 6/10

Even if Sunn 0))) never stopped releasing new music, the unveiling of Life Metal qualified as a return to form for the duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson. Recorded live to tape with the production assistance of Steve Albini, the Seattle experimental drone act brought the focus back to themselves—celebrating twenty years together, it was an opportunity for them to recapture their essence after a series of collaborations that felt tangential to their scalding miasma of sound. Albini proved to be the right engineer for the job, given that his theoretical approach to music theory goes in harmony with the duo's careful attention to amplification.

It's necessary to note that Pyroclasts, their second full-length album in 2019, is essentially a practice session disguised as a cleverly-packaged companion piece. Conceptualized during the same sessions that produced its predecessor, the duo (alongside frequent collaborator Tos Nieuwenhuizen, multi-instrumentalist Hildur Guðnadóttir, and bassist Tim Midyett) improvised a series of 12-minute recordings as a way to decompress—even as far as using a stopwatch to set some boundaries. Its four compositions complement each other, subtly melding into each other while retaining a sense of uniformity.

Even considering Sunn O)))'s strict adherence to ambient noise, Pyroclasts serves as an outline for a more ambitious project—and we already got the final result five months ago. Granted, the duo always scatters a few notable ideas that resonate beyond the barest execution. From the undulating guitar passages found in Kingdom (G) to the thrumming, feedback-drenched scorn of Ampliphædies (E), they always get to the heart of the matter—regardless of whether or not they choose to broaden their instrumental palette. To an extent, it may sound like just another day at the office for Sunn O))). Nevertheless, this team-building exercise is still more compelling than whatever employee engagement activity your day job offers.