The intensity of Sunn O)) is something that can only be completely appreciated live. I don’t just mean the music, although it did make my hair follicles vibrate – a unique experience in and of itself. I mean the overall presentation of the band and the music. The black hooded cloaks, the slow, elegant movements, and holding instruments aloft as if praising them for the sound they are creating. To put it simply, it’s beautiful.
I was incredibly moved by the two performances I was able to attend in Florida. In addition, I am grateful for having had the chance to photograph one of them. I wanted the images to convey part of the aesthetic and attention to detail that Sunn O))) and core members Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley have become renowned for creating.
Seeing Sunn O))) is a full sensorial experience. The lights meld from one color to the next throughout a smoke-filled room, and in doing so they create a slightly disorienting yet calming feeling, a chance to bask in deep reds or ocean blues. . The smoke, which pours out during the entirety of the set, isolates each viewer. In essence this gives each person their own unique mix of deprivation and simultaneous stimulation. After coupling that with slow and heavy vibrations that you can feel through the depths of your body – when I say I was moved, I meant it literally – it is slightly jarring to walk out of one of these shows and return to reality.
Sunn O))) is certainly not for everyone. Their performances are on a level that I think some people may not understand. Vibrations so heavy that pieces of the ceiling rain down on your head, smoke so thick it has set off the fire alarm in numerous venues, and a mysterious, shrouded group that lulls the audience into such a drone-trance, it might later suffer withdrawal. Their performances are a form of art and like all art, it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I, however, was nothing short of mesmerized by every moment of their set, and I am sure others shared the sentiment. I have always seen Sunn O))) as a group willing to think outside the box and look for ways to evolve their live experience, whether it be performing in a church or movie theatre or creating a mirrored cloak and spiked crown for singer Attila Csihar to wear at the conclusion of their set. Seriously, you have got to see this cloak, it’s stunning.
Sunn O))) was joined by Big Brave who are now part of the Southern Lord family. When I read that they were joining this tour I was really excited to hear their sound. AU DE LA, their latest release, is a heartfelt, grungy, and melancholic album. Singer Robin Wattie’s sorrowful chanting paired with a spiraling of guitars and slow, purposeful percussion leaves you searching the spaces in between the heavy notes. There is much to experience in the echoing silences of this album. Big Brave will join Sunn O))) again when they continue the next leg of their tour in June, so don’t miss your chance to catch them!
Check out the photos below!
Big Brave (Click on thumbnail to open gallery)