Sunn O))) at Union Transfer – Submerged in Drone

If you’ve ever been to a Sunn O))) show, you know that the environment overall can feel a bit like being submerged – sinking down to the bottom of a body of water, the pressure building up in your ears and on your body.  It’s beautiful, other-worldly, and about as heavy as you can get.  That’s what I felt as I experienced them for two nights in a row at The Knockdown Center in New York and then at Union Transfer in Philly.  I must be a glutton for their sound, since I signed up for the exact same double-drone when I saw them in Florida about a year ago.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to hear, see, and feel an experience such as this and even for people that may not find this to be their cup of tea, I still would say suck it up and go experience it, it’s transcendental.

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Big Brave

Sunn embarked on this tour once again with support from Big Brave, who hail from Montreal.  I’ve tried numerous times over the last year to describe the sound of Big Brave and words always seem to fail me.  I end up mumbling out thoughts and adjectives and then disagreeing with myself, and wind up saying “just listen to them.”  Between the heavy, almost tribal drums provided by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard, punctuated by distant yet commanding vocals from Robin Wattie, this trio really has a sound that is completely their own and impossible to ignore.  My respect for them has grown each time I’ve seen them live. I also love how self-effacing and grateful they seem towards their fans and towards the members of Sunn O))) – it just seems like they take none of it for granted.

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Big Brave

After Big Brave’s set at Knockdown, a brief transitional period and an intermission long enough to allow the room to fill with fog, a singular figure could vaguely be seen shuffling across the stage to take his place at the microphone waiting in the center.  It was there, alone in a sea of fog that Attila began singing.  In the stillness that ensued, no one seemed to notice the rest of the band taking the stage, until the lights lifted ever so slightly and more shadows began to emerge.  Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson then joined in with their heavily distorted and reverberating guitars which I immediately felt all the way to my marrow.  

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Sunn O)))

The next hour plus was a meditative blur, and I found myself torn between taking pictures and just closing my eyes and letting the waves wash over me.   Also the realization that if it were me on stage, I would constantly trip on my cloak, eat shit, and embarrass everyone in the band.  While I may have cat-like reflexes by day, by fog I am a shuffling nightmare of tragedy who will most likely take anyone nearby down with me.  

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Sunn O)))

Somehow these cloaked figures have learned the navigational skills that will probably elude me forever, and seamlessly disappeared and re-emerged in the foggy shadows as various combinations of members held the stage.  As the fog began to dissipate slightly, with a gentle nudge from Anderson, Attila disappeared to prepare for the final act – one I can’t help but stand in awe of every time I experience it.  If you have seen the mirrored cloak and spiked crown, perhaps you understand where I’m coming from and can identify.  It’s basically a work of performance art and I try to photograph it as such, waiting for just the right movement of Attila’s laser-clad hand or the moment when everyone on stage has their hands and instruments stretched to the sky.   

Check out the images below! (Click on the image to open gallery)

Big Brave

 

Sunn O)))

Sunn O))) – Sound Waves for Days

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!

-SKC Photo-

 

Big Brave (Click on thumbnail to open gallery)

 

Sunn O))) (Click on thumbnail to open gallery)