26 Nov 2021 - Thorsten

Drone | Southern Lord | Release date: 26 Nov 2021

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Everybody is talking about creating immersive music. Music to get lost in. Music to forget everything around you to. The only ones who don‘t talk about it are the true masters of really coming up with music you can simply dive into. For you will be caught and held up. SUNN O))) are back with another record and there are only very few bands who can release a live album as something truly unique. Welcome to Metta Benevolence!

One of our writers will probably have read the line-up on this record and will have sung the most famous line for all real-life-deniers - “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”. Okay, let’s get the simple facts out of the way first: Recorded in 2019 at the legendary John Peel Studios in Maida Vale on the invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs for her Samhain show on BBC6’s this performance came right after a concert in the equally legendary Roundhouse and close to the end of their tour supporting their last records Life Metal and Pyroclasts. Anna von Hausswolff and her band had supported the Masters of the Droneyverse on their UK leg of said tour and how Anna also joined the guys for the recording of this performance. Okay, facts done, now let’s get on to the real deal.

When listen to a record with three songs spanning 61 minutes (the last one more than 31 minutes!) one should not that we are not at an 80s revival party. And yes, the performance is tight, perfectly balanced and never disappoints in any way. Of course, nothing can take away from witnessing a live performance by SUNN O))) but they are surely one of the few bands who can really enrapture the listener with a live recording. They are true geniuses at creating those mini-pauses in which the audience really gets a grasp of how tightly woven the wall of sound is. Because in these short moments when the guitars take a short breath before creating another enthralling layer of reverb, distortion and pure sound. Many Drone acts are relying heavily on pure, evil distortion – like trying to punish the listener – that is not the way these guys create their music. The underlying Moog and Synth sounds plus Anna’s amazing voice that shine through in those moments of fresh breath create a feeling of, yes, warm Psychedelia. A certain sunny Americana vibe that teams up very well with her strong voice that serves as another element on the first two tracks, ”Pyroclasts_F” and ”Pyroclasts_C#” with their names already indicating showing their pitch. When ”Pyroclasts_F” had this kind of Psychedelia/Americana vibe, then ”Pyroclasts_C#” shows the closeness between von Hausswolff’s roots in organ music and Ambient music. The organ-like sounds slowly oscillate their way into a sound closer to Ambient. Pretty heavenly!

And then we got the final “track” (or should one call it a suite?) ”Troubled Air” in this version, nearly three times longer than the original – a wet dream for other longtrack-lover. How to describe a song like this? That this track is a perfect, really perfect combination of the best moments from the first two tracks plus much more. The moments when the Moog sounds shine through are a bit longer here, as the guitar parts take a little step back and thus make more room for the rest of the instrumentation and then sometimes the first Moog layer is even overlapped by a second one a little higher, a little more dominant. To me, the best part is the second part when the trombone slowly comes to the foreground of the song, starts its own course and highlights the beauty of slow Drone. Yes, beauty! This version brings them closer to Bohren & der Club Of Gore than they have ever been. And that is surely not the worst comparison. And ”Troubled Air” is closer to John Coltrane than to John Cage. Wonderful.

Anybody who has ever witnessed a live event by SUNN O))) remembers that you can really lean into the sound, the soundwaves are so strong, they sometimes feel like a hard wind on your skin. With this record they show that behind all that strength there is so much beauty. On other records and live the muscular power of the drone kept us up like strong ropes or like a good hard cushion. Now we are being held up by some thin rays of sunshine on which you can gently place yourself and lose yourself on. SUNN O))) show that they are more than the guys who want to hit your stomach, the arrangements on this record also touch your heart. Okay, maybe this is more than real life, this is a fantasy. But don’t wake me up or pinch me, I want to enjoy this record once more from the top.