SunnO))) Set to Work Eating the Universe on Monoliths and Dimensions

This also looks way cooler in person.Normally They should do a show here and release it on DVD. (Photo by Gisele Vienne)I don’t buy into the whole vinyl-sounds-better thing. I agree there’s something to the experience of purchasing a record and certainly the artwork is bigger, but in terms of the actual sound, while I’ll grant that analog and digital sound different, since most turntables run through a digital amplifier before they reach the speakers anyway and even if not, the disparity is negligible, usually I chalk it up to marketing bullshit or a reactionary hipster trend flying in the face of the rise of digital media. Take that, Apple.

That said, there’s a feeling of self-infliction you get when putting the needle to any of the four sides of the 2LP version of SunnO)))‘s Monoliths and Dimensions (as ever, on Southern Lord) that I genuinely don’t believe would carry over with a CD, mp3 or whatever other format you choose. Aside from each of the four tracks demanding you to make sure you’re on the right speed (it goes 33, 45, 45, 33rpm) — if nothing else a clever way to make sure the listener is paying attention to what they’re hearing — the ritualistic feeling of quietly changing sides after each song makes you feel more of a part of it, like you’re in your very own grimmrobe, or at very least in a room filled with smoke-machine fog.

More monoliths (Photo by Gisele Vienne)Whether you previously thought of core SunnO))) duo Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson as experimental geniuses or unlistenable noisemakers, Monoliths and Dimensions isn’t likely to change your mind, but the scope of the album is mind-boggling. From the slow, throaty croaking Attila Csihar spoken word and Italian horror string-scratches that unfold on “Aghartha” to the chorus work and trademark Anderson/O’Malley riffing of “Big Church (Megszents?gtelen?thetetlens?gesked?seitek?rt),” Csihar’s encompassing bleakness blending with the chorus, keys and horns on “Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)” and the near-hopeful mood that caps off “Alice,” on which more melodic drones meet French and English horns, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and harp (and that’s just the start of it), it is massive undertaking that pays dividends in the new ground broken. I cannot imagine the hell that must have been the mixing process.

Even to list all the guests on Monoliths and Dimensions — the likes of Earth‘s Dylan Carlson and Steve Moore, Oren Ambarchi and the choirs, double-bassists, composers, etc. — is to only state a fraction of the sensory overload, because all of these things and people, as though being sucked into a supermassive black hole, And the close up. (Photo by Gisele Vienne)become SunnO))). They are absorbed into it and emit radiation in the form of these songs that we here on this planet can only attempt to track and understand. Csihar‘s presence is like that of a cruel overseer, servant of the drone, leading you down passages whose darkness originates in a time before light, the walls dripping water from unknown sources to pool at your feet. It is beautifully malevolent.

On their seventh LP, SunnO))) have forged a temple. Whether you worship in it is up to you, but for the experience alone, when properly induced, Monoliths and Dimensions is wholly unique, a many-layered and textured work of art before which many will cower for years to come.

Southern Lord Recordings

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