Sunn 0))) & Boris
I don't know about you, but when I daydream, my flights of fancy often turn apocalyptic. Not in a terrifying, real end time engagement which would slowly kill you by making everything completely suck; imagine the struggle against omnipresent radiation to obtain a spoiled can of beans that you can horde against the fellow mutants, how every drop of water needs to be boiled and reboiled. And the robots, don't forget the robots. They will run everything with something short of the functional precision those operating things now exhibit, except with a mechanical absence of pity replacing the prevalent fuck-you disdain of the service providers. And you will not get wireless service anywhere, but you ill still get a wireless bill. See? Totally suck.
My daydream apocalypse has more of cartoon Lord of the Rings edge, humanity sharpened to its core flint to battle for a piece of existence. It will not be the constant panic that the real Ragnarok will be, but a relaxed stasis, the perplexing Calm of Certain Doom. Now I know this kind of musing is the privilege of someone who doesn't experience much real lethal adversity in one's day-to-day. I had a co-worker that grew up in a bombed village in Iran and would every once in a while douse the flame of our honky mithering with but a dram of what she knew of The Real Deal. So no, my fields of the damned exist solely in my psychological makeup and I like them to stay there. Fortunately, I am not alone in this struggle to at once flee and embrace the inner Darkness. I have Sunn 0))) and Boris on my side.
These two groups are the two most welcome additions to my musical life over the last couple years. Sunn 0))) with their magma flows of raging caveman obliteration, strips away the pulse and the melody so that the gale of doom can rage through you unabated. Boris, the three headed hydra of rock from Japan may be the best power rock boogie stormtrooper since the MC5, but are also masters of the grey cloud, able to harness the riffs and feedback they usually hitch to their death wagon into impenetrable tangles of dense fog and heat lightning (see the 65-minute feedback enchilada that is Absolutego). Both being each other's purported favorite band, the legion of doom that comes from their commingling on Altar is indeed a heavy thing, heavy like if you were pulling into your driveway only to witness the whole of the moon slowly crushing your house. Also, much like that very spectacle, it is rather beautiful.
The sunrise of our unfeeling alien overlords comes in "Etna" where a gurgling bowed bass dynamo is slowly pedaled up to speed by the underworld slave caste while harsh swaths of light cut against locusts swarming in the sky. The drumkit ripples and shimmers under all this weight but like a defiant baby giraffe dropped unceremonious form a height, quickly gains its unsteady footing. As it builds up speed, I almost expect the patent YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH from the Boris side of the chapel, but vocals take on a different role in this dark hall. The notable exception is "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep) an echoey ballad (yes, a Sunn 0))) ballad) featuring a deliciously narcoleptic Jesse Sykes (of the "and the Sweet Hereafter" fame) out-doing her best Hope Sandoval. This diversion into songhood is duly replaced with the 60-cycle hum of "Akuma No Kuma" which could almost be a half speed outtake from Kraftwerk's meditation on nuclear proliferation "Uranium" or possibly the proper soundtrack for the erection of the Fortress of Solitude in the first Superman movie.
"Fried Eagle Mind" gets to the business of massive psyche bummer immersion for which I am an eager customer. It's like the room fills with squid ink as you let this track seep around you, like Brian Eno on some expired peyote. Wata from Boris guides your nocturnal trip to the trenches with stretched out whispers, and barely discernable creature brush around you in the murk.
All varying guises of stillness, of doom are donned on this record, bypassing the common complaint that all Sunn 0))) material sounds the same. But, as on any Sunn 0))) joint, the final track proves that the damnation that came before it is merely an appetizer. "Bloodswamp" starts its 13 minute run with the most baleful, loneliest guitar licks, suffering under the massive pressure of the cosmos slowly collapsing around you. This is what I'm talking about when my daydreams are apocalyptic. Imagine this track as the sound of all the trees bending away, of the sky falling in continental chunks. Event horizon shit. I always maintain that Sunn 0))) is headphones music, but I would love to hear this crank in a blimp hangar or something like that, so I could feel the actual impact of the tectonic dismemberment afoot. I understand it's the feeling one gets at one of their gigawatt performances, right before the searing clinch of your bowels unraveling. But since this particular shadow of death has yet to be cast on my corner of the map, I will have to suffice with imaging everything going gloriously to shit from the subatomics on up with this fantastic disc spinning away on the sharp edge of my bleached, withered bones.
(Alex V. Cook's book of rocknroll observations, 'Darkness, Racket and Twang' is available now from the SideCartel)
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com