Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Live Review: SUNN O))), BORIS

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 
The Hi-Fi Bar

Once the straggling stream of punters that coursed down Swanston Street were within the tight confines of the Hi Fi, it was clear just what an inadvertent definition of 'stoner rock' we made. Almost exclusively dressed in black, mid-20s average age, lots of hair and grudging movement (except within a 5 meter radius of the merch desk which was swamped). This is just as well as the noise made by openers Boris give anyone not standing stoutly cause to cower (one girl does actually collapse, though this may have been related to a pre-existing medical condition). Kicking off with gentle arpeggios from the elegant twin-neck guitar fiend Nakata, Atsuo's spatially generous drumming and our first example of the almighty-sustained guitar lines of Wata, one of the more stylish people to ever don a Gibson Les Paul, Red builds on the tension already thick as the dry ice. Watching Boris move this dense fog of ice with their heavy frequencies and Atsuo's formidable drumming and gong-work adds a visual dimension that works brilliantly. This Boris gig sits part way between their experimental and psych-rock tangents, often thrillingly moving from one to the other. Atsuo's shrieks puncture the carefully constructed dronescape which sporadically bursts into thunderous riffage as on Blackout. Much of the gig is made up of tracks off 2006's lauded Pink album, the close with it's opening track Farewell which brings wintry textures to a fiery conclusion over 10 minutes and leaves punters bellowing for more.

More is exactly what Sunn O))) deliver. More volume, more brain-shaking drone, more theatrics, more bass and all in what is more a ceremony than gig. Making a greater and more convincing case for introducing slowness into our lives than Milan Kundera ever did, Sunn O))) and their guests (Attila Csihar from Mayhem on vocals, Atsuo on gong, Oren Ambarchi on guitar and Tos Niewenhuizen on keyboard) are clearly well-versed in sound as sonic weaponry and toy with the brown note all night. After a long wait in which Atsuo's gong is moved stage-right, masks are hung from amps, and presumably the stage is reinforced with concrete several times, hooded figures slowly file out into the dry ice, hemmed in by 6 foot of amps.

The first note played sends seismic pulses through the room and people mouthing "holy FUCK!" at each other. This note is held what seems like minutes before the three guitars are raised and brought down again with an opposing note issuing forth for double damage, allowing the overtones to wreck havoc. This is where the real majesty of Sunn O))) lies; what is within the notes. Only at this level could you really hear what sound is made up of and it's a fascinating and draining experience. This ritualistic slaughter of eardrums (the redundancy of earplugs cannot be overstated when frequencies this low and loud are being played; the body is numbed and senses are simply deadened by this colossal, uninterrupted blast) is aided by Atsuo who comes out, stands with his arm raised, wrist limp and gazing at it for several minutes before picking up a mallet and beating the gong until collapsing. Several half-hearted crowd-surfing attempts later, Attila joins, barking forth a rasping wheeze of a vocal contribution which adds brilliantly to the atmosphere of a dread force. At precisely 1AM the assault ceases, the drained masses cheer, and tinnitus as loud as the gig fills the brain and won't let us leave this gig for days.

As the guy behind me said: "There needs to be more gigs that are just walls of amplifiers". There may be, but few will be as colossal as this.

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