We will look back at 2019 as the year in which Sunn O))) released as many album as they played chords. 'Pyroclasts' follows 'Life Metal' and is pitched as the earlier record's "shadow album". Presumably this means it will not stop until it has destroyed that which casts it. A bit like Dark Link in Zelda. Heavy and slow, you know the drill.
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How do you like to start the day? How do you get the blood rushing and your brain churning after a night with that dearest of friends, bed? For Greg Anderson, Stephen O’Malley and friends that answer is perhaps all too predictable. When recording ‘Life Metal’, Sunn O))) would start their days with a cheeky improvised drone, and it’s four of those that make up ‘Pyroclasts’.
It makes sense I suppose. Anderson and O’Malley share an almost supernatural connection, and that can only come with lots of practice. While yes, there is a simplicity to their music, it’s also true that nothing ever seems out of place when it comes to the two of them. Every long chord plods along with the exact gait to join its brother. I’m reminded of Makaya McCraven’s ‘In The Moment’, an album that contains edits of over 48 hours of recording. Much like that, ‘Pyroclasts’ offers a fascinating peek behind the creative curtain, a look at just how much work goes into Sunn O)))’s glacial spontaneity.
You wouldn’t know these were warm ups. This is Sunn O))) at their most thrilling. The guitars sound immense and fractal (good work Mr. Albini) and every slight intervention feels as though the earth is breaking in two. Opener ‘Frost’, bolstered by a rare sighting of O’Malley playing the bass, sucks the moisture out of everything it touches. The moment where a more conventional sounding emerges out the drone on ‘Ampliphadies’ somehow makes this most heavy of musics soar.
How do I start the day? A bowl of cereal and a glass of water. But I’m thinking I should try the Sunn O))) method instead.
8/10 Simon 26th October 2019
It’s hard to write about Sunn O))) since their style is singular and, superficially at least, somewhat invariant. A host of collaborators have helped to create a diverse and satisfying back catalogue but 'Pyroclasts' and its twin 'Life Metal see a return to the base Sunn O))) format.
'Life Metal' is really good but I think this album is better- in particular the first two tracks which are right up there with my all time Sunn O))) favourites. In fact 'Frost' might be my favourite of all. Simplicity here is an absolute virtue and by comparison 'Life Meta'l seems, dare I say it, pompous.
A magnificent album and definitely the hidden gem of the two 2019 releases.
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