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Review originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a drone fan and despite being seven albums into their career the apparent pinnacle of the genre, this is my first exposure to the duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’ Malley.
However, what intrigued me about this release and prompted me to check Sunn O))) out for the first time was reading that this release included a plethora of guest musicians which have introduced some new elements to Sunn O)))’s sound. Composer and violinist Eyvind Kang contributes a number of string and choral arrangements, Attila Csihar provides some haunting whispers and spoken words guitar virtuoso and Oren Ambarchi as well as Earths’ Dylan Carlson, trombone legend Julian Priester and horn player Stuart Dempster contribute in conjunction with the addition of French horns, harps, flutes, a piano and a Viennese choir led by Jessika Kenney.
The end result? Nothing less than a brilliant, pure, sensory and musical experience.
I can’t obviously compare Monoliths & Dimensions to the band’s previous six works, but I’ve been told that they are more pure drone compared to this far more adventurous and bold exercise in tectonic shifting experimentation and hypnotic, droning beauty.
Starting with the 17 and ½ minute “Agartha” which is a four note, droning exercise in cavernous, down tuned lethargy layered with discordant orchestration and Csihar’s twisted chanting, the album simply commands your attention as it drags you into a drone filled stupor littered with avant-garde, experimentation, which elevates the drone into more powerful, transcendental, dare I say artistic realms. However, the next track, and personal favorite “Big Church” scatters the mountainous riffs with truly amazing female choirs and more of Csihar’s crazed whispers and chanting. It’s more like an aural ritual than a song. Unfortunately, at a shade under 10 minutes, it’s the albums shortest track. The horns and choirs that appear about two minutes and a ½ into “Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)” take the monolithic droning into regal and epic territory unlike anything you’ve heard and then there’s the vast instrumental “Alice” which initially seems almost barren and desolate compared to the prior three tracks. However, around 7 minutes in, the horns and strings kick in, making the chord progression and shimmering, trombone flocked climax sound triumphant, beautiful and radiant. Just gorgeous.
It should also be noted that I had both the CD and 2 disc vinyl versions of this record, and listening to the vinyl version (the first vinyl I have listened to in over a decade), truly made me appreciate the natural, organic hues that gloss the knee wilting heaviness and how this record was meant to be truly experienced.