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2009 has been a great year for music: we've gotten new maudlin of the Well, Mono, Wolves in the Throne Room, nadja, Minsk, Fen, ISIS, Altar of Plagues, and so on, meaning that there is much competition as to who will reign as the best artist of 2009. After today, I can safely say that Sunn O)))'s much anticipated "Monoliths & Dimensions" rightfully takes this throne, and only in May. We are five months into 2009 and I am convinced that no one will top this monolithic album.
Over the past few years, Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley's dense creation has evolved many a time, dabbling in ambient, noise, and even some shoegaze-like elements whilst keeping the central "huge drone" aspect a constant, and now, in 2009, this creation as jumped in a fashion that screams "punctuated equilibrium." Enlisting the help of composer Eyvind Kang, drone guitar masters Oren Ambarchi and Dylan Carlson, vocalist extraordinaire Attila Csihar, along with Stuart Dempster and Jessika Kinney, Sunn O))) has transcended what once was; breaking the shackles of the "noisy drone band" title and creating a masterpiece.
In this album we see a more melodic side to Sunn O))), with large, expansive chords and guitar/bass harmony, low, almost gurgling spoken word, throat singing, and even surprises including a choir, a brass band, and what appears to be a full orchestra. Yes, a full orchestra, but not in the symphonic sense -- instead a texture collective, painting vast, lush scenes and dark, void-filled, cavernous sanctuaries.
The highlight of the album is the 16 and-a-half minute closer, "Alice," featuring all of the above collaborators, sans Attila. This sweeping, expansive piece has to be one of the most impressive, if not THE most impressive pieces of music I have ever heard. Dylan Carlson and Oren Ambarchi semi-battle each other with low bass clicks and sparse guitar lines over slowly pulsating strings and brass instruments, all the while the (now slightly) distorted guitars drone on. I am reminded of ambient and minimalist masters William Basinski and Steve Reich throughout this track.
Overall, this album is amazing; I feel crushed and elated simultaneously. Honestly, if they only released "Alice" as an EP, I would still be more than happy with the release.