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December 22, 2005

{     Sunn O))) at The Knitting Factory New York City 12.21.05     }    

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The transit strike, in full effect here in New York City, forced me to get a bike yesterday after walking 78 blocks in the 20-degree weather at 8am to get to work. It also almost led me to flake on the tickets I bought to see tonight's Sunn O))) show at the Knitting Factory. But I couldn't miss possibly the most unique sound in extreme music today, no matter what the state of the subways. So at 9:45pm I left 108th and Broadway.

Worried I'd be late I zoomed down Central Park West, through Columbus Circle, across 54th to 5th down past Rockefeller Center, over to Park Avenue, through Union Square, to Broadway and from there all the way down to Church and Leonard. Man was it cold. My fingers: scalded icicles under my gloves, my legs: boiling jello. Time check: 10:20. Phew! I made it on time. I was psyched. I locked my bike up, removed the seat and went inside.

I got into the main space around 10:30. Smoke machines at the front of the stage were sending ghostly columns of grey into the space. It was full of people but not sold out. I got positioned toward the back and waited. A soundtrack of sparse female operatic vocals under which several discordant tones swooned occasionally made for a standard pre-show waiting period. This went on for about 10 minutes before 2 longhaired guys came out with guitars to sound check.

I shoved my bike seat down my pants rested my arms on it and took it all in. The sound check revealed the stage lights to be white in the center, red on the outside. The Smoke machines kept layering gray cloud after gray cloud through the space until the people in front of me were tombstone silhouettes. With sound check done the stage emptied of humans. It left the amplifier stacks, their one little bead of orange light coming out of the right corners. looking like granite robot clerics. The white light became a brownish purple in the fog as time slowly passed into oblivion.

The moment of entrance seemed never to happen leaving me to wonder if this were some kind of Cagian absence-as-presence performance prank. Then, while the soundtrack built to an unendurable crescendo, the white lights shifted to red, and they emerged. In the black robes of legend, one with Rehnquistian stripes on his shoulder holding a pitchfork, they assumed their positions. The recording provided several more minutes of sound while they gradually asserted themselves through it. At first scratches on the strings of their guitars, and some flirtations with the Moog synth, then synchronicity with the repetitions until it faded away.

What followed was a timeless descent into a bottomless cavity of Druzz. Druzz is equal parts fuzz and drone. It lasts longer than the erosion of sand on a frozen beach, it is darker than the bottom of an oil well and it is louder than an airplane engine going full throttle.

A vocalist came out intermittently in classic black metal white makeup with black around his eyes and mouth to screech like skidding car tires into an echo effect impaired microphone. It agitated the Druzz with sublimity unparalleled. The guitarist's arms raising every few minutes, picks between their fingers, to raise anticipation for their next eviscerating strum. Hands in the audience raised not to "throw horn" but to "grasp the chalice" showing their reverence to great effect in the smoldering cave The Knitting Factory became.

Transit workers strike be damned. This could have gone on until morning and I wouldn't have cared. To see Sunn O))) live is to witness a coal glacier in a seething scarlet nightscape of demise. It is a deafening necropolis, a womb of malevolence, and one of the best shows I've ever seen. Up with infinite Druzz.


     » Sunn O)))

Comments

Religion is where you find it.

Posted by: Adam at December 22, 2005 6:20 PM

Some kid outside the main space after the show said, "That was a lesson in auditory anatomy. I kept feeling different parts of my body vibrate as the bottom dropped out of their sound."

Another kept repeating like a cross between a girl crushing on her Backstreet boys and an opera aficionado applauding with stiff upper lip, "That was more than music, they elevated sound to art."

Posted by: aaron at December 24, 2005 1:54 AM

religion certainly is where you find it. and, transit workers and weather be darned all to gosh, i'm glad you caught such clangorance. if only a show like that were to find itself in the dirty south...

Posted by: carter at December 27, 2005 7:13 AM

Some Day I hope the Lords of Chaos bless you Carter. You and the rest of the Dirty South certainly deserve it.

Posted by: Aaron at December 27, 2005 7:41 AM

Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

Jane.

Posted by: sweeta-wm at March 27, 2008 6:25 AM

Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

Jane.

Posted by: sweeta-wm at March 27, 2008 6:25 AM

Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

Jane.

Posted by: sweeta-wm at March 27, 2008 6:25 AM
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