At Islington Mill Tuesday 8th December 2009
After being bombarded with constant intruding Christmas orientated advertising, Sunn O))) is the absolute opposite side to the spectrum.
Arriving at Islington Mill, smoke billowing out the large bank vault like door, shadowy figures moping deliriously around the arched corridors, and the incredible sound of low frequencies blasted through enormous speakers, I was apprehensive about what to expect when I actually entered the club space. Regiments of stationary tall dark figures filled every square inch of the room, their eyes closed, gently swaying a little, and positively vibrating to the bass being poured through the fog on all sides.
There is a warning on the door that prolonged exposure can permanently damage your hearing, please wear earplugs! I had heard earlier that the vibrations had passed through the entire mill and people on the top floor had experienced the phenomena created by this ritualistic noise. It was pleasant, but intense. Down-tuned bass guitars, an organ, and throat singing, surround the listener (most of whom with tattoos and long black coat, but also all manner of daring sound fanatics) as more fog is pumped into the air, dissipating an appropriately dim green light.
On stage a post apocalyptic monk was massaging a bass guitar with just his chin visible through the gloom, beside him was a green man like apparition, singing and wearing a hat made of sticks and an animal head. Two separate notes issuing from one singer, through the nose and throat, creating other worldly sounds more commonly heard in Mongolia and South Eastern Siberia. Combined with the ritualistic approach to the performance, it was only a matter of time before a portal to another dimension opened up, or we started travelling back in time to before the apocalypse.
Outside, talk was excited, people were psyching themselves up again for the climax of the night, after letting their eardrums tighten again. Brown sound was one topic of conversation – the infrasound frequency which loosens ones bowels. Glad to say there were no funny smells when we returned to the concert, though one enraptured audience member claims he had to leave for a while when he started feeling the vibrations in his rectum, but was hoping to see the moment when lasers are shot from the singer’s fingers.
As a spectacle and experience the concert was a big hit, but I can’t help feeling that as a piece of abstract experimental music, Sunn 0))) was more a demonstration as to what they can do with their enormous speakers and voices until the sound becomes a very loud confusion of frequencies. Surely more things are capable on the organ at the Bridgewater hall, and following a gig the organ player doesn’t feel the need to empty rubbish bins onto the floor or start fights with inanimate objects.