Monday, January 29, 2007

top50 - #8

8. sunn o))) & boris - 'altar'

Before I even start on the difficult task of trying to describe what this record sounds like, it's worth it to mention that this is how a collaboration album should be done. Much like the Richard Buckner & Jon Langford record, except in an entirely different musical genre, 'Altar' is much more than the sound of the two bands fused together. It's not Sunn o)))'s drones with Boris 'hazy, slowly unveiling riffing. 'Altar' is the sound of two already essential bands bringing their talents together and creating something new, something that is much, much more from a mere sum of two parts.

As if the joining of these two titans of weirdness wasn't enough, some other heavyweights join the fun too. Most notable among the gang are Kim Thayil, former Soundgarden guitar player (so good to hear from him!), who contributes guitar on 'Blood Swamp', the mighty Joe Preston (Melvins, High On Fire, Earth), who is actually responsible for the two bands meeting, vocalizing 'Akuma No Kuma', and finally Jesse Sykes contributing vocals to the album's centerpiece, the dreamy, otherworldy ballad of sorts 'The Sinking Belle (Blue Ship)'. This song is like nothing you would expect from anyone, let alone these two bands. It's strangely beautiful, immense in the sense of space that it invokes, and it's also the most accessible piece of the album, serving as a sort of halfway-through lynchpin that holds all the other pieces together. Which is important, because each and every one of these 6 songs (7 if you're lucky enough to own the vinyl version) inhabits a totally separate headspace.

'Etna' is the perfect opener, slithering slowly inside your skin, with rumbling bass dominating the whole sound before a grandiose guitar kicks in and takes it to another level... until a screeching Boris riff lifts it again and paves the way for the bleakest song of the album, 'N.L.T.'. 'Akuma No Kuma' is the strangest song of the bunch, no mean feat, as it would be equally at home on a MikePatton album or on the soundtrack to the Katamari video game (check it out, you won't regret it!). 'Fried Eagle Mind' will indeed fry your mind with its droning if you put it too loud, and the scary 'Blood Swamp' rounds off proceedings with 14 minutes of noisy dread.

An effort of this magnitude has consequences - it will surely establish Sunn o))) for good as darlings of the indie circles, as they already are a bit, inexplicable as that might be, and it confirms Boris as a very hot prospect too, after years of obscurity, especially in the same year as the tremendous 'Pink'.

In a recent interview, Atsuo from Boris declared that this album might be the end of the drone genre, as this is possibly as far as it can be taken. Tongue-in-cheek as it might have been, I find myself almost agreeing with that.

song of the day:
'The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)'


  1. I have heard one boris album and liked it. I heard one Sunno))) album and I still can't get into it. This sounds like an interesting approach though.

  2. Mp3 linky no worky. :(

    Still, excellent work Agent Too Many Records.

  3. the link works now, sorry all for the mess-up!

  4. Sounds like an interesting mix. I've heard of both, but never heard either. I may have to done some sampling

  5. This album is pretty amazing and I agree, the drone sound is going to tap itself out, though we have a new Earth album coming out shortly.

  6. dpth: indeed you do! i think you won't regret it. :)

    ray: did you hear the last earth album? that was pretty amazing too...

  7. Absolutely, Hex is a terrific album. Dylan is a really cool cat, contrary to a lot of the negative press he's been given. Our interview went great and when I caught them live, I said hello for a few minutes and he gave me a free Earth shirt. Totally cool guy.