Engine Kid is a trio from Seattle that plays post-rock a` la
After debuting with the EP Astronaut, they released two albums,
Bear Catching Fish (C/Z, 1993), which runs the gamut from
Cop Shoot Cop (Bear Catching Fish)
to King Crimson (Bullfight)
to Dinosaur Jr (Cabin Fever),
and Angel Wings (Revelation, 1995), a slab of harsh and uncompromising
jazz-core (Holes To Fight In).
Engine Kid's guitarist Greg Anderson formed
Goatsnake (Rise Above, 1999) with Greg Rogers and Guy Pinhas from
Wool's vocalist Pete Stahl.
Goatsnake's standard gothic/doom-metal yielded a second album,
Flower Of Disease (Southern Lord, 2000), while Anderson was
starting another project, Sunn O))), a drum-less duo with bassist
Stephen O'Malley, who had played guitar on
Burning Witch's Crippled Lucifer (1998), an album of doom metal
as background music for the vocalist's psychodrama (shrieks, moans, wails,
SunnO))) sounded like a sort of tribute
project to Earth's super-gloomy sound.
Sunn (Hydra Head, 1998 - Southern Lord, 2005), recorded live in
april 1998 and later reissued as
The GrimmRobe Demos (Southern Lord, 2005),
contained three lengthy pieces (two of which paid explicit tribute to Earth):
the 19-minute Black Wedding, i.e. the manifesto of their sustained and
interlocking distortions that adds electronics to the original Earth aesthetic,
the 15-minute Defeating Earth's Gravity,
and the bleaker, deeper, slow-motion, barbaric 21-minute Dylan Carlson,
their first artistic success.
They are studies on how to combine the sound of a guitar and a bass to produce
infinite loops of proto-riffs, moebius strips of distorted drones.
The GrimmRobe Demos adds a fourth track from the same sessions, Grimm and Bear It, originally not on the album.
The monumental Zero Zero Void (Rise Above, 2000 - Dirter Promotions, 2003), however,
represented something else altogether: four epic-length concertos for
bass and guitar only that were even heavier and slower than
This is sub-music for the hearing impaired made of colossal riffs that
approach zen trascendence.
For eight minutes Richard (14:32) exales a series of grotesque bass notes out of a sizzling guitar magma, before decaying into a buzzing drone
intertwined with shrill guitar noise.
NN O))) (15:15) could be a horror sci-fi soundtrack: its repetitive
bass riff sounds like a panzer advancing at slow speed through a landscape of
Instead of the tidal waves of the previous pieces, Rabbit's Revenge (14:01) flies relatively low, unleashing just one shapeless distortion.
Ra At Dusk (14:43) tries to modulate a melody but all that comes out
is a stuttering vision of devastation, a series of galactic hiccups
that reverb forever across an empty universe.
While very similar in the approach to static drones and minimal harmony,
this is the very opposite of ambient music.
Flight Of The Behemoth (Southern Lord, 2002)
sounds less inspired than previous Sunn O))) albums, almost as if it
The slow-burning riff-drone of Mocking Solemnity and
Death Becomes You (two joined tracks that form one lengthy nightmare)
begins in the register
of a motorcycle. It is sustained for 9+13 minutes by an endless series of
small eruptions. There is no other instrument and there is no attempt to
modulate the guitar noise into a melody. It compares favorably with
Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.
The next two tracks, O))) Bow 1 & 2, are wildly dissonant, basically
extremely loud musique concrete for piano, chainsaw and drill and assorted
electronic manipulations, for a grand total of 19 minutes. Towards the end
the noise seems to implode into itself, like volcano lava that is receding,
or a black hole that is syphonic out matter.
Fwtbt is a ten-minute corollary to
Mocking Solemnity/ Death Becomes You with monster-movie overtones.
Rarely had music sounded so ugly and hostile.
(The vinyl version included Grimm and Bear It, later reissued on the CD version of The GrimmRobe Demos).
Stephen O'Malley also played in the Lotus Eaters .
A Stephen O'Malley installation was documented on Fungal Hex's 40-minute piece of Fungal Hex (Galerie Jeleni, 2002).
White1 (Southern Lord, 2003),
featuring Rex Ritter
and Joe Preston
besides Anderson and O'Malley, is a less creative work than
Zero Zero Void or Flight Of The Behemoth,
Sunn O))) continues to shock with super-heavy drones and sinister monoliths
such as the 25-minute My Wall.
White2 (Southern Lord, 2004) collects
three long tracks recorded during the same sessions as White1:
Hell-O)))-Ween, a classic stoner dirge,
bassAliens, a haunting noise bordering on cosmic music,
Decay2, a doom/gothic nightmare.
The vinyl version contains a fourth: the 18-minute Decay.
The feeling is almost that the two parts of
White came out in the wrong order:
the second part sounds like the "real thing", while the first part sounds
like the left-overs.
In the meantime, Goatsnake reformed and released the mini-album
Trampled Under Hoof (SOuthern Lord, 2004).
The EP Imperium (Lyderhorn, 2005) is a side project by
Stephen O'Malley from Sunn 0))).
Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley managed to outdo their most gothic
credentials with Black One (Southern Lord, 2005),
the third peak of Sunn 0)))'s career (also available as a
double-CD that includes the live La Mort Noir dans Esch/Alzette).
A magmatic release of asphyxiating, claustrophobic sludge,
this work lifts the art of the icy metal riff to new levels of irrationality.
The music ranges from the relatively humane pace of
It Took the Night to Believe (the voice filtered to a ghostly growl
dialoguing with a distant desperate scream, and the music reduced to a
repetitive motif of distorted guitar),
to the ten-minute droning carnage of Orthodox Caveman (augmented with
digital dissonances and
Oren Ambarchi's percussion),
from the majestic cover of Immortal's
Cursed Realms (a concrete concerto of vocal noises),
to the brutal Hendrix-ian whirlwind of
Cry For The Weeper lays down 15 minutes of super-charged suspense,
like a condensed version of the previous pieces, and, ultimately, a
demonstratation of the psychological power of the protracted guitar riff.
The crowning achievement of the album and perhaps of the duo's entire career
is the sixteen-minute gothic orgy Bathory Erzebet, almost a cinematic
soundtrack in which seven minutes of sustained glitchy crystal tones are
devoured by an apocalyptic riff and by no less fearsome monsters
(vocal acrobatics courtesy of Xasthur's Malefic). The "music"
keeps imploding into itsel as if simulating the fall into a black hole.
All in all, it felt like the duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley was
remixing the history of black metal for the digital generation.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudio Vespignani) |
Engine Kid era un trio di Seattle dedito ad una sorta di post-rock
ispirato agli Slint. Dopo il debutto con l'EP "Astronaut", fecero
uscire due album: "Bear Catching Fish" (C/Z 1993), con una varietà di
influenze che andava dai Cop
Shoot Cop (Bear Catching Fish) ai King Crimson (Bullfight) e ai
Dinosaur Jr (Cabin Fever). Il secondo fu "Angel Wings" (Revelation
1995), che invece faceva sfoggio di un duro e intransigente jazz-
hardcore (Holes to fight in).
Il chitarrista Greg Anderson successivamente formò i Goatsnake con
Greg Rogers e Guy Pinhas degli Obsessed e il cantante dei Wool Pete
Stahl. Il primo album omonimo del 1999 su Rise Above e "Flower of
Disease" (Southern Lord 2000), vedeva il quartetto alle prese con un
doom-gothic-metal piuttosto standardizzato.
Nel frattempo Anderson varava un nuovo progetto, Sunn O))), un duo col
bassista Stephen O'Malley (presente come chitarrista anche nei
Khanate), una sorta di tributo al suono ultra-tenebroso degli Earth. Il
mini-album "Sunn" (Hydra
Head 1998 - Southern Lord 2005) era soltanto una imitazione, mentre il
monumentale "Zero Zero Void" (Rise Above, 2000 - Dirter Promotions,
nel complesso segnava una certa orginalità; quattro lunghe
cavalcate per soli chitarra e basso, che riescono addirittura a
superare la pesantezza e la lentezza degli Earth. Si tratta di colonne
menti alterate, fatta di riff giganteschi che raggiungono quasi una
trascendenza zen. Sebbene molto simili nei metodi ai
drones statici e al minimalismo, tutto questo sembra davvero l'esatto
opposto della musica ambient. Persino i titoli danno un senso di
provocazione: I've Broken Into the Tomb of King S'attiwazza, KO Your
Eunuch Tendencies, Show us Your Slime, Rubble Me I'm a 5th Century
Stone Buddha. Flight Of The Behemoth (Southern Lord, 2002), è meno
ispirato del precedente; è come se ne contenesse gli scarti. Si salvano
Mocking Solemnity e Death Becomes You, che formano un unico, lungo
incubo rievocante il disco precedente. White1 (Southern Lord, 2003),
con Rex Ritter (Jessamine) e Joe Preston (Melvins) al fianco di
Anderson e O'Malley continua a choccare con i suoi drones ultra-pesanti
e i suoi
monoliti sinistri (My Wall arriva a 25 minuti di lunghezza). White2
(Southern Lord, 2004) raccoglie 3 lunghi pezzi registrati nelle stesse
sessions di White1. Hell-O)))-Ween è un classico stoner rock.
bassAliens è un rumore avvolgente vicino alla musica cosmica. Decay2 è
un altro incubo doom. Il disco in vinile contiene un quarto pezzo di 18
La sensazione è che le due parti di White siano uscite nell'ordine
sbagliato: la seconda sembra veramente la migliore, mentre la prima
suonava più come una raccolta di scarti. Nel frattempo i Goatsnake si
erano riformati con il mini album
Trampled Under Hoof (SOuthern Lord, 2004). L'EP Imperium (Lyderhorn,
2005) è un progetto parallelo di Stephen O'Malley. Greg Anderson e
Stephen O'Malley sono riusciti a tirar fuori il meglio delle loro
credenziali gotiche con Black One (Southern Lord, 2005), il terzo picco
della carriera dei Sunn O))). Magmatico e asfissiante, claustrofobico
e melmoso, questo disco eleva l'arte del metal glaciale a nuovi livelli
di irrazionalità. Dal passo quasi umano di It Took the Night to Believe
alla carneficina di 10 minuti di Orthodox Caveman (col contributo di
dissonanze elettroniche di John Wiese), dalla maestosa cover degli
Immortal "Cursed Realms" al vortice da incubo di CandleGoat.
Ma il vertice del disco e forse dell'intera carriera del duo è
rappresentata dall'orgia gotica di Bathory Erzebet (16 minuti),
che implode continuamente in se stessa, come a simulare la caduta in
un buco nero.
After 2005 Stephen O'Malley was mostly absorbed by a a series of ventures,
starting with Khanate.
Ginnungagap debuted with the gothic-sounding two-track EP Return To Nothing (Misanthropic Agenda, 2004) performed by a trio of O'Malley on guitar, Khanate's Tim Wyskida on gong and tympani, Gerritt Wittmer on laptop.
However Ginnungagap's Remeindre (2005) was a collaboration between O'Malley, Alexander Tucker and Tony Sylvester (Iron Monkey, Teeth Of The Lions Rule The Divine) of almost eastern-tinged new-age music.
The same moniker was adopted again for the one sided-LP Crashed Like Wretched Moth (Conspiracy, 2006) of mostly solo piano music.
Aethenor's Deep In The Ocean Sunk The Lamp of Light (2006) was a
collaboration among O'Malley, pianist/percussionist Daniel O'Sullivan (of British prog-rock band
Guapo) and keyboardist Vincent DeRoguin (of
Swiss metal band Shora) devoted to subliminal doom electronics,
a four-movement ambient-psychedelic-gothic symphony.
The first movement takes off slowly, with a menacing rumble and metallic sounds
(like a meeting of Klaus Schulze and
Zev). Ghostly lamentations surface
from the tide of ugly musique concrete. The second movement is drenched into
loud electronic vibrations and sparse percussion. The tones are hallucinated
and the way the electronics proceed is more similar to jazz improvisation than
to stereotypical ambient music. Meanwhile, some kind of horror play seems to be
taking place under the thick shroud of drones.
After a brief movement of brittle and relatively gentle sounds, the last
movement delves into an aquatic-astral dimension and soars into a hymn-like
"om" before splintering into tinkling notes and warped drones. The symphony
ends with the noise of a turntable's needle that drops off the groove.
Aethenor's follow-up, Betimes Black Cloudmasses (2008), was, instead,
a mere concentrate of pretention.
Altar (Inoxia, 2006) was a collaboration between
Sunn O))), more notable for the artwork than for the music.
The collaboration involves other musicians as well:
Jesse Sykes sings in the paradisiac Sinking Belle,
Kim Thayil of Soundgarden plays guitar in the colossal Blood Swamp,
Joe Preston of Melvins sings in Akuma No Kuma.
Magistral (Southern Lord, 2007) was a collaboration between
O'Malley and Z'ev.
The most important of all O'Malley's side projects was KTL, an exercise
in digitally-manipulated music.
KTL (Editions Mego, 2006) was born as a collaboration between
Stephen O'Malley of SUNNO))), playing "strings, FX and amps", and
Austrian digital soundsculptor Peter "Pita"
Rehberg (on "oscillators, applications, drives"), and originally conceived as
a soundtrack for a performance-art piece.
After three minutes of celestial wavering drone that sets the atmosphere,
Estranged populates its landscape with rapid galactic sounds that
get more and more aggressive. Initially it sounds like meteors and comets
flashing by, but soon the dissonance acquires a more mental than physical
quality. By the tenth minute the piece has become a slow solo of guitar
distortion (sparse random chords) over a static background radiation.
Snow is 13 minutes of subliminal noises trapped in the quick sand of
spacetime, and another anti-spectacular guitar solo.
These two compositions fused the glitch aesthetic and the doom-droning aesthetic into an eerily futuristic soundscape of shadows and echoes.
The 40-minute four-movement suite Forest Floor was a more aggressive
affair. The first movement juxtaposes frantic strumming in the vein of
Glenn Branca's guitar symphonies with
ominous bass lines and gargantuan electronic noises soaring to Hendrix-ian
The second movement is a wall of dissonance erected by the
counterpoint of shrill industrial noise and gothic guitar sound.
The dense and dark third movement sounds like the growl of a revolving giant maelstrom.
The fourth part is a stoic attempt at modulating a melody out of the chaos.
Forest Floor is "heavier" and more lively but, overall, not as subtly
groundbreaking as the computer-based Estranged.
KTL 2 (Editions Mego, 2007) was an even gloomier cosmic/psychological
journey into some obscure place of the mind; and, generally speaking,
a louder one.
After the thick floating molasses of Game dissolves, a heartbeat
introduces the 27-minute Theme. A vibration rises from the silence
through minimalist repetition until it becomes a massive sound sculpture.
Layers and layers of wavering drones create the impression of a colossal
tidal wave, of a tsunami bent on destroying all civilization.
The 21-minute Abattoir is another droning exercise, but this time
the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional drones are left to develop organically,
ebbing and flowing, while continuously changing texture.
The piece that more closely relates to the first album's glitchy soundscapes
is Soom 2, which is basically this album's Snow.
With the first two albums (both originally commissioned as soundtracks)
KTL coined a
new art of textural nuances that sounded like the equivalent of the
"cosmic music" of the 1970s updated to the digital age.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giuseppe Leone) |
KTL (Editions Mego, 2006) è una collaborazione fra Stephen O'Malley dei SUNNO))) e il digitale scultore del suono austriaco Peter "Pita" Rehlberg, concepita originariamente come colonna sonora per la performance di una piece artistica. La suite in quattro movimenti di 40 minuti Forest Floor, Estranged (24 minuti) e Snow (13 minuti) fondono l’estetica glitch e l’estetica doom-droning in un paesaggio minacciosamente futuristico di ombre e echi. Stephen O'Malley suona archi, FX, amplificatory. Peter Rehlberg suona oscillatori, applicazioni, drives. KTL 2 (Editions Mego, 2007) è un viaggio ancor più cupo in qualche oscuro anfratto della mente. Con questi due album i Ktl hanno coniato una nuova arte di sfumature strutturali che è l’equivalente della musica cosmica degli anni 70 aggiornata all’era digitale.
KTL 3 (OR, 2007) was only a one-sided LP.
IV (Editions Mego, 2008), produced by Jim O'Rourke, was mostly
self-indulgent but the 21-minute
Paratrooper injected some genuine industrial claustrophobia.
On the contrary,
the 15-minute Benbbet ventured into ambient glitch music, and
the nine-minute Natural Trouble was just a set of quiet cosmic drones.
The other pieces sounded like pretects to turn
Paratrooper into a full-length album.
V (Mego, 2012) was indulgent and amateurish, mostly a
tribute to Phill Niblock's droning minimalism (with a piece titled to him,
Phill 2, that even features a philharmonic orchestra),
including a 20-minute spoken-word piece, Last Spring - A Prequel.
Sunno)))'s LP Oracle (Southern Lord, 2007), containing
two side-long tracks, is the music originally conceived as the soundtrack
to a performance of June 2005, re-recorded the following year by
Greg Anderson, Stephen O'Malley, Atsuo (of Boris), Joe Preston (of the Melvins),Attila Csihar (of Mayhem).
Burial Chamber Trio is a collaboration among Greg Anderson of SUNNO)), Oren Ambarchi and Mayhem's vocalist Attila Csihar that released Burial Chamber Trio (Southern Lord, 2007).
Grave Temple is Stephen O'Malley with Attila Csihar of Mayhem and Oren Ambarchi that released the hour-long piece of The Holy Down (Southern Lord, 2007), created in studio by Ambarchi from live performances.
The trio also recorded Le Vampire De Paris (2009)
and Ambient/Ruin (recorded in 2008 and earlier although released in 2013).
6°F Skyquake (Editions Mego, 2008) is a collaboration between
Stephen O'Malley and Attila Csihar, originally conceived for an art show.
Gentry Densley of Iceburn and Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) formed Ascend and released
Ample Fire Within (Southern Lord, 2008), that sounds like an experiment
in orchestral drones, adding instruments such as trombone, piano, the human voice and additional guitars to shape monolithic trips such as Ample Fire Within,
VOG and Dark Matter.
Ample Fire Within (Southern Lord, 2009),
was even more evocative and jazzy.
Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord, 2009) featured an unusual number
of guests, including
vocalists Attila Csihar, Jessika Kenney, Earth's Dylan Carlson, and trombonists Julian Priester and
It was the most orchestral of their albums yet.
Aghartha (17:34) employs French horns, violas, piano, hydrophone,
English Horn and conch shell, besides the usual rock instrumentation.
For a while it is just an agonizing distortion shaken by periodic exhalation.
Alas, a voice comes out of this torture, surrounded by the above said
instruments that behave like rising ghosts. Eventually only a few drones
are left, each one a different color of the end.
Big Church (9:43) piles up a female choir, a black priest's recitation, trombone, trumpet, organ and tubular bells on top of a guitar quartet (Oren Ambarchi, O'Malley, Anderson and Earth's Dylan Carlson) to create one of Sunn's most intimidating tidal waves and to pen one of their most metaphysical moments (the ending).
A more conventional doom-metal atmosphere by the growling narrator and the
solemn funereal riff in
Hunting & Gathering (10:02), this time enhanced by a male choir.
Alice (16:20) is their first composition ever to open with a drone of horns and strings. The effect is disorienting: at times it's like listening to a
collaboration between Ennio Morricone and Jimi Hendrix. It's the drone to lose
the battle: the instruments keep chatting till the end while the guitars recede
and fade away.
With this album Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson left their traditional
genre and ventured into abstract dissonant chamber music.
Aethenor's Faking Gold & Murder (VHF Records, 2009), featuring
David Tibet of Current 93 on vocals,
guitarist Alexander Tucker and
percussionists Nicolas Field and Alex Babel
in addition to the original trio of O'Malley, O'Sullivan and DeRoguin
further complicated the concept of their chamber gothic post-rock.
The first movement opens with hyper-active jazz drumming and strident keyboards,
but Tibet's dated vocals derail the whole thing.
The second movement is a subtle sonata for tiny sounds (percussion, keyboards,
electronics, vocals) that is again ruined by Tibet's declamation.
The third movement is basically just a kammerspiel by Tibet with soundtrack
from Aethenor. The chaotic and apocalyptic music would be interesting without
the obnoxious vocal part.
There is enormous talent in this line-up but Tibet acts as a real curse on the
Keep An Eye Out (Table Of The Elements, 2009) was a work for
acoustic guitar and electronics.
SUNNO)))'s core duo of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson joined guitarist
Oren Ambarchi, vocalist Attila Csihar and Striborg's drummer Sin Nanna to record
the two lengthy live jams of Pentemple (Southern Lord, 2009).
Aethenor's En Form For Bla (VHF, 2011) featured O'Malley, O'Sullivan, drummer Steve Noble and keyboardist Kristoffer Rygg, thus shifting the center of
mass towards atmospheric improvised jazz a` la
St Francis Duo (Bo Weavil, 2012) documents a live performance by
Stephen O'Malley & Steve Noble, four sidelong jams that mainly highlight
the drummer's oceanic work.
Stephen O'Malley's cassette Cocon & Oiseau De Nuit (Editions Mego) contains a rarity from 2006.
Nurse With Wound remixed and reworked Sunn O)))'s Zero Zero Void into The Iron Soul Of Nothing
(Ideologic Organ, 2011).
Haino, Stephen O'Malley (bass) and Oren Ambarchi (drums) formed Nazoranai documented on the live Nazoranai (Ideologic, 2012) and on The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has it Arrived Already...? (Ideologic Organ Soma, 2014) .
Soused (2014) was a collaboration with Scott Walker.
Terrestrial (2014) was a collaboration with Ulver.
Anderson reformed Goatsnake for Black Age Blues (2015).
Stephen O'Malley's Dread Live (Ideal, 2016) documents two solo side-long improvisations recorded in 2013. Peacemaker Assembly (Trost, 2016) documents two side-long improvisations with drummer Steve Noble recorded in 2014.
The two lengthy pieces of
LA Reh 012 (2014), ostensibly a demo tape, returned Anderson and
O'Malley to Sunn O)))'s basics:
Last One/ Valentine's Day (18:02)
and especially Invisible/ Sleeper (20:26).
The three untitled pieces of Kannon (Southern Lord, 2015) are
also a return to their austere Earth-ian origins, but they are
flooded with pointless doodling.
Undead (2016) is a triple LP of live performances in Russia.
The duo offered classy drone metal on
Life Metal (2019), produced by Steve Albini,
divided into four colossal pieces.
At first they attempt to reinvent the song format.
The 12-minute Between Sleipnir's Breaths begins in a tone of
obnoxious magniloquence (with misguided samples of horses), but
eventually it does build a powerful
sense of avalanche, of collapsing masses, and then the singing
(Hildur Gudnadottir) steals the show. When it gets buried into
the rumble, this time it feels like a primal energy is rising from the Earth.
It's an interesting attempt at turning the song format upside down, but
The colossal riffs of Troubled Air, mixed with Anthony Pateras's pipe organ, evoke giant steps that cause earthquakes until the last few minutes that sound like the giant is having an epileptic fit.
The 19-minute Aurora begins like an evil extraterrestrial nebula but its
crashing drones soon reveal a concentrate of angst, so much so that by the
end of its tragic evolutions it feels like a rambling philosophical monologue.
There is still room for the booming Novae that after 13 endless minutes
lets Gudnadottir's cello drone and liquify slowly.
It is all very self-indulgent.
It is hard to justify the duration of these uneventful and repetitive pieces.
Trimmed down to 6 or 7 minutes, Aurora would be a magical experience.
The companion album
Pyroclasts (2019) was recorded during the same session, ostensibly
in preparation for the recording of the "real" songs,
and offers a stripped-down version of that austere sound, a feeling of
both intimate monastical-like concentration and collective jazz improvisation.
Of course all the pieces are sonatas for buzzing distortion, with varying
degrees of change and immutability.
There is actually a lot of movement in Frost (C): listen closely, and it sounds like a slow-motion version of a Jimi Hendrix solo.
Listening to Kingdoms (G), a more or less steady crescendo, feels like staring at a massive tidal wave that is about to submerge us.
The distortion in Ampliphaedies (E) has the ear-splitting quality of power-electronics, like a merciless exploration of the extreme limits of the audible spectrum.
If Ascension (A) was meant as a tribute to
Glenn Branca's masterpiece, it must be
a mockery because it is exactly the opposite: as stationary as it gets without
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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