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Lengths of stretched distortion rattle the grey matter, unnervingly slow and severe. With Sunn O)))’s second album, ØØ Void, the sonic misery nurtured to functionality by Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley stays simple and repetitive, a tabula rasa having yet to realize the full scope of its potential. With this album, Sunn O))) worked as a three-piece, collaborator Stuart Dalquist coming up with its opener, “Richard,” which is a solid fourteen and a half minutes of bending low end and very faint siren-like strings making sporadic appearances throughout.
ØØ Void is relatively hollow, its shell of grinding noise having very little to reveal behind its surface despite contributions from Petra Haden (The Dog, If By Yes) and Pete Stahl (Scream, Goatsnake). “NN O)))” follows “Richard” with a few more notes and a tad more rapidity. Stahl’s vocals add a layer that might only register in a set of headphones, the track’s sludge burying him into a crumpled abyss. “Rabbit’s Revenge” reinterprets an unreleased Melvins track, Sunn O))) likely fortifying the amount of mud with which the Melvins have come to be associated. Past 5 minutes into the song, you can here an old recording of the Melvins playing the track, apparently overdubbed from a cassette recorded at a show in 1985. It’s a fascinating little homage that provides the track its only reprieve from the ultra-thick, sonic tar, which seems to get progressively deeper and deeper.
“Ra At Dusk” is where ØØ Void finds more to do, Sunn O)))’s long forms of low end and super distortion turning into riffs, a sense of rhythm becoming apparent only to fade once a wave of reverberating, factorial churning overtakes the instruments and leaves the song’s remaining minutes devoted to the amplifier, which eventually runs out of noise to expel. Its beginnings seem similar to their much later song “Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)” from 2009’s very cool Monoliths & Dimensions LP, a repetition and construct with a tempo in mind.
As Sunn O))) have progressed, utilizing what some might consider a single-minded preoccupation with being loud and slow, Anderson and O’Malley have found ways to deepen their device with various vocalizations and spoken word or symphonic elements and slow manifestations of underlying instrumentation. From a technical standpoint, few bands understand how to work with subtlety or ambience especially with this degree of volume. This attentive devotion to their sound has paid off and offered them the gift of versatility even if it does sound a little flat with ØØ Void, this reissue providing a no longer out-of-print step in Sunn O)))’s evolution.