Two giants of their own worlds, Sunn O))) and Ulver, have brought their varied and many talents together on their new collaboration, Terrestrials. For many, this will be one of those great meetings of minds; Sunn O))) (pronounced Sunn) have been at the forefront of the drone metal scene since their inception, and have collaborated with many other major players such as Boris and Nurse with Wound, whilst Ulver have gone from an outstanding black/folk metal band to an all-encompassing, more recently electronic behemoth. It makes for what should be quite the heady, heavy mix, but as is often the way with these things this conference has taken an unexpected turn – but by no means is it any sort of failure.
Unlike Sunn O)))’s earlier work, the album doesn’t choke the listener in claustrophobic feedback – it throbs with haunting, muted bursts of horns and ethereal effects-laden guitar, soaring violins and that groaning, droning bass. The three pieces, taking just over 36 minutes in length, rise and fall and rise again, evoking more than just the ritual trance of drone but the emotional peaks and troughs of post-rock, mixed with the slow, graceful virtuosity of Michael Nyman or even Stravinsky’s slower sections. The occasional vocals are also held back to a reverbed choir, restraining the ferocious power that both Ulver and Sunn O))) are known for exploiting and channelling it into a highly meditative and contemplative listening experience.
It feels like there’s little more to say on this album, which perfectly fits in with the minimal, restrained soundscapes and artwork – it’s a record that quietly trumpets its own success, mainly because it doesn’t need to. The musicians involved are at the top of their game, and in collaborating have produced a sombre, looming record that delves more into grief and despondency than Black One‘s insistent, paranoid grinding, whilst also being a strong early contender for one of the better “experimental” albums of the year.
Released 3/2/14 on Southern Lord. Buy it here: http://sunnulversl.bandcamp.com/