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Sunn o))) & Ulver: Terrestrials

img  Tobias Fischer

The obvious was never an option for this collaboration. On Terrestrials, a pitch black encounter between two leading lords of bleakness, everything's confusion, avoidance of direction, a viscous flow with an aura of fragility. Especially so on mariachi-trumpet-infused opener "Let There Be Light": An infinite intro hidden behind dust clouds in the desert? An acoustic drone?

It is only in the last section of the piece, when "Let There Be Light" has all but died down completely, that deliverance kicks in, Sunn o)))'s familiar harmonic arches beginning to form and the still present reeds gradually being weighed down by gravity. In its wake, "Western Horn", a spiralling bedding of brittle guitar lines rubbing against each other, feels like the musical depiction of an approaching (or abating) sand storm, unlocking an equally unreal and inhospitable world to the listener.

And yet, it feels as though these two lengthy compositions, clocking in at a combined twenty minutes, are merely preparatory movements for the real surprise. Closing "Eternal Return" picks up the thematic strands of its predecessor, but pushes an epiano to the fore, gently transforming the underlying chordal motion and taking the music into entirely different territory – like a ghostly mirror image, a neoclassical chamber symphony or a collaboration with Bohren & Der Club of Gore … After the first six minutes of its duration, meanwhile, the narrative is subjected to another turnaround, with vocals hovering on top of a foundation of strings – only to just as quickly return to the beguiling darkness of the first few bars.

This sensation of eclecticism remains present throughout. In its musical nuances, Terrestrials is every bit as diverse as Monoliths And Dimensions and delivers on the promise of its illustrious line-up – delivering the ultimate elegy in black acoustics.

By Hellmut Neidhardt
Translation by Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sunn o)))
Homepage: Ulver
Homepage: Southern Lord Recordings