Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Sunn O))) - 00 Void

Sunn O)))
00 Void

AOTM #17, October 2001ce
Released 2000 on Rise Above/Southern Lord
Coupla fucking lunatic longhairs from the deep south of the US made this month’s choice with a bass and a loud distorted guitar and not much else. I only found out about them from a German journalist who loved the LAMF record and wanted to take a track for his noise compilation. I asked him if we’d be in good company and he named this pair. Bloody fucking hell. Sound like a pair o’jam jars to me.

So here it is - Album of the Month, and it sounds like a Loop LP was played in their new guise as Main, then time-stretched to last the whole day. Or Fushitsusha’s amazing The Wisdom Prepared1 was remixed without the drums, then lowered at least a half-octave.

Riffs? There aren’t any. Cliches to cling to? Nope. Extra instrumentation? Not a chance in hell. Sometimes, it even sounds like two guys on the same unfortunate guitar. Or two little kids in a drawing contest, with crayons plugged into distortion pedals. Makes LAMF sound Top 40 and will give a 360 degree Linda Blair to those Noovo Snobs of the Japaneez-up. Its shamanic appeal is considerably enlivened by the sub-bass disfigurations caused to all bowels in the immediate proximity, whilst the lead guitar clings to your torso like a butter knife spreading Philly Lite first on a piece of toast, then on the bread board, then across the counter over the fridge and up the walls into adjacent rooms, You can imagine Damo Suzuki or Iggy swaggering around the stage to this backing, approaching the mike impossibly slowly and ghostlike, only to at-the-very-last-moment think "Forget about it" before swaying off to feel up the arses of the eyes-shut-tight purveyors of this mighty sound.

This album is so short – only one lifetime long but getting longer every listen. If you wanna reach for the Moon and need a timeless blast to Otherworldy-up Yourself, get down to southernlord.com and scream Gimme!

Track one is called "I’ve Broken Into the Tomb of King S’attiwazza and There’s No Way Out, but luckily His Priests Left Him a Big Stash of Hee Hee Hee to See Him Through Eternity." It is fourteen and a half minutes of Distant seagulls flying over Porton Down, in southern Wiltshire, before being accidentally sucked into some ground-based experimental jet engine, after which their ghosts rise up and screech for ever and ever in the eternity.

The fifteen-minute track two – "KO Your Eunuch Tendencies" – sounds like some kids tied a feeding-back guitar on to a playground swing, imagined it was a dork they loved to bully, and then pushed it back’n’forth till this poor unfortunate falls on his face in the mud. Then some Islamic wailer calls the faithful to prayer over this gibbit/swing affair and a riff-from-Paddington-Rail-disaster seeps out of the speakers, and proceeds to foul the carpets and furniture covers of your room. It won’t matter to you, though, as your leaden prone body is just deadweight in this situation - by the time your shamanic other is back from the flight, it’ll only be your prissy Roman self who’s left to clean up the mess.

"Show us Your Slime" is the sonic equivalent of walking out of a public toilet with tissue stuck to the back of your shoe, then noticing it after 20 minutes but not removing it for the next week. The last part of this track – "Mistaking Puke for Stew" – sounds like the screams that epileptics would make if elephants used them recreationally as substitutes for a vibrator. Great.

"Rubble Me, I’m a 5th Century Stone Buddha" is closest to something off the LAMF album, but we’re still a hullava lot catchier than this last-scrapings-of-15-year-old-peanut-butter-at-the-very-bottom-of-the-jar-of-the-underworld. SunnO))) use the tape machine far more than they use their instruments, which are, at times, so secondary, that they sell them to semi-professional weekend rocker guys whose addresses they know, then steal them back just before the track ends in order to finish the album. This is Black Sabbath with Bill Ward replaced by a 1937 Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter - so heroic, so anthemic, so fucking what. Your spleen ends up like a petrified hot water bottle and your intestines are left lying displaced in your lower torso, like 500 yards of forgotten damp and tangled second-hand electrical cable after a Sunday bootfair in the aircaft hangar of some Wiltshire airbase. YOU clean it up!

SunnO))) is the heavy rock equivalent of an institutional-size dose of Largactyl, that is: when you finally get down, you stay down. I’ve got an ambient/ambulent double-CD of weather formation size meditations coming out next year, and even they never get as monolithic as this brick of monosludge. SunnO))) music is huge and simple, like a future race of technologists who forgot how to build microchips so had to return to factory-sized computers. 00 Void is an essential buy for anyone who hankers after an amphibian inner-life. And even though I’ve changed all the song titles because the real ones are crap, the rest of the review is true, true and Barney McGrew.

  1. I know some people hate the lack of drums thing with a real vengeance, but you have to admit that the space of this SunnO))) record is magnificent. Concerning Fushitsusha’s most extreme noise album, yes, The Wisdom Prepared IS a beautiful, deranged, inspirational, uplifting, enlightening, and nourishing work. Its single 75-minute piece is startling and I’ve often been close to making it an Album of the Month purely for its fundamentalism. But something has always come up at the last moment which is more usable – and ‘usable’ is my current byword. The Wisdom Prepared is as free a rock as you could probably wish for, but it is still, to my mind, body and spirit, an unusable meditational tool.