At the very beginning of 2018 Sunn O))) cofounders Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson set their intention and set out a path toward a new Sunn O))) album production. They were both determined to create not only new music but a new method of working with the band in the studio, without forgoing the long history of production and studio accomplishments they’d won over the first 20 years of the band’s lifetime (and the members’ own musical experiences outside of the band’s). One long term goal was completely clear : to record O))) with Steve Albini in his Electrical Audio Studios A room. Steve took the call, said “Sure, this will be fun. I have no idea what is going to happen”.
Greg and Stephen gathered twice in the spring for writing, conceptualising and riff woodshedding in the very building where the band was formed : downtown rehearsal in Los Angeles. Sonic cosmoses, flashes of abstract color (synthetic and objective) and themes emerged from the mastered depths of saturation and circuits between the two players and the mountains of gear. Strong themes of brightness, color, energy and visionary cues stepping toward subconscious areas of practice, as well as exploration into other areas of consciousness through sound/time and sound energy. In early summer a preproduction session with full backline, as a trio with TOS on Moog, was done at the Foo Fighter’s 606 studios, Northridge, CA.
In July 2018 Sunn O))) spent just over two weeks in Chicago with Steve at the helm. The results are astounding, the breadth of color and sound vast, impeccably recorded and represented and completely accurate. The spectrum cracked the firmament open in clarity. An all analogue technique was used, recording and mixing on tape, providing a creative gateway for O))) to evolve their recording methods into stronger, confident, performance based and a more logical executive process. The album was mastered and lacquers cut in October by O))) ally Matt Colton at Alchemy in London. The LP version is an AAA album, a completely analogue production and signal path. This means it’s analogue entirely from the input of the band’s amplifiers and the air coming off the speakers in front of the microphones to needle touching the pressed vinyl on your turntable.
Continuing one of the main currents of the SUNN concept, depth of exploration with collaboration, brought Hildur Gudnadottir. Hildur is a sometime live collaborator of O))) over the years and also a renowned film music composer, was a member of the bands Mum, Pan sonic and Angel and also was long time collaborator to the comes Johann Johannson (RIP). She lent her incredible attitude, as well as her voice, breath and electric cello, and the mythical haldorophone to the proceedings, culminating in the epic composition/concerto “Novæ”. The cosmos clearly expand.
Tim Midyett, a close friend of Greg and Stephen since the Seattle days of the early 90s, (and member of Silkworm, Bottomless Pit and Mint Mile) joined as a foundational role tying the earth to the sound with wicked performances on aluminium neck bass and baritone guitars. Instruments he helped pioneer using back in the 90s (alongside Steve and Shellac of course). Dark matter is reality.
New music composer Anthony Pateras arranged and recorded an incredible contribution of pipe organ for a piece titled “Troubled Air” (after Kannon Liner notes author Aliza Szvarts’s essay) at Schlosskappelle, Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart. String theory of space.
A mutually decision regarding “new”, aesthetics, processes, directions and ideas, for all resulted in Attila not participating on the record, although he clearly continues to exist at the centre of the O))) family. Attila reincarnated his mythical black metal band TORMENTOR in the meantime. Sunn O))) highly recommend everyone to get into TORMENTOR, they have been fans since the early 90s.
The record is titled “Life Metal”. It’s fully realised and completely real. The record was produced by the core of Sunn O))) (Stephen & Greg) & arranged by the greater constellation Sunn O))). Paintings by Samantha Keeley Smith graciously adorn the sleeve and provide a perfect suitable mask to the proceedings. They collide ideas of 19th century romanticism & late 20th abstract expressionism (mysticism) of Sunn O)))s approach to metal (ala key reference points of Arbo, Turner, Delville, Richter, Turrel, Wou-Ki). Ronald Dick shot the core trio in baths of light color representing depth of sound pressure in the work.
There is a second more meditative LP titled “Pyroclasts” which was also recorded by Steve, in parallel, and which will be revealed in the autumn 2019 (more later). All music performed by Stephen, Greg, Tos, Tim Midyett, Hildur Gudnadottir, and Anthony Pateras.
Sunn O))) are touring March (EU/France), April (USA), September (USA), October (UK & Europe). They are working toward some special events in London and other cities. There may be some other special festivals and performances here and there (we hope).
The record is titled “Life Metal”. There is a second LP titled “Pyroclasts”. All music performed by Greg, Tos, Tim Midyett, Hildur Gudnadottir, Anthony Pateras and I. Attila is not on the record and probably not going to be on the lives in 2019 (maybe some exceptions). The record was recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, Chicago, IL July 2018, written by Greg and I and produced & arranged by Sunn O))). Preproduction was done at 606 studios, Northridge, CA June 2018. Paintings by Samantha Keeley Smith, Photos by Ronald Dick. Photo session produced by Sylvia Farago and assisted by Karen Langley.
We are touring March (above), April (USA), September (USA), late sep/oct (Europe), maybe another run in Europe and working toward some special events in London and other cities. There may be some festivals here and there (I hope).
Between Sleipnir’s Breaths
Not forever on earth; only a little while here.
Be it jade, it shatters.
Be it gold, it breaks.
Be it a quetzal feather, it tears apart.
Not forever on earth; only a little while here.
Like a painting, we will be erased.
Like a ﬂower, we will dry up here on earth.
Like plumed vestments of the precious bird.
That precious bird with the agile neck,
We will come to an end.
He goes his way singing, offering ﬂowers.
And his words rain down
Like jade and quetzal plumes.
Is this what pleases the Giver of Life?
Is that the only truth on earth?
– Poetry by the tlatoani Nezahualcoyōtl (1st & 2nd stanzas)
& the teohua Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin (3rd stanza), 15th century.
Greg Anderson (Guitars L, bass drum)
Stephen O’Malley (Guitars R)
T.O.S. Nieuwenhuizen (moog)
Hildur Guðnadóttir (Haldorophone, Electric Cello, Voice)
Tim Midyett (Bass Guitar, Bass Crotales)
Anthony Pateras (Pipe Organ)
Written & produced by Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson.
Arranged by Sunn O))) in constellations.
Recorded & mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, Chicago July 2018.
Mastered & cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy Mastering, London October 2018.
Pipe Organ on ‘Troubled Air’ arranged, performed, recorded and premixed by Anthony Pateras at Schlosskappelle, Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart July 2018.
Life Metal preproduction at 606 studios, Northridge June 2018, engineered by John Lousteau.
Paintings by Samantha Keely Smith. “Manifold” (detail) (2015, cover), “Pulse” (detail) (2016, gatefold left), gatefold right “Amplify” (detail) (2017, gatefold right) & “Beacon” (detail) (2014, back cover).
Portrait photos by Ronald Dick, London 1018. Photo session produced by Sylvia Farago and assisted by Karen Langley.
Vedic Astrologue charts generated by Angel Deradoorian.
Sunn O)))‘s robes by Alexandra Groover.
Sunn O))) art direction : Stephen O’Malley
Hail to Steve for making this great recording experience happen!
Thanks : Sunn O))) hordes worldwide, we wouldn’t be here without you. Lou and all at 606, Edwin, Samantha and Ronald for their efforts and generosity. Attila Csihar for his understanding. Gratitude to our partners & crew David/UTA, Vincent/Odyssey, Liz/Orchard, Guy/SLREU & Southern Lord staff, Lauren Barley, Masco))), Chris “The Candyman” Fullard, Pete Stahl, Anne Weckström, Aleš Meduna, Tomas Zakopal, Chloé Liorzou.
Stephen would like to thank Gisèle Vienne, Alvin Lucier, Iancu Dumitrescu & Phill Niblock for sharing with me their courage & wisdom and dedicates this album to departed & deeply missed: Mika Vainio, Anna-Maria Avram & Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Greg Anderson: My performance on this recording is dedicated to Jennifer, Thora, Orson & Nolan Anderson. Your continual love & support is my life metal.
T.O.S. thanks Lester Polsfuss, Conrad Sundholm & Philip K. Dick for inspiration.
Published by Ideologic Organ (SACEM) & Sabbath Rehash (BMI)
Recorded & mixed on magnetic tape.
LP edition is mastered in a pure analogue chain from tape to cut (AAA), digital editions are mastered from tape to file (AAD).