Sunn O)))

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Sunn O)))

Postby simonkeeping » Thu Mar 23, 2017 5:42 pm

So, recently as a result of one of my other interests (fuzz pedals and music gear), I've become more interested in bands at the heavier end of the scale of the drone spectrum. Sunn O))) being a particular favorite. One reason is I really like the music they make (and their whole aesthetic) and the other is they have alot of very cool looking musical equipment.

The lack of any beat naturally opens up the music considerably. Which is an interesting concept in itself. You could put a beat of any speed over it and the slow chord progressions would suddenly be something else entirely, more dynamic or whatever, but, it fills up the space. It's something I'd never consciously considered until today. But, no beat creates this mood and a space in the music that is very open and not really dependent on traditional time signatures, It's more down to feel.

Sadly I wasn't able to go to the show at the Barbican on Tuesday as I've been ill for ages and the thought of having my rib cage rattled by brutally loud guitars for an hour and a half probably wouldn't have eased my (already considerable) pain. I heard that the soundcheck was audible from the car park, that is loud. Incidentally, I was listening to a bootleg of it earlier and the ending section of the show sounds like free jazz. Albeit a very messed up, heavy version of it but, it was great. I love the idea of pushing an idea to its very limit as that's sometimes where the most interesting things happen - On the edge of chaos. The sweet spot where it's something has almost collapsed but somehow it's still limping onwards with bits hanging off it.

Anyway, is anyone else into them? I have to say I tried the Scott Walker collaboration and it wasn't for me. but, it was an amazing pairing.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby mc » Fri Mar 24, 2017 1:02 am

Yes, I am a serious Sunn O))) acolyte. This is a holding "I'm in!" post - more detail will follow as soon as I can type it up... :)
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby simonkeeping » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:31 am

Cool, thanks for that MC! thought I was on my own then ;)
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby natty » Fri Mar 24, 2017 1:40 pm

Love 'em.

Been really interesting to see how their music has evolved over the years, from basically starting off as an Earth tribute act (there's even an early Sunn O))) track called "Dylan Carlson") to incorporating influences from all over the place and collaborating with some really interesting musicians. Some of their more recent stuff is really quite beautiful, "Alice" from "Monoliths and Dimensions", for instance. Still not seen them live though. Need to change that soon.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby rameses » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:05 pm

Love a bit of SUNN O)))

Check out ALTAR their collaboration with BORIS.

I must remember to get a ticket for the gig in Leeds in July.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby angelsighs » Sat Mar 25, 2017 3:53 pm

I saw them live at ATP one time (2009 I think?).. I was curious to see what they'd be like as you hear all these stories about extreme volume and what an experience it is. came away a bit non plussed to be honest, didn't watch the whole set and it wasn't even that loud. I do appreciate that at festivals bands have a bit less control over their sound & volume.

I have liked the little bit I've heard of Monoliths and Dimensions, which seemed to be a bit more interesting as they added various other instruments into the mix rather than just droning guitars.

and, just recently I've got the Sunn/Scott Walker album and I quite like it.. could be my way in.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby mc » Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:01 am

So, Sunn O)))...

Starting with the live experience, I've only seen them once - 2009, playing with Bong (marvellous too!) as support at Stereo in Glasgow. After Bong finished and the roadies had done a modicum of work onstage, the room started filling with dry ice. Literally 30 minutes later, the dry ice machines were still going and the room was still virtually in darkness. Eventually the coloured strobes came on, which only highlighted how opaque the room had become - the people a couple of rows in front of me were indistinct silhouettes, there was so much CO2 in the air! Vague figures shuffled onstage --

And then a note was struck.

Earlier that night, Bong had played loud as fuck, but this note - Jesus wept, I've honestly never felt anything like it before or since. I already had earplugs in, but this one note wasn't just volume - it enveloped my entire body, churned my stomach and set pretty much every bone in my body vibrating. And then it carried on - for 90 fucking minutes. I -think- they were playing Monoliths & Dimensions, but it was impossible to tell. I have virtually no other memories of that gig, other than the sheer overwhelming gut-churning force of the sound -- nothing painful earwise at the time, because it was all so low frequency, but on the train home afterwards I could barely hear a thing. After less than 5 hours sleep I had to get up and teach eight periods of Physics, and despite having only had 3 pints the entire night, I felt like a warmed up corpse -- I was virtually deaf (not handy for a teacher dealing with a room full of 12-year olds!), my head was honestly still swimming with the physicality of it all, and I was generally exhausted to boot. Man, it was worth it though, and I got some lovely O))) vinyl there too :)
Attachments
19665_264545571284_2049582_n.jpg
Not blurry, just a very dry-ice choked room...
19665_264545571284_2049582_n.jpg (16 KiB) Viewed 267 times
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby sunray » Sun Mar 26, 2017 5:52 pm

Saw them twice, never got the volume thing with them really, although on occasion the low frequencies could be felt around the frame.
First time was in Crawdaddy (now gone) in Dublin in 2006. Very small venue, filled with smoke and hooded figures on stage. I found it all a bit laughable to be honest but certainly an experience. This gig, and many others, are available on their bandcamp page.

Second time was ATP in 2007, I think they came on after OM and before The Heads. Stupid twats got the bar shut down for about twenty minutes due to their dry ice setting off the smoke alarms :roll: :lol: Apparently at the end of the gig O'Malley and Anderson started having a punch up on stage, I still don't know how I missed this episode!!

I think its the vocals that I find most ridiculous. Perhaps purely instrumental would be better.

I will probably go see them again in July as they haven't been here in years but I would never think of playing their albums at home anymore.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby scoz » Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:13 pm

I guess the difference between seeing them in their own right which I haven't and at a festival which I have. is they control the sound system when it's just them playing while at a festival it's the festival the supplies it. A while back I saw some macho idiot saying bascially "wooo I saw Sunn o))) without earplugs and my ears are still ringing a week later woo".

I watched a pretty interesting RBMA thing with Steven O'Mally from a few years back chatting about Earth and how incredible a drummer Adrienne is, I won't go into it you can watch it yourselves if you want

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-ZdB7pEvAs

I'm not big into Attilla's vocals but then pretty daft music should have pretty daft vocals.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby angelsighs » Fri Mar 31, 2017 3:50 pm

scoz wrote:I guess the difference between seeing them in their own right which I haven't and at a festival which I have. is they control the sound system when it's just them playing while at a festival it's the festival the supplies it.


yeah fair point about the sound at festivals- as I mentioned earlier.
it was just a bit on an anticlimax hearing about this band who were apparently super insanely loud.. and then they came on stage it was like "ooh.. is that it? I've heard louder"

sunray wrote:. Very small venue, filled with smoke and hooded figures on stage. I found it all a bit laughable to be honest but certainly an experience. This gig, and many others, are available on their bandcamp page.


I'll admit this is almost the reaction I had to this band at first too. with all the robes and smoke it's almost like they take themselves too seriously and it's a bit risible. I do reckon there's probably more humour in there than we think, and some element of tongue in cheek.. I would hope so anyway!
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby scoz » Sat Apr 01, 2017 1:01 am

Oops missed your bit saying pretty much the same.

Can't remember where I saw it but O'Malley was saying they robes allow an amount of anonymity so people don't neccessarily know what the line up is. so maybe they can rope in dylan carlson or someone from Boris and it not become a big deal that "guest stars" sometimes become. Though I guess the robes & smoke has become part of the shtick now and they are stuck with it.

Though they did go and record an album in a cathedral in Norway so maybe there is a sense of humour
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby simonkeeping » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:35 pm

Sorry, never replied to these great posts. Some great comments. Pretty much everyone I talk to about them, especially those who have seen them live say the same thing about the physicality of their music.

It sounds like a real "experience" seeing them live.. Ive got tickets to see them at the Concorde in Brighton which I imagine will be utterly brutal. Such a small venue for such a big sound. Trying to negotiate the way back to London after it I'm sure will be quite bewildering.

The red bull video is really interesting isn't it. I love how Stephen O'Malley is a real artist and totally into every facit of how the band looks, sounds - right down to the typeface he chooses for the stage layout diagrams. Total minimalist.
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Re: Sunn O)))

Postby mojo filters » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:12 pm

scoz wrote:I guess the difference between seeing them in their own right which I haven't and at a festival which I have. is they control the sound system when it's just them playing while at a festival it's the festival the supplies it. A while back I saw some macho idiot saying bascially "wooo I saw Sunn o))) without earplugs and my ears are still ringing a week later woo".

(snip)


Don't be so quick to assign blame to festival sound vs venue installs. Obviously the latter have the opportunity to optimise and refine their house system, but not at every venue. Some rely on hired-in sound, or tired and badly-deployed equipment ... or sometimes both. Having "control" in the way you describe, can be a double-edged sword.

By contrast festivals now have much more powerful tools available, to optimise their temporary sound systems. For example Martin Audio's innovative post-line array MLA uses modern technology to put sound where it's needed, as well as employing the significant "hard avoid" functionality that avoids putting sound in places that would cause problems - such as reflective surfaces that send delayed interference back towards the audience, causing comb-filtering and similar types of unpleasant artefacts, resulting from multiple sound waves combining at various times in their cycle, polluting the direct sound the audience is supposed to be enjoying.

Anyone who's been to a gig at Hyde Park in recent years, will notice the benefit resulting from Capital Sound using multiple arrays of MLA and MLC, in addition to changing the orientation of the stage to reduce spillage that previously caused complaints from neighbouring residences. I saw Simon & Garfunkel play an amazing gig in Hyde Park in 2004, but even for that genre of music, which doesn't demand such challenging volumes as most more modern types - the PA I heard (V-Dosc I think) was not as loud as I expected for a gig of that scale.

Sonic compromises at festivals often come from the lack of facility to soundcheck, as bands would normally do without the audience present. The typical festival line-check involves using headphones (and sometimes near-field monitors) for a very short period of time, to anticipate how what you can hear will translate to the main system, which will only be brought up when the band begin their first track.

It's not necessarily difficult to follow a line-check with a decent "throw-n-go" mix, finished off and polished during the first few minutes of the first song. Festivals tend to introduce a load of additional inconvenient variables, from time constraints to stage logistics to weather threatening to wipe out the power. Many of these are hard to anticipate or prepare for beforehand.

Anyone who's been involved in festivals understands how the huge increase in the number of moving parts, compared with a typical one-off gig, can complicate matters and sometimes compromise aspects of a live performance. Issues happen to everyone from the greenest youngsters, to the most experienced and well-resourced acts.

For example the recent Radiohead festival issue has lit up all the live sound forums on the interwebs. Turns out their Avid S6L FOH desk had been flashing up an error message prior to the offending event - advising the external AVB interface (which can be used for everything from digital connection to stageboxes, to recording/playback of virtual soundcheck multi-tracks) was faulty. Basically a simple piece of maintenance got overlooked, this time with serious consequences.

The issue was publicised because normally digital consoles used for live sound are setup to continue passing audio, even if a fault causes the desk to power down (which thanks to the SOP of using UPS protection, means such events are rare but normally due to computer-style crashes, when they happen). In this event the fault left the band playing away (the monitors were not affected) whilst the audience heard FOH go silent for up to a minute - a timescale which lasts a lot longer when you're the person everyone is looking at during the terrible silence!

In respect of the post quoted, the biggest concern is someone "boasting" about not wearing ear-plugs. Good quality loud volumes, whether playing recorded or live music - should not fatigue the ear of the listener. Obviously they shouldn't be allowed to damage people's hearing either, but that's a H&S issue way beyond the scope of my knowledge.

Part of the problem is that music consumers of all types, can become accustomed to hearing distorted sound, especially at high volumes. This becomes part of the signature of that sound, and can actively detract from the ideal goal of providing sound reinforcement at high volumes, but which doesn't potentially damage or audibly fatigue the ears of consumers.

A good example of where consumer expectations regarding loud live sound can be polluted by distortion, is the modern preference for bass reflex subwoofers, commonly used at a variety of event types and capacities. When pushed beyond operating limits, a bass reflex subwoofer will distort and produce out of band artefacts, which the human ear is more susceptible to hear (see Fletcher-Munson or "equal loudness contour" for details).

The same distortion (when such speakers are pushed to the limit of their operating extremes) occurs in alternative subwoofer topologies, such as 4th and 6th order bandpass, or conventional horn-loaded enclosures. However the higher frequencies are much less audible, as both horns and bandpass subs send the majority of their output along a tuned and resonant enclosure, before the sound waves reach past the extremities of their cabinet - so the out of band distortion (ie higher frequencies) is naturally filtered by the loudspeaker cabinet design.

These are all just examples. Take any specific situation, and there are many other factors that come into play. However don't write off festivals as always having sub-standard sound - for example any outdoor festival immediately provides a far more acoustically inert environment, where the design and deployment of a PA system doesn't need to account for the same number of potential reflections found in indoor venues - reducing the potential for interference that is likely to impact on the quality of the sound.

I'm not going to name and shame any current music venues unfairly. But a good example of bad sound comes from a recently closed Leeds venue. They used a well-known, well respected and popular (if dated) arrayable 3-way point source speaker, for their tops. The manufacturer increased the life of this product, by employing a respected acoustic engineer who created a set of locked-in DSP presets that increased the lifespan of their existing speaker designs, only available via that manufacturer's bespoke speaker processor. The latter was never used in this venue, but I'll leave the reasons why up to folks imagination...

By contrast Brighton's Concorde venue has a high quality PA, using L-Acoustics Arcs over SB218 subs. If you look at their FOH system processing - the key detail is that the system utilises L-Acoustics' preset programming. The non-negotiable nature of the blackbox DSP pioneered by modern line array specialists L-Acoustics, designed by Dr Christian Heil, has been the key to the success of their sound system concepts. It's also a business model now used by other big names, as well as established manufacturers espousing similar concepts, such as Meyer and d&b, all to great effect - providing an assured consistency, regardless of location.

Arcs are probably the best vertically and horizontally arrayable tops available to system designers, as they have fixed dispersion that doesn't allow for differing array angles - avoiding the inevitable interference inherent in conventional line arrays.

L-Acoustics gained their top-tier reputation by creating holistic PA systems, allowing band techs to spec their products in every continent - with the assurance that each system sounds exactly as it was designed to back at the factory, regardless of the differing circumstances that present potential problems - for example different electrical topologies, or user-adjustable processing that potentially affects less rigidly-defined systems from competing manufacturers, if used incorrectly.

Arcs are now into their 2nd generation, and L-Acoustics now make system techs life easier by ensuring their current products can only be used with L-Acoustics' own amplifiers, that contain the bespoke DSP required to provide consistency in respect of the sound of their products, wherever they are used.

A good example is Adlib's install at Leeds' Brudenell venue, where a 400cap room is covered by a L/R pair of differing dispersion Arcs boxes (in a "WiFo" array, conveniently run from a single amp channel per side) that sounded fine initially, but has recently been improved by adding a centre-fill 115XT - to compensate for the varying volume of different channels emanating from the stage. I.E. vox that only spill from monitors require additional reinforcement in the house, whereas a Marshall 4x12" half-stack or Fender Twin (guitar amps preferred by Jason and Doggen respectively) are loud enough (when run at high gain to benefit from their valve amp character) to be heard by audience members close to the stage, hence normally only require reinforcement in the mid and far fields.

Apologies for this long, rambling and overtly technical post. However I think it's important to ensure folks understand that there's no simple festivals=bad/house gigs=good dichotomy in play. As with most matters related to live sound reproduction - the nuanced answer is normally complicated, starting with the phrase "it depends..."
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