Whether you regard Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson as arch mischief-makers or enlightened sonic voyagers, Sunn O)))’s rise from low-key drone merchants to respected artists with fingers in numerous pies has been a gratifying spectacle to witness.
At times, their music has contrasted so starkly with other ongoing phenomena in heavy music that those oppressive rumbles and sustained howls of feedback have felt like acts of flagrant subversion; at other points, however, Sunn O))) have strayed perilously close to self-parody, possibly on purpose.
Regardless of how they are perceived by their diverse audience, the unhinged experiments of collaborations with Ulver and Scott Walker (Terrestrials and Soused respectively) suggested that the duo were steadily edging away from their languorous trademarks and pursuing new ways to dislodge brains and bowels; as a result, Kannon is only a curveball in the sense that it takes Sunn O))) back to the immersive squall of earlier albums like Flight Of The Behemoth and Black One, rather than veering off on another peculiar tangent.
This three-track journey to the centre of mankind’s wavering pulse, via notions of merciful Buddhist goddess Guanyin Bodhisattva, is the most straightforward and riff-driven thing the Americans have produced in a long time, and yet somehow it still feels like a forward step. Part 1’s maelstrom of angry chords and surging crescendos of resonance and speaker hiss is still a long way from being a song in the traditional sense, but there are more breadcrumbs along the path to direct newcomers towards the point where drone and riff collide.
Attila Csihar’s subterranean gargling serves as an extra layer of hallowed bottom end, as Stephen and Greg’s nebulous duelling dominates, wielding its own momentum and filling up sonic space like flood water pouring into the dry basin of our collective consciousness. Parts 2 and 3 pack the same spectral punch: swathes of voluminous throb buffeted by clouds of disorientating ambience. Total surrender is required to truly climb inside the drone, but the willing will be rewarded.