After a couple of different tries, I managed to have the opportunity to experience Sunn O))) live. Touring with Sunn O))) on the second part of their Let There Be Drone tour is Papa M—the solo project of David Pajo—and Big Brave. It certainly wasn't a typical concert both due to the type of music and also the atmosphere intended for this music. What I mean by that is what I will attempt to clarify over the next couple of paragraphs.
I was particularly excited to see Big Brave, I reviewed their record A Gaze Among Them earlier this year and consider one of my favorite 2019 releases.
I was reminded yet again at how they as a band seem to create a distinct balance between overwhelming heft and delicate moments through sound. With two guitars and a drum set, they aren't the most common of trios and because they aren't afraid to experiment as well as fit nicely within what is becoming known as "drone metal" or minimalistic music; the amount of effort and thought put into their composition isn't maybe the most obvious.
The energy their music conjures is both startling and enthralling; with minimal lights on the stage, your primary focus is intended to be the music more than most music fans might be accustomed to at a concert. I'm very grateful to have finally heard their music in person and hope to see them headline someday.
I managed to see Papa M at last year's Power of the Riff festival and was immediately taken aback by the performance. David Pajo chose to perform solo on this tour, whereas at Power of the Riff he had put together a group of musicians for the set. Utilizing two different guitars and electronic percussions, this offered an alternate presentation of his material that was equally interesting.
To my knowledge, David is most well-known for his involvement in the band Slint; with this being on the minimalistic side, Papa M is sure to attract fans of various experimental guitar players such as Jack Rose and Ben Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance) among others just as much as it will attract fans from his time in Slint, Tortoise, etc.
As the fog began to billow across the stage, the venue quieted and the first notes began to thunder through the floor and walls of the Mayan. Utilizing synths, assorted woodwind instruments, a bass, and two guitars; the five-person incarnation of Sunn 0))) started their set.
As I listen to Life Metal, the album Sunn O))) is currently touring in support of; I'm reminded at just how unique the live performance of this kind of music is. It's not a performance that is experienced passively in any way; the room's architecture and if you're sitting or standing can change aspects of it entirely.
As the volume of the guitars vibrated my skeletal frame and the building, I took a bit of time to close my eyes and lean against the nearest wall to feel exactly some of how the acoustics of the building were transmitting the sound.
If you aren't already a fan of Sunn O))) or don't often find minimalistic music interesting, I'd still encourage you to see them live if possible. If you have any interest in heavy music, I honestly believe the physical power felt in their music can be appreciated by almost anyone. I know I walked away impressed and I'll be looking forward to the next opportunity.