Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Link to article here.
Sun Splitter’s approach to doom metal is anything but typical—except for the amps.
By Miles Raymer
"Well, it's all about amplifiers," says Sun Splitter guitarist Jacob Essak. "I mean, I'm surprised, because I've been talking to you for 20 minutes now and we're just getting around to amplifiers."
Sun Splitter plays a variation on doom metal, a style characterized by glacial tempos, oppressively druggy moods, and unhealthy decibel levels. The typical doom band's approach to amplification looks like the product of an arms race among gear geeks—Japanese trio Boris, who do slow and heavy as well as anyone, named an early album Amplifier Worship. For doom musicians, a wall of vintage Sunn amps seems just as mandatory as a love of half-speed Sabbath riffs.
That equipment does more than look cool and impress other guitarists. Despite recent leaps in digital emulation, there are still some guitar sounds you can only produce with ridiculous amounts of wattage—discerning listeners can tell if you're faking it. And high stage volume, at least in smaller venues, allows a band to sound louder than it could by relying on reasonably powered amps miked through the club's PA system. This makes it easier for the audience to experience the sound with more than just their ears—when your skeleton is vibrating to a note, it induces a synesthetic state that's trippy even when you're totally sober. Holding those notes for an extended period of time only intensifies the high.
Essak talks about his rig with the fervor of a religious convert. "When you're standing in front of it," he says, "you get, you know, 150 watts blasting you in the face. It's just a great feeling. And when you take that feeling, and when you take those strings and down-tune them, and you make it lower and heavier, and those notes are hitting you more consistently, for a longer period, it's just really intense. Sometimes it feels like when you're hitting the note—when you're really laying out a long heavy note—it sometimes feels more like you're playing the electricity in the amplifier than the guitar itself."
The sensations those sounds produce can be so engrossing that some bands barely bother to make music with them—when Sunn 0))) play live, for instance, their output could only be described as "songs" by the most charitable possible definition of the term. "There is an element, when it's done right, where the three of us in our practice space will just have the waves of volume coming out of our amplifiers washing over us, and it does transport you," says Essak. "And it is a feeling that's addictive—and we are well into our addiction."
It took 20 minutes to arrive at Sun Splitter's favorite topic, though, because the band had a lot to talk about. When I called, Essak, vocalist Anthony Dunn, and guitarist and drum programmer Frank Hays were preparing for a trip to Champaign, where they planned to spend a couple of days at Great Western Record Recorders. (Their Facebook page appears to list five members, but Sober Bill and Ignoble Peter are nicknames for drum machines—the band needs two because both are old models, and neither has enough storage capacity for an entire set.) They've since cut six tracks totaling about 45 minutes. One is for a split seven-inch with Bridesmaid, a group from Sun Splitter's old hometown of Columbus, Ohio (it's due in March on Cincinatti's Bastard Sloth label), and the other five are for an LP that doesn't yet have a home.
Doom-metal albums might seem like a waste of time, given that it's probably impossible and definitely impolite to duplicate the volume of a live show with a home stereo, but Sun Splitter is compelling even in recorded form. Local label Land of Decay, run by ambient black-metal group Locrian, recently released II, a four-song, 37-minute tape, in a series of 100. The music's not brand-new—the band first released it on CD-R in late 2009 in an edition of 20 that included a round tin case and several handmade prints from Dunn, then followed up with a more modestly packaged edition of 100 last spring—but many of the virtues Sun Splitter has now are already in evidence. For one, the group is more melodic than your typical doom band. Their songs tend to wander, but their meditative passages are punctuated by cascading riffs that follow unusually active chord progressions. Their massive sound is flavored with noise and industrial music, in part because of the drum machine, but the rhythms aren't sterile and mechanical—Hays manually keys in the tracks by tapping the different pads in real time. Sun Splitter are also more aggressive than most other doom acts—sometimes it sounds like they're trying to tear their songs apart from the inside.
The trio first got together in Columbus about ten years ago, when all three members were enrolled at Ohio State. They've gone by many different names, and didn't settle on Sun Splitter till 2007. They began as "more a performance-art project than anything," according to Essak. "A lot of noise without real direction. Eventually we just kept going at it, just kind of hammering away making sounds, and it sort of formed itself into a doom project." In 2004 they split up as members began graduating and leaving Columbus, but by 2006 all three had moved to Chicago. They released a three-song CD-R called I in an edition of 28 in early 2008 and played their first show as Sun Splitter in September of that year.
Chicago has turned out to be a good home for the group. Over the past decade, the worlds of noise and metal have grown closer, and here the two scenes are exceptionally tight. In Columbus in the early aughts, Essak says, "The noise kids definitely weren't going to the metal shows and the metal kids definitely weren't going to the noise shows." Now Sun Splitter are as likely to share a bill with local power-electronics guru Mark Solotroff as they are with Georgia swamp-metal duo Jucifer, proud owners of their own massive wall of amps.
About those amplifiers. Sun Splitter's live setup currently consists of a Sunn 190L with a 2x15 Acoustic cabinet, an Orange OR120 with a 4x12 Kern, and a bass rig powered by either a 100-watt Fender Bassman head or an Ampeg V4—and that's just for the two guitarists. They run the drum machine through a 600-watt Sunn power amp and a Sunn concert bass head, which drive a 2x15 and 2x12. (The first number is the cabinet's driver count; the second is the diameter of each driver in inches.) If you've ever had to load your own gear, just reading that list probably makes your back hurt. "It pays off if you use them the way we use them," says Essak. "You know, it's a necessary evil, so we deal with it."
Friday, January 14, 2011
We're really excited to be playing in Brooklyn at Club Europa on Sunday, April 17th with three of our favorite bands: Gnaw, Blacklist, and Martial Canterel.
There is and will be more information about the show here.
Here's some of what Brooklyn Vegan had to say:
Land of Decay have dropped the second release from Sun Splitter, a four-track release of killer ambient doom with touches of industrial music. Originally released on CD-R, the cassette features art from Locrian's Terence Hannum (who's art show opens today in Chicago) and is limited to 100 copies, so snag one of these ASAP via the label. Check out two tracks from the release: "Northern Blood Tithe" which is downloadable above and appears for the first time here, and "Earth Burner" which is streamable along with "Northern Blood Tithe" below.
While we're on the subject of Locrian, you can catch the band when they play Europa on April 17th with Martial Canterel, Gnaw, and Blacklist (whose singer Josh Strawn now also spends time in both Vaura and Religious to Damn). Tickets are on sale for the Stereogum's Haunting the Chapel & Wierd Records dark synth and metal event. Locrian released one of my favorite LPs of last year with The Crystal World.
January 14 to February 19, 2011
Opening reception, Friday, January 14, 5 to 8pm
119 N Peoria St, Suite 2A
Chicago, IL 60607
Terence Hannum's drawings, paintings and video installations cull the periphery of heavy metal and hardcore music subcultures to analyze the nexus of music, myth, audience and ritual. In addition to the above work, Hannum is a prolific zine maker and for his show in Western Exhibitions’ Gallery 2, Hannum will present a box set of 12 zines, all made in 2010, as well as drawings, paintings and other work that inspired the publications.
Exemplifying the DIY spirit inherent in the scenes he’s documenting, his use of the zine relates to the format’s origin, that of the self-produced fanzine. Hannum recontextualizes elements of his drawings, paintings, installations and even sound work in his zines, at times documenting the above works, but also casting new narratives intrinsic to the multi-page format.
Every month in 2010 Hannum produced a new zine, each one taking a different format, maximizing the possibilities of the cheaply printed page. He achieves remarkable textures, surfaces and images through seemingly simple combinations of toner on white, black and gray papers. Every subsequent zine ups the ambition from the prior one, as Hannum experiments with color xeroxes, collaborations (with New York artist Scott Treleaven, Chicagoan Elijah Burgher and Swedish musician/designer Thomas Martin Ekelund), vellum, sealed wax covers, obi bands and mini-CDs. Hannum pushes the zine to its extremes, much like the extreme sonic scenes he’s documenting and influenced by.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
by Eduardo Rivadavia
After several years of conducting one-off musical experiments, oftentimes issued in limited numbers and unconventional formats like vinyl, cassette, or CD-R (or not at all), Chicago's Locrian finally felt ready to record their debut album in 2009's Drenched Lands. But that decision hardly spelled the end of the group's restless musical shape-shifting, as evidenced by the brusque textural disconnect between each of the album's songs (and the art of seamless "sequencing" be damned), beginning with its brief, minimal, and melancholy opening gambit, "Obsolete Elegy in Effluvia and Dross," and its protracted, slowly escalating noise-drone follow-up, "Ghost Repeater." Even by post-metal standards, the pair just don't line up -- on paper -- yet they ultimately make sense in the decontextualized "anything goes" mentality displayed throughout Drenched Lands. This proceeds via always unexpected detours into atmospheric black metal ("Barren Temple Obscured by Contaminated Fogs"), church organ reverie-cum-doomy power chord misery ("Epicedium"), and assiduous feedback sculpting over tolling bells and scything guitar staccatos ("Obsolete Elegy in Cast Concrete"). Technically, Drenched Lands concludes here, but a 30-minute-long bonus offering entitled "Greyfield Shrines" (previously released on vinyl, but virtually impossible to find) reveals what Locrian can do to connect their eclectic creative interests when they choose to, and the terrifyingly cinematic results, climaxing in a mechanical primal scream, are truly awesome to behold. And, as it turned out, Locrian's virginal foray into full-length territory opened a virtual floodgate of inspiration that yielded another pair of very impressive (and largely uncategorizable) albums within a year, those being 2010's Territories and The Crystal World.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words
Land of Decay
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words was brand new to me when I heard this cassette. Turns out the project is not new and the tape has been out for awhile as well. I gotta say that it's pretty damn good. Beautiful and building drones swirl and merge in a large empty room. Structured compositions with a more than just your typical melancholy feel really effect you on a deeply troubled level. I was surprised as I was expecting something a bit more grim from Land of Decay; home to Chicago doom-bringers, Locrian. If you read up on the human being behind DLSODW, Thomas Ekelund, you will read some pretty over the top stuff about his being crazy and needing to make this kind of music to keep him from eating kids or something but, to be honest, i hear it. An almost palpable amount of desperation and fear is present throughout this release. The descriptions you may read on his facebook page may sound as if David Tibet wrote them while doing a David Tibet impression but i would totally give this a listen. It's pretty spectacular, I just hope you aren't allergic to hyperbole.
Here's a description from their webstore below:
New Tape - Sun Splitter - II - Sun Splitter is from Chicago, but we have a feeling they won't be known as a "local" band too much longer. "II" is their new tape on the Locrian-run Land of Decay label and it contains 4 fucking epic metal-gaze jammers. Fans of all things Justin Broadrick, well maybe not ALL things, but most things Broadrick (ie. Jesu, Godflesh, etc) and industrial post-metal will absolutely love Sun Splitter. Word on the street is that they kill live too. This cassette is limited to 100 and will not likely last long.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Please feel free to order this release now. We'll begin shipping orders tomorrow.
Artist: Sun Splitter
Catalog Number: LOD 012
Edition Size: 100 Copies
Release Date: Friday, January 7, 2011
Price: $7 USA/$10 Rest of World @ postage paid
Please send payment to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The tape consists of four tracks, thirty seven minutes, and RIFFS, RIFFS, RIFFS!!! Riffs that slowly build up and build up until they morph into mysterious doom-laden melodies. We can’t say enough about the intricate guitar playing on this release. The mysterious guitar melodies are complimented by vocals that are at times gnarled, chanted, and abstract. At the same time, there are electronic samples interspersed throughout the tracks that add subtle textures and filigree. Weird percussion that brings to mind Joe Preston’s drumming on Earth’s early releases accents the big riffs, making them even bigger. Dark, black, bleak, and totally engrossing.
This is forward thinking industrial metal that would appeal to fans of Godflesh, and Dead World. Sun Splitter are definitely one of the most underrated bands in Chicago and one that you’re sure to hear more about in the coming years. The cassette features original artwork from Terence Hannum. All tapes were professionally duplicated on chrome, hi-bias, tape.
PLAY THIS LOUDLY!
A1: Cairn Of Old Eyes
A2: Northern Blood Tithe
B1: Earth Burner
B2: Carrion Eater
Hear a track from the release below: