Since 2005, Sunn O))) guitar melter Stephen O’Malley has had a formidable six-string partner in Oren Ambarchi. It was Ambarchi who added pitch-black tones to Sunn studio albums like Black One and 2009′s Monoliths & Dimensions. In 2010, Belgian director Alexis Destoop asked the duo to record a soundtrack for his short film Kairos in a makeshift studio. The two guitarists asked Sunn O))) engineer/ producer Randall Dunn to help with the proceedings, making for a rather curious update on the classic “power trio.”
While the film itself just tops 30 minutes, Shade Themes From Kairos is an hour-plus-long plunge deep into the abyss. Rather than keep to two guitars, O’Malley and Ambarchi add drum kits, percussion, gongs, mellotron, crotales and more. And while it might have been easy to just dabble in such exotic timbres, with Dunn at the controls, he hones it all in the mix.
It’s not hard to imagine the 13 minutes of “That Space Between” as a group manifesto of sorts: The guitars are alternately sharpened to scythes and flattened to bludgeons, the titular space between as menacing as the sounds themselves. By the time of “Temporal, Eponymous,” Ambarchi’s drums have acquired tonnage, sounding like something from a This Heat album. But in addition to the drums and guitars, Dunn makes smaller yet more alien sounds that hover at the periphery, reminiscent of old bewildering musique-concrète records. It’s a noise-rock album, even if it’s hard to pinpoint the rock in it. Yet even on the relatively quiet and hushed “Sometimes,” which drifts in the air for eight minutes, the trio make silence feel heavy.