The ghost of free jazz hovers over the latest from O’Malley and Anderson. This isn’t new: there has always been a spiritual connection, and sometimes a sonic bond, between drone, stoner metal and the radical mystical improvs of Coltrane, Ayler, Ra, and so forth. Monoliths & Dimensions has many guest collaborators, including Oren Ambarchi, Dylan Carlson (Earth) and former Sun Ra’s Arkestra member Julius Priester. While free jazz’s exploration of the holiness of notes most often came in an unbridled flurry of them, SunnO))) know how to wring the mystic out of one slow note at a time. Sure, other bands do this, but this band always seems to deliver a single-minded wallop. This is important music that doesn’t drown in self-importance.
A horn player on a SunnO))) record, you say? Read on. The four tracks here, each over fifteen minutes, drone with kind of creeping power you expect, but other kinds of drone, drawing from chamber music and French horns, appear as well. The opener, “Agharta,” named for the killer electric Miles Davis record, slowly blends in orchestral drone just underneath the behemoth riff holding it all together. Likewise, “Alice” (a tribute to Coltrane’s wife) eases the strings into the maelstrom so that by the time you are aware of it, it feels like a natural mix.
Ambrachi sits in as one of four guitarists on “Big Church,” a hammering, huge song that features female voices soaring in unison. A Choir? Mayhem’s throat/poet Attila Csihar chips in on the chanting, as does Jessika Kenney. Csihar provides lyrics and lead vocals on “Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia),” another swirling, ancient beast of a track.
Monoliths & Dimensions deepens the band’s sound. With the explorations of additional instrumentation as well being more comfortable with silences and with echo, SunnO))) approach the freedom and abandon of the spirit-travelers alluded to in the titles and approaches on this, the band’s best record yet.