Sunn O))) – The GrimmRobe Demos

3 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head Records

Produced by: Sunn O))) & Mathias Schneeberger

I’m positive I’m listening to this wrong, but what’re ya gonna do; one’s ears can only adapt so much.

The thing is, after giving Sunn O)))’s Earth 2 tribute, The GrimmRobe Demos, many spins, and then comparing and contrasting with the source of inspiration – Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version by Earth – I quite love the original, and can’t quite find my place in Sunn O)))’s take, yet the reviews I read are universally glowing. So I’m missing something.

Drone is a weird genre. I can’t pinpoint when, exactly, it works for me and when it doesn’t, but if we take the m.o. as exposing / investigating what “happens” in music when it’s extended out to long stretches of the same – or what happens to the listener and the listener’s perceptions during that process – I do like when there’s a little bit of in-built variation there, even if it comes at a trickle, and across 70 minutes of same-soundy tones.

And that’s where GrimmRobe loses me. Whether we take this as one track or the three into which it’s split, I definitely like where the first section (Black Wedding) gets to, and how closer Dylan Carson (named after Earth’s founder) eventually does subtly increase in intensity towards its conclusion, but between these states, there’s not much going on beyond a general swell. And mid track Defeating: Earth’s Gravity just sounds like a transition between focuses – Black Wedding has a sort of swooping low-end that takes priority; Carson places more emphasis on the fuzz of guitar; Defeating starts with one and goes to the other – it functions only as this midway point. The way this is mixed together also isn’t nearly as punishing and weighty as the Earth original; it’s a bit more contemplative in that sense. This isn’t a bad thing – it gives it its own vibe, and perhaps pushes the set slightly into noise territory, but I think it makes it harder to parse any easy emotions from it.

If I’m knocking this too much, it’s only because I’m at odds to figure out what makes it notable, especially in comparison to Earth 2. For a drone / minimalist recording, it’s effective, especially via something that blocks out other sounds, like headphones, but it’s not an experience – I don’t have those takeaways of experiencing the music shift and change throughout, or that I suddenly “hear” the noise differently after so many listens. It’s just 60+ minutes of low rumble.