Drone wizards SUNN O))) are no strangers to collaborations, previously working magic with Japanese distortion sovereigns BORIS and longtime noise savant, Steven Stapleton. This time, Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley align their monks' robes, fog ether and plunging drag chords with renowned Norwegian experimentalists ULVER, who impressively arranged the dark symphony, "Messe I.X – VI.X" last year. The result of this tag team has produced "Terrestrials", one of the most fascinating albums in either act's careers.The feel of "Terrestrials" is more leaned towards ULVER with its reverberating electronics and frequently warm tones, bolstered by chunky, resonating grooves coming from the SUNN O))) guys. There is a cinematic feel to "Terrestrials" that rings like a dirtied-up nod to Wendy Carlos. This is tailor-made for a steampunk adaptation or a third installment of the "Heavy Metal" animated films. The opening segment, "Let There Be Light" slowly unwinds with sonic reverb that plays in crawling ostinato as the electronic aqueducts open and allow for the introduction of shrill trumpets, often cupped with a disconcerted mute that creates both a calming and shivery cadence. The composition becomes more decadent as the horns grow chaotic and the electronics turn cold. Clumping percussion and ugly bass and guitar then squashes all pretenses of warmth out of "Let There Be Light". By contrast to the serene exposition of "Let There Be Light", the next track, "Western Horn" is far starker. Shrill coldwave and plunking bass barfs swallow the soft, hopeful key pongs that purposefully struggle to emerge from the dank freeze of the frigid instrumentation surrounding it. While ULVER is delegated to delving the harrowing textures of "Western Horn", the SUNN O))) half of the team do what they do best, which is setting the song upon the throes of despair with bitter guitar scrapes and bottom chord plummeting. Later in the track, ULVER excavates a nervous electro bee buzz past the nine minute mark, followed by a sci-fi echo scramble on the outro. The final number, "Eternal Return", is a brave collision between dirge and effervescence as ULVER threads apposite layers of verdant organ chimes against tormented chamber strings. SUNN O))) provides gloomy bass treads and hollow guitar plinks that work in partnership with the agitated violas and violins. It is symbolic of the unique partnership these artists have discovered with "Terrestrials", and as "Eternal Return" changes moods to a stepped-up piano and synth-guided tempo in the vein of Wendy Carlos, it is evident these artists have tapped into something special. As whispery vocals float into the slow spiral of "Eternal Return" and soon hit higher altos in the range of Ihsahn's cleans, it sets up for a bittersweet salutation swarming with pleading organs and strings, all befitting of the desperation following an apocalyptic fallout. More, please, gentlemen.
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