ID Music 20211119 - Pure Flow
North American's Gnarliest Pure Flow of Less Dharma Talk, and More Dharma Rock
Inter-Dimensional Music is heard weekly on the airwaves of Marfa Public Radio, LOOKOUT FM Los Angeles, and WQRT Indianapolis
For this week's session: A Pure Flow of beatless ambience. It's an opportunity for you to drop in, tune out, and turn off.
This episode features two iconic bands that helped me to better understand the aesthetic, spiritual, and deeply psychedelic side of heavy music. Both SUNN O))) and Growing have long acknowledged the meditative aspect of their work. Though I imagine the term has been used for ages, the first time I heard “life metal” was in editing “Happy Mediums,” Peter Relic’s profile of Growing in the May 2006 issue of Arthur Magazine:
“Growing have united the foreboding heaviness of doom metal with the reassuring beauty of placid ambience in songs stretching up to 20 minutes in length. The unlikely arranged marriage actually works. Call it life metal, or nature drone.”
I was having my own slop-style medicine journeys in the deserts, mountains, and urban centers of California at the time. My connection with Joe DeNardo and Kevin Doria’s music was forever burned into my brain late one night on an overcast, starless Big Sur beach, as I sat watching the sky run into the sea through a psilocybin lens while recollections of their nature drone reverberated between my ears. Meanwhile my fellow travelers wandered in and out of the creeping fog, and the self-described North Carolina “spice witch” in our company free-climbed up the bluff, her headlamp creating a green halo as she sought communion with fern as well as fungus.
Sunn still felt like a secret at the time, and I went to see them as often as I could in small clubs where maximum volume caused the ceiling to crumble over our bowed heads.
Both entities are currently making what is - for my purposes - the best music of their careers. Growing’s return hit a crescendo this year with a fourth volume in their Humming Amps series of long-form singles, a reissue of the classic 2004 album The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light, and the Diptych album. It is hard to imagine a sound more in line with our long-running moderately unpopular heavy mellow meditation broadcast than one introduced as “something akin to a hesher using their denim jacket as a meditation mat at La Monte Young’s Dream House.”
The duo also expanded on Joe DeNardo’s 2019 Live in the Rain From the Russian Woods improvisational live performance with Mary Lattimore on the collaborative GAINER album, where the harpist’s photons glitter and bend through the undulating waves of Growing’s gravitational field.
I was extremely stoked when Lattimore and DeNardo contributed an excerpt from their 2019 Russian improvisation to my 2020 series of Void Contemplation Tactics guided meditation videos.
The meditative aspects of Sunn’s work have always been obvious, but the band has gone from tumultuous live shows full of on-stage fighting and misanthropic black metal vibes to present their performances explicitly as restorative rituals, and demonstrations of the healing power of righteous heavy music. Their albums have progressed from “big church” vibes where the beneficence is obvious to the veteran seeker, to tributes to Alice Coltrane (also featured on this week’s program), to titles referencing Buddhist concepts like Kannon – the bodhisattva of compassion – and Metta, which just means “lovingkindness.” They obviously leaned into the sharp points of Life Metal.
The last time I saw Sunn was in April 2019 at the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. Rachel and I arrived early and ended up lazing on the front lawn of the interfaith cathedral as low frequency echoes of the band’s soundcheck reverberated through the medieval-style architecture. While we lingered, a man walked up to the doors of the cathedral, puzzled by the sound. “Is there a concert happening?” he asked us.
“Do you know the band Sunn?” I asked. “It’s super heavy drone metal.”
“I love Sunn,” he said. He was a Sanskrit professor at the University of Chicago, and had walked over after hearing – or rather, feeling – their sound in his office a few blocks away. He ended up joining us for the show.
The ceiling did not crumble, but at some point during their prismatic devotional ritual, a bird emerged from Rachel’s chest, spread its wings, and disappeared into the chapel’s nave.
The video for this week’s program is another installment in the White River, Slow Flow series of works using heavily manipulated slow-motion footage from our local riparian biome. Find more at danielchamberlin.com.
ID Music 20211119 setlist
artist - work
Mary Lattimore + GROWING - Tagada, Night Rises
SUNN O))) - 2019.04.22, Rockefeller Chapel, Chicago, IL, USA (excerpt)
Alice Coltrane - Jai Ramachandra
GROWING - The Clouds We Float In On Burn Out In The Sun
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