So Sunday night’s adventure (as you might have noticed) was the last three acts on the Southern Lord Records Fest at Melkweg, Magma, Unsane, and of course Sunn O))) (being the folks who started and run Southern Lord).

Magma are curious blend of jazz and hard progressive rock. Under various lineups that have only the constant of drummer Stephan Vander, they’ve been doing the work since 1970. Interesting and compelling stuff.

sunn_melkwegUnsane are one of these crews I wish I’d gotten into a long time ago. They’ve been on the circuit for almost 30 years. Hard and sludgy, Unsane have musical elements in common with early Nirvana and Big Black and to a lesser extend The Melvins. When you get folks who’ve been doing the work together for almost 25 years (the current line-up solidified in ’94), there’s a joy in hearing and watching them lock together. (Note to San Francisco / Bay Area friends: Unsane will be at Bottom of the Hill on 1st December. You should go.)

Sunn O))) are a different thing altogether. They perform more as ritual than as rock and roll. The fog, the volume, and the robes the band members wear contribute to this vibe. Vocalist Attila Csihar took center stage and, for want of a better word, intoned for about ten minutes to increasing volume and fog before the other band members (guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, and two people working keyboards.) For all the flowing of the sound between the instruments and the vocalists, it seems to be a pretty tightly constructed set these days. (Alas, while I recognised various pieces, I couldn’t tell you what they’re titled.) I’ve seen them once before, at Paradiso on the Monoliths and Dimensions tour and the most interesting aspect of the gig was noticing a brass instrument on the stage and being afraid of what they might do with it. (The volume at a Sunn O))) is such that you both hear it and feel it in your bones.) I don’t recall that anyone did anything more than brandish it. There was a trombone stood next to one of the keyboardists, stage left, and it added a lovely counterpoint to one of the pieces. However, as with last night’s gig, I had to leave early not to be on the very slow train back to Leiden. One of these days I will witness one of their gigs to its conclusion. All in all, a great set.

Sadly, I rushed out in order to make my train and didn’t stop at Unsane’s merch counter at all. And I didn’t have my wits about me at Sunn O)))’s. I bought a t-shirt and a vinyl copy of Kannon (their very beautiful 2015 release). I should also have bought a vinyl copy of the 2008 live album Domkirke.

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