As Oren Ambarchi's adds layer after layer to his gentle bass tones, building them into a cavernous noise and then back to near silence again, he addresses a serious concern of mine: the volume in the Music Gallery. I've never been pleased with the sound system in this converted church, but the piles of amps on stage that augment the comparatively wimpy speakers in the venue help to put my fears to rest.
Between sets, smoke begins to fill the room to a orchestral soundtrack of suitably impending doom, almost like Wagner mixed with the theme to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". By the time SunnO))) (plus Ambarchi) begin playing, the entire church is filled with an opaque haze. The light from the lamposts on the street are shining through the windows, cutting through the smoky air like sharp white daggers. The entire front half of the building could have collapsed into a smouldering husk for all my eyes can see, and a red glow softly illuminates the area around the stage. Thunderously loud guitar drones are a lot scarier when you can't see the people standing six feet away from you, let alone where that terrorizing sound is coming from. I've heard that this is music you feel in your chest cavity, but the hardwood floor at the Music Gallery ensures that I mostly feel this gig in my feet.
Adjectives like "good" or "bad" aren't really descriptive of one's opinion of SunnO))) live. Their gigs are not something you enjoy inasmuch as they are to be endured. Everyone is forced to stand and take in the shared ordeal. The darkness, save for the soft red and/or blue illumination through the thick smoke, recalls the scenes from "Superman II" when Superman is able to remove his (and later the villians') superpowers. We're all standing in a funnel of sound while some kind of intangible energy is slowly sapped from our bodies.
Gradually, I inch closer and can soon make out the shadowy, black caped figures in the band. Emerging from the onstage mist, a clenched first slowly pumps along to the beatless music. Perfect.