Sun Splitter- “Live on WFMU”

Sun Splitter

Sun Splitter‘s latest cassette, a recording of a live performance on the legendary My Castle of Quiet program, came to me as something of a surprise. As a highly unprofessional critic, I automatically saw the band’s name and envisioned some sort of cosmic stoner doom. I’ll admit that despite the great praise Sun Splitter’s past efforts have received, this tape is the first I’ve heard of or from Sun Splitter. Luckily, this performance demonstrates that Sun Splitter’s bizarre industrialized heaviness is stronger than any simple genre tag and is well worth examining. The pairing of talented musicians with a great recording setup makes for a no-brainer when it comes to live performances. As an aside, I should mention that there needs to be a set of My Castle of Quiet live albums in the vein of John Peel’s BBC sessions, because some of the stuff captured over this program’s history is as good as (or better than, in some cases) anything most of the artists commit to their actual albums.

So what does Sun Splitter do with these five tracks? It’s really hard to put my finger on the music. At times there are truly intense metal riffs, but for the most part, this album avoids blunt assaults in favor of droning layers of reverb, dissonant strings, and chanting vocals that all sound like they’ve traveled across the vacuum of space to reach the listener’s ears. The effect is totally hypnotic and focused. Despite how detached the overall sound is, it’s hard not to pay attention to every moment of tracks like the pulsing “Time Cathedral” or the opening lure of “Eye of Jupiter.” An aspect of this recording that speaks to me strongly is the use of electronic elements and stellar themes in music that feels decidedly primitive and earthy in a way. The music and overall presentation is very grounded and almost focused internally rather than the skyward gaze one might imagine from the song titles. Perhaps the human element is brought in by the fact that this is a live recording, or perhaps it’s intentional. Regardless, it’s what endears this recording to me above all else. The knot in my chest grows from start to finish, until the cathartic frenzy that ends the tape fades into silence, leaving me weary and pensive.

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