Sunn O))) + Anna von Hausswolff
@ The Roundhouse, Camden
28th of October 2019
Review and Photography by Ryan Whitwell
A bit of a wait between doors and tonight’s first act, but the mood was a relaxed one Camden’s Roundhouse. Tonight we’d be giving our eardrums some tasty bass treats in the form of Sunn O))) with Anna Von Hausswolff supporting.
Much like the band they were supporting tonight, Anna von Hausswolff and her band lean into a more experimental feel with some very well-crafted tones. The set featured lots of drawn-out phrases of sound that at times were hard to describe in normal terms, but juxtaposed this with the occasional vocal sections and more regular drum beats.
At times there were two sets of drums being utilised, however, don’t expect Godsmack style dual drum riffing, the beats were still relatively low bpm, offering some dark primal feeling to the set.
Being in the photo pit allowed me to get the full force of bass, which was abundant partly due to the only stringed instrument for the opening numbers being a bass guitar. Even when Anna stepped forward from behind her synth setup and picked up a six-string, her playing kept the tones low and never betrayed the brooding intense mood the band had generated. Perfect start to the evening.
To change things up for us photographers, Sunn O))) allowed us into the photo pit at the Roundhouse after one hour into their set, rather than for the first 15 minutes like most bands. This meant I could drink in those amazing vibrations before having to do any work!
There was the expected huge sound from the front, as the smoke machines billowed and filled a large portion of the Roundhouse, obscuring much of the band with deep fog and coloured lights.
Sunn O))) isn’t really a band you “watch” anyway, they’re more of an experience. At times the set became a test of endurance as the massive bass tones and heavy vibrations made me feel I was in danger of having my ribs crack! This feeling was more prevalent at the very front, but I wandered to the back and the bass was still hitting hard. Apparently, there are some science-based decisions made for the notes and tones they choose, and the crowd got to feel that first hand.
The long drawn out notes and drifting tones do offer some subtlety as well, with some synth and guitar sounds managing to survive and make their way through the barrage of bass.
After an hour of waiting the photographers were allowed in front of the fans and, thankfully, the smoke had cleared for a few moments so I could get some shots. Still, plenty of silhouettes and dim lighting to contend with, but for a time there was a great emphasis on the playing of a trombone, visually and audibly. Seeing the stage up close beyond the smoke highlighted just how much gear the band utilise to deliver their iconic tones. Giant amps, miles of cables connecting all sorts of instruments and pedals all playing their part with the musicians.
And for me, it all worked exceptionally well. Not having seen them before I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I can say I loved it! There are stories of sets being cut short due to damaging venues through sheer volume and tales of causing nausea with the vibrations, but there was none of that tonight. Just a full set of absorbing, trance-inducing tones.