“Oslo, Norway, August 10th, 2008. Following their 200th gig, playing before 2000 people at the Øya festival, Sunn O))) teamed up with Norwegian legends Ulver at their Oslo studio, Crystal Canyon. They recorded three “live in improvisation” pieces, starting that evening and ending at dawn, as Northern sunlight seeped in through the windows.
“We were sitting in the console room, early in the morning, listening to the takes. Someone said, ‘ah, sunrise over Crystal Canyon,’ as if the night had been a dark one. We all laughed and Greg proposed it as a title. In that setting it sounded perfect. The boys had mentioned wanting the music to orient towards the light, like some lost pilgrim stretching before the sun. We kept that mental picture for the processing.” – Kristoffer Rygg
That take became the album’s opening piece, “Let There Be Light,” which builds up from silence and darkness and proceeds – ceremoniously, coruscating – O’Malley and O’Sullivan creating the backdrop for Rygg‘s Basso Profondo chants. The music unfolds over eight minutes before reaching a crescendo of bass and brass, introducing both Anderson and Ulver as we know them. The Sunn has risen.
“Western Horn” accelerates on a single and austere note of sustained bass and low end, evolving gradually into a haunted soundscape. Crying violins, clusters of Fender Rhodes, guitar pickups, and metal plate drones are gradually layered beneath Anderson‘s augmented bass feedback.
“Eternal Return” introduces Rygg singing a lyric evoking ancient Greece, Egypt and the Biblical lands. The song is palindromic, echoing the lyric, beginning and ending with the same bass line and musical pattern, though the guitars are ultimately reversed as the song implodes upon itself.
After the session, Ulver spent a fortnight enhancing the dynamics of the original recordings, adding their own distinctive sheen to the mix, while never losing sight of the Sunn O))) gestaltqualität and remaining careful not to become caught up in studio stratagems.
O’Malley would join Ulver once in a blue moon to develop and sculpt the production more closely with Rygg – overseeing additional recordings of trumpet, viola and violin and attempting to illuminate, and preserve, the unique atmosphere of the collaboration. Over the course of several of these short visits, now some years since the original recording session took place, things slowly and steadily grew to become Terrestrials.
“I remember the vibe in the room back then was more raga than it was rock. And despite the fact that the walls were literally shaking from volume, it was actually quite a blissed out, psychedelic session. I wanted to preserve that vibe in the final mix.” – Stephen O’Malley
And while Pandit Shankar (may he rest in peace) was not physically present, his spirit loomed large, perhaps together with a few nameless Persian ghosts attracted by the boys’ mutual appreciation for composers like Conrad, Riley, Glass, Alice Coltrane and Shivkumar Sharma.
“You know that opening sequence of Koyaanisqatsi, where the desolate desert landscapes, waves and cloud formations roll over the screen accompanied by deep male chanting and organ ostinatos. That’s where we were.” – Daniel O’Sullivan
So: serene, vociferous, and visually charged stuff. Supreme sounds of synergy from two seminal forces – and friends. Remember to play loud.”