There’s a moment, about two and a half minutes into “Tantric Imposter,” the song which opens Sunn Trio’s “Live at the Double Nickels Collective” tape, where after swirling and swooping for a good while – hinting at an explosion -- the song opens up. Blooms like one of those corpse flowers. The drums crash and the reeds rise up, tangled with the electric guitar.
Sunn Trio is bound by propulsion. It’s what drives the group – not a trio, by the way – marshalled by bandleader Joel Robinson. It’s there in the punk funk of “Every Breather, Many Smells,” in the spiritual jazz of “I Had This Moment Upon a Painted Ocean,” in the furious thrall of “Seven Souls, Cross Eyed Look.” Sunn Trio can spazz with the best of them, but it’s the group’s finesse, its deft musicality, which resonates.
My first conversation with Robinson took place outside of Double Nickels – a co-op record store in Tempe, Arizona, where Robinson and his band of weirdos reside. He cited a litany of influences: James Chance and the Contortions, the Coltranes, Albert Ayler, the Lounge Lizards, Sun Ra, Beefheart, the Meat Puppets. And you can hear them in the sounds of “Live at the Double Nickels Collective,” but never more than you hear the group itself, surrounded by music (literally), composing in real time before your eyes (ears).
There are moments of chaos in this set, but I’m most drawn to the moments of tenuous beauty, like those heard in “Generations of People Back to Vomit” (whatever that means) where the horns and brass and drums and guitar all collapse in on a mournful theme. I come back to that theme again and again, take in the crowd’s claps and then start over, back to “Tantric Imposter,” listening for things I didn’t hear the last time. I keep finding them.
Jason P. Woodbury, Phoenix, Arizona, October 3, 2016
released October 3, 2016
Recorded by Joel Robinson at Double Nickels in Tempe, Arizona
Mastered by Nik Rayne from original single-track stereo tapes