Sumac – What One Becomes (Thrill Jockey)

Thursday, 19th May 2016
Rating: 8/10

The second album in as many years from Sumac, What One Becomes finds Aaron Turner (ex-Isis) and bandmates flanked by more rousing, distortion-laden ugly sounds than before. Turner, of course, was the master of subtlety in his previous bands; able to successfully volley between monolithic guitar charges and soft, exploratory passages like no one else. (It could also be argued that since Isis disbanded, no band has been able to properly equal said template.) Sumac, though, is entirely different beast, if you will, and the gnashing, furrowed sounds found on What One Becomes certainly help drive home that notion.

A few distinctive elements are able to carry What One Becomes home, namely Turner’s identifiable roar. It’s as limber and T’d off as ever, and when backed up by the noise mess that opens “Image of Control,” it’s a mad sonic scramble. Things settle down a bit from there, as “Rigid Man” uncoils a devastating barrage of chunky and stalled guitars, complete with an unexpected quiet interlude at the song’s midway point. Some melody eventually makes its way into “Clutch of Oblivion,” which not surprisingly, is the album’s best cut. Here, Sumac gradually builds tension until the wire snaps, ending up in noise-thrash territory, of all places.

Have to love the experimental flavor of “Blackout,” where the sounds of a guitar input jack are met with pounding toms, while the snappy and oftentimes grueling “Will to Reach” finds Turner wrangling with all sorts of odd guitar runs and modes. Such dynamics eventually shoot What One Becomes past the band’s The Deal debut, which if we look back, had the feel of a band just putting its toes into the water. What One Becomes is full immersion.

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