There have been no shortage of accusations involving the word “pretentious” leveled at the musicians behind the Nazoranai collaboration. Stephen O’Malley’s main project, Sunn 0))), has left many questioning if letting tri-tone riffs drone on for 20 minutes really counts as metal. Oren Ambarchi’s eclectic instrumentals have been “exasperating.” Keiji Haino, perhaps the most musically adventurous of the three, specializes in improvisational forms that will leave most scratching their heads.
Unsurprisingly, the result of putting these three musicians on stage (O’Malley on bass, Haino on guitar, vocals, and synths, and Ambarchi on battery) is just as impenetrable and unaccessible as anything they’ve ever put out. The focal points of these four pieces (half of which run over 20 minutes) are atonality and dissonance, as well as the rhythm that can underly both. This marks the second of Stephen O’Malley’s collaborative projects to be released this year, and just like the one before, it’s easy to see how this might be interesting to the musicians, but not so much to the listener. Nazorani, from its gorgeous dark artwork to its abstract musical structures, is very much like an art installation, something these gentlemen are no stranger to. (One memorable example is Sunn 0))’s Oracle, an EP recorded during a New York art exhibit by sculptor Banks Violette.) Yet as daring as this project may be, it’s also insular to the point that one has to come up with reasons to appreciate it instead of being able to enjoy it for its own sake. It’s art that emphasizes its own challenging stylistics over the personal encounters with the music that is necessary to true experience of art. Being avant-garde is not a goal in and of itself, but the more risks these three continue to take suggest they think otherwise.