Live Review: Suuns at Mercury Lounge
Montreal psych synth rockers hypnotized a weather-beaten New York crowd back into life.
When I missed Sunns’ performance at CMJ I wanted to kick myself in the head. Since, their 2010 release, “Zero QC” on Secretly Canadian, I’ve wanted to see if Suuns held their “order out of chaos” sound as masterfully live as they do in the studio. Their CMJ set apparently killed. Thursday, it was a blood bath all over again.
Four young unshaven ordinary looking guys took the stage, plugged in, and anesthetized the crowd with a precise maelstrom of sound befitting of an alchemist.
“Disappearance of a Skyscraper” is the type of intense cinematic-drenched track that is worthy of closing out a film. Any band who hold this type of weaponry save it for the climax of their show. The fact that Suuns opened with this song shows a sophisticated bravado of an older more seasoned band—one that has an arsenal of songs that cut and terrorize.
Within thirty seconds of seeing Suuns play live, three things were apparent: these guys love what they do, they are damn good at it, and they play with an unhinged intensity uncharacteristic of any band in their genre.
From “Skyscraper” the band slid into “Arena,” a single-worthy tune backed by shoegaze drone, a pulsing keyboard, and wispy vocals.
Every time lead singer Ben Shemie leans away from the mic and hunches over his guitar it looks like he is having a shamanistic experience. In fact, the whole band plays every song like it might be their last. It would be a cliché to say “they get lost in the music”. I think they are very much present within the sound, but a presence transported to some higher metaphysical place.
The Sunns switched gears with “Up Past The Nursery.” The looped bassline, delicate cymbals, and repetitive vocals were reminiscent of bluesy acid jazz.
At one point Anna Weber jumped onstage with a sax adding bit of uncontrolled jazz-fusion. The sound was something like an Angelo Badalamenti score from David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”
Suuns rounded out the short set with NIN influenced “Pie IX,” a slower, throbbing number. Shemie’s voice was savagely distorted as Liam O’Neill’s drums created a slow rhythmic assault and Max Henry’s keyboards filled in with piercing mutations of sound.
When the show ended I was in awe. The lights went on and filler music lingered as people filed out. Not knowing why, I stood in place for a moment and took it all in. As I left the room it all made perfect sense.