Albums of the Year
The white room / By a window / Where the sun comes / Through
SUMAC is Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, Brian Cook (Russian Circles, ex-Botch) on bass, and Aaron Turner (Old Man Gloom, ex-Isis) on guitar and vocals; three musicians with impressive resumes and who seem perfectly suited for this band, to the point where its very alchemy would dissolve if any one of them was swapped out for someone else. SUMAC may have begun as Turner's singular vision, but the two albums to date, The Deal (2015) and What One Becomes, proclaim a brilliant command of atmosphere, mood, and negative space that arguably could only have emerged from the sonic collision of these three specific players. Each contributes something irreplaceable to the band's dynamism.
Like its predecessor, What One Becomes is an exhilarating, no-nonsense collision of opposing forces: darkness and light; catastrophe and grace; creation and destruction. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's colossal fourth track, “Blackout”, which swells and breaks across a landscape of sky-is-falling doom for 11 minutes, before erupting into a melodic expression of hope for its 6-minute coda.
It's rare to find a metal album that is both fraught and introspective, but What One Becomes is what it sounds like. There is a gravity to this record that is often so forceful escape seems impossible. Its heavy, deliberate pace seems to consume the listener completely. The result is more an experience — tension and release made audible — than a mere collection of songs, and, for me, its unique and prodigious impact was unequaled by any other album in 2016.
Other albums I liked:
Superior — Self Defense Family
Masterpiece — Big Thief
Pearls To Swine — Adam Torres
A Weird Exits — Thee Oh Sees
The Psychedelic Swamp — Dr. Dog
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired — Mothers
A Hand Through The Cellar Door — Luke Temple
West — Cave Story
Always — Hidden Ritual
Heron Oblivion — Heron Oblivion
The 1966 Live Recordings — Bob Dylan
Will — Julianna Barwick
Live In San Francisco — Thee Oh Sees
Sleep Cycle — Deakin
Schmilco — Wilco
Half Seas Over — Olan Mill
Plaza — Quilt
Crown Feral — Trap Them