SUNN O))) – Shoshin (初心) Duo –  Jesse Sykes with Phil Wandscher & Bill Herzog – Coventry – live review

Supersonic presents – SUNN O))) – Shoshin (初心) Duo –  Jesse Sykes with Phil Wandscher & Bill Herzog The Empire Coventry – 2nd of April 2024

Supersonic festival continue to bring excellent music to the Empire in Coventry, this time it’s the turn of the all encompassing SUNN O))) who are playing as the Shoshin (初心) Duo ‘in its core, original raw form.’ Supporting is Jesse Sykes who is described as ‘a truly unique vocalist whose dusky voice is capable of imparting a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to any tune it touches.’ along with with Phil Wandscher & Bill Herzog. Fighting Boredom’s Martin Ward and Adrian Bloxham experienced it, read what we thought below.

It’s the morning after and I feel shell shocked. My head is full of static and cotton wool and my body feels delicate and shaky. The photographer posted a picture online of the monolithic row of battered and torn amplifiers at the back of the stage last night and one person’s reply was just the words ‘Holy Fuck’ which summed the whole thing up nicely really.

The support is Jesse Sykes alongside two of the members of her band the Sweet. She sings slow, country tinged  folky americana and it is wonderful. The guitars are high and country sweet with a smidgen of surf twang going on too, but the focus is on her voice which is beautiful. It’s open and honest music, there’s no percussion, just the bass and guitars. It gets louder and stronger but her voice merely rides on the music and makes it better, the guitars rise to metal loudness and thrashing but then falls way again back to a small sound, with an emotional folk song. It switches around to Americana Country and it’s depressing but I think that’s the point. Not all stories are happy. They sing harmonies and the sight of them sitting playing their quiet unassuming music in front of the monolithic speakers ready for Sunn o))) is incongruous to say the least. Jesse’s voice is sad and lost, it weaves wonders in the air. As I write this down the guitarist and bassist are standing at their amps creating noise and feedback. They wave and are gone, an excellent unexpected support set.

There’s an empty stage, low music plays and smoke starts to rise up. As the stage is slowly covered in smoke there’s a shape there. There’s a hiss, a line of static noise and the two of them walk onstage with their hands held high, there’s a massive bass droning note and I put my earplug in. The sound rises, getting stronger and stronger, it buzzes with distortion. The sound is terrifying and endless. It moves slowly, immensely slowly. Think of rock being ground into sand, Think of ice cracking the world open or think of the tectonic plates grinding against each other as they meet. It is that primal, that feral. It’s a dead dark night lost out on the moors or the blindness of the sun hitting the ice cap. Bleak, alone and utterly mesmerising.

The smoke falls and then rises again, behind the massive shapes of the speaker stacks a light shines like a dying star, all you can see on stage are shrouded figures raising their hands to the crowd.It feels like a mass for the old Gods, a celebration of the old things a gathering of the clans. It is all encompassing and brutal, I try taking out my earplug to see what it sounds like without limits but I can’t stand it, the whole room is vibrating.

It just goes on.

Three lights are now looking like planets falling into a range of mountains. The lights are vibrating now. There are strange ethereal shapes in the fog over the stage; occasionally it clears and someone in a robe strikes a rock god pose. It’s got louder, the buzz is even more intense. There’s a crackle underneath it that may be the building starting to come apart. Feedback kicks in and the drone just slowly carries on. The band are under the fractured lights and the amplifiers as we are below them worshipping this insane noise. It’s started to dislodge my earplug. For clarification I am deaf in one ear so I only need one. One of the bar staff just gathered up plastic pint mugs by me and just mouthed ‘Wow’ as she looked at the stage. The crowd are all pretty much just staring at the stage in awe. It feels like it’s going to carry on forever.

This is what it feels like in my head when I am overwhelmed by life, when it’s all too much and I retreat into noise inside. I feel like it’s emptying me out, leaving me as a puddle on the floor ready to reform afterwards. It’s almost turned into an endurance test now as it turns into a solid wall of throbbing, pulsing, whining massive noise. It’s thunderous, I am struggling for words to describe just how big this is, and I am at the back of the hall. Then they stop. Cheers and applause echo briefly before they start again. 

It’s immediately devastating again. It’s distorted low and feeding back. There is nothing to be seen on stage but smoke. The sound changes slowly but massively, it’s drawn out until it hurts, over and over. At about this point I am wondering just how the hell I’m going to do this justice with words. It’s disturbing to the  point of insanity. Thunderous to the point of standing on a volcano as it erupts and just overwhelming and all encompassing. It just goes on and on. Not so much following a groove, more creating a solar system from nothing. Itgets lower and the distortion and confusion grows again. Static scatters across everything and strobes play havoc with my remaining sense. It sounds like the apocalypse, then they raise their hands high to the crowd who return the gesture and it ends. Leaving nothing in its wake. I have never seen or heard anything so devastating before in my life. An utterly essential experience.


Shoshin (初心) Duo

SUNN O))) are on Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp

Shoshin (初心) Duo‘s Jesse Sykes is on Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp and X as @JesseSykes

Supersonic Festival’s website is, they are also on Facebook, Instagram and X as @supersonicfest.

All pictures by Martin Ward, all words by Adrian Bloxham.

Adrian Bloxham

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