SUMAC
May You Be Held


4.5
superb

Review

by MiloRuggles CONTRIBUTOR (22 Reviews)
October 5th, 2020 | 73 replies


Release Date: 09/18/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “I don't like wearing clothes for the most part, it gets very sweaty, there's a lot of spit...”

“Just [what] you didn't ask for: more fancy jazzy bullshit from SUMAC and some guy they tricked into playing with them. If you like racket this one's for you. Link in comments if you want to get it... but even if you make the mistake of buying and listening to it you still won't *get* it - cuz there's nothing to get. Smoke and mirrors folks, time to pull back the curtain and call bullshit on this charade of a band. Thanks for your support.”
– Santos Montano on Keiji Haino and SUMAC's Even For Just The Briefest Moment

Aaron Turner's tireless search for musical catharsis has led him down a cavernous rabbit hole with nary a barber in sight. Followers of the Old Man Gloom Facebook page (which is well worth the data-harvesting price of admission) will have seen how Santos – drummer, social media extraordinaire, and perhaps the only man brave enough to organise a Margarita Singles Mixer at Roadburn – loves to rip his mate to bits. Indeed, obtuse and improvised soundscapes of drone and noise have become something of a calling card for the metal world's busiest hobo, and SUMAC – his most prolific active project – have developed this tendency thoroughly enough that it has become their second defining trait, just behind the towering walls of mathematical mayhem that define their heaviest moments.

Enough about Aaron Turner though, because holy shit, how good are Nick Yacyshyn (drums) and Brian Cook (bass)? Their respective histories are mightily impressive, but their presence in this supergroup is something that every God-faring American should be expounding their gratefulness for over turkey and fireworks and pickup trucks or whatever it is that happens on Thanksgiving. Nick charges his way through the dense madness of SUMAC's crescendos with enough all-out, pummelling aggression to make an MMA fan pitch a tent. Meanwhile, Brian has perhaps the tone that should act as a reference point whenever that classic reviewing adjective “snarling” comes up in relation to four-stringed thicc boiz, and his well-practiced accuracy in interplay ties this whole unit together.

Predictably, May You Be Held is largely formed around the dichotomy between calculated aggression and winding digression. In an informative interview with Heaviest of Art (one of the more misleading URLs on the internet, the site contains a sick animated background that its creators insist is 'definitely smoke, not gas.') Aaron provided some illuminating context for how the band approached and utilised improvisation for this album: “...there were passages that were built into the two longest songs (“May You Be Held” and “Consumed”) where we knew we were gonna leave them open for interpretation. And the the other three pieces were all spur of the moment improvisations that happened in the studio. There was some shaping after the fact that kind of reinforced that initial things that we laid down, but ultimately the first, last and middle tracks are all built around just these completely free things that we did all at the end of the session after we had finished tracking the other basic pieces.”

May You Be Held's sequencing belies a greater focus on exacerbating this dichotomy, and as such should hold the attention of that particular brand of SUMAC fan that hasn't been so invested in their more recent output. While the meandering opening track “A Prayer For Your Path” attacks with stabs of feedback and hoarse yelling for five minutes, “May You Be Held” is visceral in a way that will reach right into your reptile brain and have you throwing feces around in a kind of confused ecstasy until it ends. Noteworthy moments include Aaron's most deranged and crude lead break since “Rigid Man”, and the part where the noisy imrov cuts to silence before returning a couple of times, subverting the moment in which it feels as if the beat should drop Borgore style (I'm surprised about that reference too). “The Iron Chair” is a more expansive and expressive piece of improvisation than “A Prayer For Your Path”, with enough changes in pace that it's no slog to get through. “Consumed” follows this with drones that seems to surge from cracks in the earth's crust, eventuating in a sludgy death march that eventually dies itself, bringing us full-circle back to feedback-town. Rapid-fire drumming and inimitable harsh vocals dominate the closing minutes of the track, and the whole thing climaxes at speaker-blowing intensity. “Laughter And Silence” rounds us out with some hard-earned clean guitar noodling, a cheeky dash of organ, a slow build, and a surprising, slightly uneasy sense of peace. Given the noisy shitshow that preceded the track, it's hard to imagine a more fitting closer.

May You Be Held isn't so much a return to form for SUMAC as it is a slight retreat from the deep end of the pool. This cleverly-arranged album rations out buoyancy to the drenched and drowning listener, throwing us ragtag pieces of flotsam and jetsam to keep us afloat before we're pummelled by the next wave. Ultimately we are transported to a tenuous and ephemeral safety. Although SUMAC may have conjured the tempest, our survival seems to be a result of their benevolence.

Or, ya know, it's all just some fancy, jazzy bullshit that we need to pull the plug on stat.



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user ratings (51)
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
Lichtbringer (2.5)
The Dank and the Wank...



Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Here's that rather wondrous interview referenced: https://www.heaviestofart.com/post/the-will-to-reach-a-conversation-with-aaron-turner-of-sumac?fbclid=IwAR0hvWRTXjfsRInWrcdsasd9rJQ9yiAt7xlC9f_P0LamF-t8aqxBirye1l4



SUMAC is for the children

Pikazilla
October 5th 2020


12790 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hell yea

deathschool
October 5th 2020


26191 Comments


Oh shit. Gotta check soon.

Digging: DJ Python - Mas amable

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


21910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeeeeeeeeeeeeesssshhh Milooooooo, immense review.



I am still figuring out if I like this more than the last one.



Also, Santos is such a loving dude, his FB posts always crack me up.

Digging: Crippled Black Phoenix - Ellengaest

trilo
October 5th 2020


3486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

gr8 review sir. prolly my least fav sumac so far but t/t and consumed are dope

Digging: Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full

Inveigh
October 5th 2020


26796 Comments


is this out? can't find the full album on spotify

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


21910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It was for like a full 2 or 3 days, and then they took it out and only The Iron Chair is there.



No idea what happened.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


5324 Comments


woo woo a Milo review

I wanna listen to this but wtf Spotify

Digging: Georgie Sweet - Misunderstood

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 5th 2020


60499 Comments


I dig the art

Digging: Oklou - Galore

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 5th 2020


29298 Comments


Yay yay yay lovely shit [in my reptile brain] sir. Have only heard the occasional Sumac track, is this an ok place to find out where it's at?

Digging: Dntel - Life is Full of Possibilities

parksungjoon
October 5th 2020


22191 Comments


CUMAS

Digging: Have Mercy (MD) - Armageddon Descends

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 5th 2020


29298 Comments


chesty stuff

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


21910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're good with any Johnny, but I would jam Love or WOB before this.

Relinquished
October 5th 2020


45609 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

interesting question wellofthejohnny



depending on the band I’d say this is a good and short one to work chrono with



but this is probably their most interesting non-collab record they’ve done yet

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 5th 2020


29298 Comments


Hmm okay fuck it, I've been very slack on checking new post/sludge but am still jamming Amplifier Worship more than is healthy so ig time for a new discog

Lichtbringer
October 5th 2020


434 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Except for praising the drummer’s/bassist’s performances and sound your review doesn’t even try explain its 4.5 rating. A few minor compliments aside, most of them backhanded, there’s hardly a word of praise. Like, why exactly do you think this album is excellent?

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 5th 2020


21910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Why do you think it's not?

Evok
October 5th 2020


8233 Comments


What a romp of a review. I'm sold!

Digging: The Who - Live In Hyde Park

Darius The Imposter
October 5th 2020


22564 Comments


they took it off spotify!!!! >:[

Inoculaeted
October 5th 2020


438 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"Why do you think it's not?"

I think these guys live pretty dangerously with their balance between experimental/noise and composed sludge/post. For me, this one tips the balance too far in the experimental direction. It's not that experimental and weird are things I can't enjoy. I love their balance on other albums, but my first listen here fell flat. As always, the crushing production and instrumentation are top notch but the bonzo improv stuff didn't connect and it made for a very sad hour. Will revisit though.



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