SUMAC, Love In Shadow (Thrill Jockey, 2018)

The next part in SUMAC's prolific body of work is ready. Love In Shadow, the third LP in as many years is a colossal example of musical growth and an invitation to look at heavy music in a different way.

Without going over the repeated list of bands the members of SUMAC either were previously involved with or are still currently part of and while I don't think many people have taken this approach, this record further cements that this is an altogether unique creation from Aaron Turner, Brian Cook, and Nick Yacyshyn aside from any previous release you might associate them with.

No matter what genre or type of music you might associate someone with, you can't predict what they are able to create.

With just over an hour of new material contained in four songs, I was immediately brought to thoughts of when I began more curiously exploring the world of modern classical music. I feel like the concept of a casual music listener is one that is under the misconception equating track numbers or how many songs are on a record with time and effort spent on the creation of the record. In a conversation earlier this year with Grtule Kjellson of the black metal band, Enslaved, we discussed this exact topic and both laughed as well as shared our frustration at statements like "why is your latest record only six songs?" In the case of SUMAC, the comments could range from why is there "only" four new songs and why are they so extensive in length to all too many other questions of little importance.

My point, in this case especially, is that the music specifically by SUMAC on Love In Shadow presents a reevaluation of song format in relation to heavy music and brings forth a view that could be akin to seeing multiple movements throughout a song which would be a more common structure in classical composition. Specifically "The Task" and "Ecstasy of Unbecoming," the respective first and last songs, I feel like this concept of movements is relevant as the listener is pulled and pushed a variety of directions as we are guided through moments of both grand cacophony and near meditative quiet.

As SUMAC starts touring in support of Love In Shadow this month, alongside Dälek and Infernal Coil (solo artist Jon Mueller and Lussuria will be appearing separately on select dates), I'm sure the songs will continue to expand. My understanding from my listening to SUMAC and seeing them live this past January is that you won't necessarily hear the record note for note when they perform live, an aspect of SUMAC's music that I see as invaluable during a time in history when people believe that uniqueness is hard to find. 

To end my review, I want to leave you with part of a longer statement that Aaron Turner wrote about the work that went into making Love In Shadow. “Since many of the surface level aspects of our being are often used as divisive tools to separate and alienate us from one another, the intent with Love In Shadow is to reveal that all humans desire and need to be loved and accepted for who they are, for just being.

The album also serves to highlight what some of the repercussions are for love that is scorned, suppressed or socially discouraged—we lash out against one another, our love turns to fear, we disparage ourselves, we try to fulfill the need for love through unhealthy means—and on a more destructive level, those in positions of power are compelled to annihilate and oppress others.” 

Love In Shadows will be out on Sept. 21 via Thrill Jockey.

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