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Metal & Mike: The Beauty And Chaos That’s Love With SUMAC

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There’s no doubt that the world is full of anger; wherever you turn there’s someone being attacked, someone feeling judged, or someone hurting and/or judging. Life has always had its struggles, and in some way, people are all trying to protect what they love. Love, by nature, is a chaotic force; it can bring us closer together or it can push us away in selfishness.

For Sumac guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner, his band’s new record, Love In Shadow (out now via Thrill Jockey), explores the concept of love in all its wonder and madness. Turner says that the theme of love came to mind given everything going on in the world, as well as his own personal life.

“The inciting idea [behind the record’s inception] is kind of multilayered,” Turner shares. “And I would say [it’s] personal as well as global. On a personal [and global] level it had something to do with the idea that a lot of what we seek as human beings, aside from the basic necessities of food and shelter, has to do with wanting to be loved and to also be loving. And a lot of the things that manifest as problems: violence, consumerism, social dysfunction, and social media addiction, I think a lot of that stems from people’s misguided, or maybe suppressed, or somehow otherwise warped need to find love and connect with other people.”

He also adds, “That seemed relevant to me personally because I’ve recently become a parent. And I thought about what kind of parent I wanted to be and how I myself was parented; [as well as] how deeply affected we are by the ways in which we are raised, and how crucial a loving foundation is for having a good or reasonably balanced life.”

Love In Shadow is a whirlwind of emotion; sporadic guitar compositions drive their way into smooth somber drones. The blends of crushing metal tones and melodic remedies embody the spirit of love; in all its glory, in all its messiness, love is an uncontrollable power that everyone craves. Turner believes people need to make more of an effort to be kind to one another; that with small, sincere gestures, we can become more open towards one another and ourselves. He also realizes that within himself there’s always an opportunity to grow and share more kindness in the world.

Turner says,  “Well I think as far as the action goes [of bringing love into the world], I think kindness goes a long way. And I’ve noticed in situations where I’ve been in, out of habit I react defensively; I’ve made a conscious effort to try and change that habit. And instead of fearing people, or being suspicious of people’s motives, or getting angry with people, [I’m] trying to make an effort to connect with people on some very basic level; [to] acknowledge my humanity and their humanity in these simple ways. Whether that’s shaking somebody’s hand, giving somebody a hug, or simply looking at somebody in the eyes when you’re speaking to them.”

Across the record’s four songs one may feel relaxed, tense, elation, confusion, or a number of other feelings. Love In Shadow does a superb job of exploring the various emotions tied to love. Sumac offer their finest instrumentation to date, the work flowing with natural ease regardless of the sound’s intensity. For Turner, the ability to create art is one means of promoting positive energy into life.

“Also thinking about I as a musician,” Turner shares, “and [how] we as a band can contribute something that’s timely and meaningful. Not only on sort of a grander scale, like hoping to make art that has some kind of longevity to it, but also something that speaks to the moment that we are all currently occupying. We can do a lot by simply opening up a dialogue about love, and how to love ourselves better and how to love other people. I believe that the act of making music and sharing creativity and connecting with people that way is definitely one avenue [of sharing love], and can be a very potent one.”

This positive connectivity is essential to Turner; it’s a means for him to sift through his own feelings while giving something back to life. Love In Shadow is a remarkable experience in how art can affect us; the record’s instrumentation guides listeners on a meditative journey, beginning with the active mind, and working its way to the subconscious. It’s a powerful gift that has the potential in bringing out something new in people; it’s a chance for listeners to sit back, close their eyes, and look into themselves and who they are.

Turner shares, “I think the main thing I always hope for in how our music will impact people is that it reaches them on an emotional, or even instinctual level. There’s a lot to be said for actively trying to slow down, or even dismantle the rational mind. I feel like that’s where a lot of our stumbling blocks come from is by living in our mind too much, and not really thinking about what’s going on under the surface. And so that’s what I’m hoping the music does in the way. I want [the music] to possess a jarring quality and a tangible physicality that really sort of, hopefully, shatters that busy mind that people are often operating from.”

“And that’s certainly what I want to get out of it when I’m playing music, I want to put aside my kind of (I  don’t want to say petty), but trivial thoughts about things that are often occupying my attention. [I want to] really sink to the deeper level of what it means to be, not just a human, but to be a living creature; to inhabit my body, to feel the energy that resides there. And think about maybe how that connects to the people around me. And part of that does come through the physicality of the music; knowing that there’s these notes and sounds that are resonating in my body and also resonating in the bodies around me. I think that’s a very potent thing and is literally connective in the sense that everybody is feeling and experiencing the same thing.”

Love In Shadow can be purchased via Bandcamp or the Thrill Jockey website. You can also listen to the track “Attis Blade” below. You can find my past Metal & Mike articles here, as well as find me on Twitter.

Written by Michael Pementel

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