Posts Tagged ‘drcarlsonalbion’

Sargent House – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Once more, Earth continues to evolve. The band that singlehandedly created a genre it has now long left behind, and which began as a duo, is a duo once more and returns with another album which in many ways resembles much of their output from over the last decade or so, but which in so many ways is worlds apart.

Listening to each album as a sequential progression, one ay be forgiven for thinking that much of Earth’s output post Earth 2 has mined a similar seam, notably since their post-millennial return, but also in particular since the Angels of Darkness albums, which marked a shift in the approach to composition. “In the past I’ve usually had a strong framework for an album,” Carlson says. “This one developed over the course of writing and recording. It just felt like ‘Earth’—like just the two players doing their best work at playing, serving the music,” adding, “It was definitely a very organically developed record,”

It’s perhaps the process which informed and led to the creation of Full Upon Her Burning Lips which is key to the latest transition. “I limited the number of effects I used. I always like the limiting of materials to force oneself to employ them more creatively. Previous Earth records were quite lush sounding, and I wanted a more upfront and drier sound, using very few studio effects.”

Not since 2005’s Hex have Earth release an album of such an overtly conventional album-format, with ten tracks on offer here. That’s where the concession to convention ends, though: Full Upon Her Burning Lips does not contain ten concise, crafted, three-and-a-half minute pop tunes (although a large portion of the compositions do sit within the three-to-five-and-a-bit minute bracket), and commences with the twelve-and-a-quarter sprawler, ‘Datura’s Crimson Veils’, which begins tentatively, a guitar motif built around chiming harmonics and the tones in between as the notes sustain and decay. And then it moves into the epic, rolling repetition that soon yields to meandering but always returns to its starting point. The drums don’t drive it, but simply hold time the sedatest of ways.

Being an Earth album, it is instrumental, and the structures are based around protracted cyclical repetitions than any overt verse-chorus demarcations, or any separations of passages or movements, instead pursuing indirect paths toward a distant horizon.

‘Descending Belladonna’ has almost a Shadows twang to its glow, granular guitar unfurlings. Unexpected? Yes, but also no, as somehow it sits comfortably and feels completely natural. And again, this is perhaps the clearest indication of how Earth have evolved, and continue to do so.

‘She Rides an Air of Malevolence’ is the album’s centrepiece, another epic spanning over eleven minutes: there’s no real air of menace, and far from being dark or menacing, the focus remains firmly on tonality and texture, the notes peeling an drifting, interacting as they do so, the strolling bass maintaining a respectful distance while adding depth and a certain drive.

There’s no escaping that the pieces here are – as is always the case with any Earth release – variations on a thematic template, an, if I’m not mistaken, played in the same key and also very much at the same, deliberate tempo. But this is, in fact, integral to the experience, both of the album and Earth as a musical entity. Everything is so gradual as to be almost beyond the senses, which are continually lulled into a sort of fugue state by the soporific undulations and sedate – or sedated – pace. With the music this stripped back, it does come down to tempo and tone, the interactions between sounds, and with Full Upon Her Burning Lips, Earth reaffirm that less is most definitely more.

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Self-release – 24th June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve pretty much lost count of the number of versions I’ve heard of ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. As is the way with traditional folk songs and blues standards, no-one owns them, they simply exist. And from the interpretation ranging from Van Morrison to All About Eve and including Sinéad O’Connor and Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Arbouretum, none sound like Dylan Carlson’s sprawling eight-minute instrumental rendition. But then, that’ because Carlson’s version sounds like recent Earth albums, which in turn place a unique spin on traditional and ancient folk music.

This is clearly become something of an obsession for Carlson in recent years, and his explanation of the concept behind Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders From The House of Albion evidences this. Describing the album as his ‘interpretations of Scotch-English folk ballads about human/supernatural interaction, specifically those “spiritual creatures” known as “fayres/fairies/etc.”’, he places it within the realm of misty mysticism and a landscape of verdant forests as old as time itself.

Carlson is clear to separate his appreciation of ‘fairies’ from ‘the tiny winged ones of Victorian nursery stories and decor, but the beings of folklore and the historical records (mostly trial dittays from witch trials).’ Applying the hypnotic drone that had long been his signature to slowly-unfurling guitar motifs characterised by fuzzy-edged analogue tonality, Carlson has a unique way of evoking a combination of mysticism and nature, fantastical worlds intersecting in ancient forests as old as the Major Oak and the Fortingall Yew. Combining mysticism and nature,

While the ten-minute ‘Tamlane’ is not only the album’s centrepiece but a definitive standout, the seven tracks on Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders From The House of Albion individually and collectively tap into a dormant resonant subconscious. Carlson’s spindly guitar pickings twist like the fronds of creeping ivy around the immense trunks of ancient trees, which manifest as heavy-timbered droning notes which point back to the dark ages. The oucome is a musical experience shrouded in mystery and unknowable and yet somehow strangely affecting.

 

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