Posts Tagged ‘Dylan Carlson’

God Unknown – 22nd February 2019

Cristopher Nosnibor

The first sound is a murky, rumbling boom. Then silence, before another eventually follows. The stage is set, and it’s in darkness. The atmosphere is oppressive and laden with an air of uncertainty. What lies ahead?

When the first song proper, ‘In Amber’ arrives, it feels like a weight being lifted: the delicate, supple guitar notes cascade and hang in the air with room to breathe. The mellifluous tones unfurl softly. Sonically, there are certain parallels with recent Earth recordings and Dylan Carlson’s solo works, in that the compositions on Heaven In The Dark Earth are simple, sparse, and focus strongly on the tonality of the clean guitar sound.

This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise: Jodie Cox, who makes up one half of Markers, featured on Earth’s 2014 LP Primitive and Deadly. Along with Jason Carty another member of the London math rock scene in the late 90s / early 00s, the duo made a conscious decision to abandon all of the trappings of rock to produce something raw, honest, and with a are sense of focus.

The text which accompanies the release explains at length how the project is ‘an expression of their deeply seated need to challenge themselves in their natural inclinations through a radical departure from genre music and an attempt to exploit more nuanced musical realms, along with less obvious aspects of their artistic personalities. Having stripped their sound to the bare minimum by eliminating vocals and rhythm section, they are compelled to focus on every single note produced by their instruments. That, in turn, enables them to discover a whole new range of structural possibilities and, ultimately, achieve a higher degree of emotional expression’.

It’s in the exploration of structural possibilities that Markers place the greatest distance between themselves and Carlson / Earth: whereas the seminal Seattleite emphasises the power of cyclical motifs and repetition, Cox and Carty create compositions which slowly evolve, spreading forth like verdant tendrils in the freshness of spring.

The contemplative, considered, even hesitant string picks often reverberate for an age, and evoke simpler times way back in the mists of time, an arboreal world before the advent of cities and industrialisation. It’s evocative, not of anything specific, but conjures a vague sense of nostalgia for something just out of cognisance.

The sweetness, the light, is interspersed with brief interlude pieces which are darker, more ambient. These contrasts render the expansive explorations of string against fret all the more uplifting in their purity, and make Heaven In The Dark Earth an album which brings everything its title suggests: an album to explore, but also to bask in as light overcomes darkness not by force, but through purity.

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Markers

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Oh yes…. Known first and foremost as the lynchpin of instrumental band Earth, Dylan Carlson has become one of alternative music’s most ambitious pathfinders. It seems beyond appropriate, then, that Carlson’s new solo endeavour is titled Conquistador. The five-track record channels the indulgent drone of Earth while traversing uncharted sonic terrain. Listen to the album’s first single, ‘Scorpions In Their Mouths’.

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Dylan Carlson by Holly Carlson

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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