Posts Tagged ‘Earth’

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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Southern Lord – 26th April 2019

A new Sunn O))) album is still an event, even after all these years as the leading exponents of droning doom, a field now crowded with imitators and influences. The sense of ceremony is a major factor: Sunn O))) appreciate and command ceremony in every aspect of their exitance. As good as so many who have emerged to follow in their wake may be, there really is only one Sunn O))). The thing with Sunn O))) is that while they very much do mine deep into their self-made seem, each release offers something different, a variation on that consistent sameness.

And so it is on Life Metal that co-founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson set themselves a production-orientated goal for realising their immense sound, namely to have their playing captured by god himself, Steve Albini. The story goes that Steve took the call, and said ,“Sure, this will be fun. I have no idea what is going to happen.”

The resulting four tracks, which evolved through time in rehearsal, and with collaborative input from Anthony Pateras, Jóhann Jóhannsson collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, guitarist / bassist Tim Midyett, and live mainstay T.O.S bringing Moog action, were laid at Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio studio, and the end product (at least on vinyl) is pure analogue, with an AAA rating.

And it certainly brings the band’s earthy qualities to the fore: the richness, the density of the speakers vibrating in their cabs as displaced air emerges as sound in its most overtly physical manifestation is all captured in a way that conveys the immersive, all-enveloping experience of being a room with the band. As is also the case with Swans and A Place to Bury Strangers, the intense volume isn’t a gimmick but a necessary part of the sound and the experience. Some frequencies simply don’t exist at lower volume, and tones resonate against one another in a certain and quite different way when everything is turned up to eleven and then maximum gain applied. And the effect is transcendental. And whereas its predecessor, Kannon was comparatively concise, with its three tracks clocking in around the half-hour mark, Life Metal goes all out on the expansive, the four pieces running for a fill seventy minutes.

It begins with a distant rumble, before, after just a matter of seconds, the first chord crashes in: thick, dense, so distorted and low-registering as so almost collapse under its own density. But from the slow-crawling swamp-heavy ooze emerges individual notes, the makings of a melodic lead guitar line, and from the darkness radiates a gleam of light. Feedback… soaring notes… grandeur on a galactic scale. And then… Guðnadóttir’s voice. Detached and somehow simultaneously clinical yet emotive, assured yet utterly lost, it possesses an other-worldliness as it drapes dimensions across a simmering drone forged from a lattice of layers reminiscent of sections of Earth on Earth 2.

‘Troubled Air’, which features Pateras’ pipe organ work heightens the impact of volume as well as the ceremonial, ritual undertones which run through every Sunn O))) composition. By turns beauteous and beastly, shifting between moments of monumental grace and churning discord.

The nineteen-minute ‘Aurora’ goes low and slow, a single chord hanging in the thick, muggy air for an eternity until it twists out of shape and becomes a whine of feedback. And then it goes lower and slower still. The suspense builds between each chord, which elongates out to a droning sustain, and when the next lands, it’s with the force of an imploding black hole. Because Sunn O))) don’t do things on a small scale or in light: instead, they amplify darkness until it goes beyond critical mass to become all-consuming.

It ends abruptly in a peak of feedback before a deluge of grinding guitar, overdriven and distorted to a point beyond devastation hits like a tsunami to open the twenty-five-minute closer, ‘Novae’. Again taking clear cues from Earth 2, it’s a heavy drone that occupies the full sonic spectrum as howling strains of feedback whine over bowel-rupturing lower frequencies. Nothing much happens: it doesn’t need to. This is about taking a concept and pushing it as far beyond its logical end as possible, something Sunn O))) have effectively made a career of. And it still works.

And if ever a single album encapsulated the fundamental concept of Sunn O))), Life Metal would be a strong contender.

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Continuing to stoke the anticipation revolving around their mighty return to the studio and stage, legendary duo Earth have shared another snapshot of their forthcoming LP Full Upon Her Burning Lips. Coupled with a stark black-and-white visualiser, the five-and-a-half minute dirge ‘The Colour Of Poison’ is packed with Earth’s thematically meditative, sonically immense hallmarks and marks a return to heavier territories.

Immerse yourself in ‘The Colour of Poison’ here:

Their ninth studio album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, is due out May 24th on Sargent House.

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Earth — On Tour w/ Helms Alee:

May 24 Seattle, WA @ Neumos

May 25 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

May 28 San Francisco, CA @ Great American

May 29 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

May 31 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

June 1 Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge

June 2 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister

June 4 Austin, TX @ Barracuda

June 5 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada

June 7 Houston, TX @ The Secret Group

June 8 Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon

June 10 Orlando, FL @ Wills Pub

June 11 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

June 12 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle

June 14 Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5

June 15 Baltimore, MD @ Otto-bar

June 16 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s

June 18 Somerville, MA @ ONCE Ballroom

June 19 New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge

June 21 Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit Hall

June 22 Detroit, MI @ El Club

June 23 Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle

June 24 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry

June 27 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre

June 28 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

June 29 Boise, ID @ Neurolux

Earth announce new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, to be released by Sargent House on 24th May 2019. Ahead of this, they’ve unveiled album track ‘Cats in the Briar’, which showcases the evolved sound of the band – now stripped back to core duo of Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies, and so resembling, albeit with different instrumentation, their first iteration.

In addition to scaling back on their ranks, Earth altered their previous trajectory by entering into Full Upon Her Burning Lips without a conceptual arc to guide the process, relying instead on their collective subconscious to hone in on the overarching muse as the songs developed. “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.” The absence of a pre-existing narrative guiding the compositions meant that the songs were more open and intuitive, often resulting in more terse musical vignettes like the richly harmonic “Exaltation of Larks” or the dreamily itinerant “Maidens Catafalque”.  Yet subconscious impulses gradually created their own subtext for the album. “I wanted this to be a ‘sexy’ record, a record acknowledging the ‘witchy’ and ‘sensual’ aspects in the music… sort of a ‘witch’s garden’ kind of theme, with references to mind altering plants and animals that people have always held superstitious beliefs towards. A conjuror or root doctor’s herbarium of songs, as it were.”

Listen to ‘Cats in the Briar’ here:

Dylan Carlson is also undertaking a succession of solo dates around Europe, including the UK, which are as follows:

MAR 21 Newcastle, UK @ The Cluny

MAR 22 Bristol, UK @ Rough Trade

MAR 23 Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen

MAR 24 Birmingham, UK @ The Flapper

MAR 26 London, UK @ St John of Bethnal Green

MAR 27 Brussels, BE @ Botanique

MAR 28 Lille, FR @ La Malterie

MAR 29 Duisburg, DE @ Explorado Museum

MAR 30 Berlin, DE @ Cassiopeia

MAR 31 Prague, CZ @ Futurum

APR 01 Vienna, AT @ Grillx

APR 03 Munich, DE @ Feierwerk

APR 04 Lausanne, CH @ Le Bourg

APR 05 Zurich, CH @ Bogen F

APR 06 Paris, FR @ Sonic Protest Festival

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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

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