Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Alphabetical Discovery - Week E, Day Five: Earth

Earth - Photo

Earth - led by the stone-face, grizzled, mutton-chopped, biker-cowboy pioneer Dylan Carson - are a true force to behold. Coming out of the same state at the same time as the meddlesome grunge pioneers, Earth chose to trek through the hazy and barren deserts of instrumental drone, psychedelia, doom and post-rock rather than rampaging through the gritty cities of Washington wearing baggy checkered shirts and jeans. 

Earth's sound on their first  album - 1993's Earth 2 - Special Low Frequency Version  - is about as inaccessible as music can get: dense and buzzing, incessantly grating with croaking feedback and crackling lo-fi production, it's the sound of a nuclear reactor breaking down dying, or the buzz of a trillion bees slowly dying. There are sort of riffs but they warp through the mix like something about to die, gasping for breath, letting out a dying cry. It's three songs at an hour and thirteen-minutes and it's difficult to focus on its monotony, yet its sound defied it's inaccessibility, proving to be a huge influence on the drone-doom sounds off Sun O)) and the influx of similar bands in the years to come.

Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull
Their second album -  1993's Phase 3 - Thrones and Dominions - picks up the pace, revealing a slow-to-medium paced sparsity touched with combines drone and ambient with elements of garagey-blues and country. But the dominant overdrive and crackling lo-fi feedback remained to dirty and taint any clarity and cleanness. This album demonstrated the band's more tender sound - the soft drum-work and occasionally beautiful guitar-work demonstrated a diversity that would be utilised to cinematic proportions on their later albums.

1996's Pentastar was a more accessible change in sound - less gritty but still with a bite, the album explored a groovier mid-paced desert-rock vibe; it's the sound of steaming off into the sunset in some overly-large and overly-loud truck with the window down, sunglasses on, elbow poking out of the open window with a look of calm defiance on your face. These more conventional elements are pretty chill. Dispersed between these 'cool' moments are more melancholy ambient songs like 'Sonar and Depth Change', a sparse seven-minutes consisting of two-piano notes repeated - echoing and slightly out of tune; in writing it sounds terrible, but it really seems to muster an uneasy feeling. 

The band broke up in 1997 but returned in 2005 with Hex; Or Printing The Infernal Method. Their new sound consisted of (Metal-Archive puts it better than I could) 'a minimalist, meditative doom with gospel and country influences'. Their sound from this album onward is truly mesmeric and each album binds a listener into its dynamic world with cinematic brilliance. The atmosphere on Hex - based on Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy - is a tense and chilling western soundtrack that floats through the deserts with a dreamy and heavy doom-inspired evilness. The songs are steady and creeping and the guitar progressions are really something to behold. 2008's The Bee's Made Honey In The Lion's Skull is a continuation of the sound explored on Hex, and it is perhaps my favourite; warmer in composition with stronger melodies, the album includesaccompanying pianos and keyboards that paint this rich and glorious journey.

I haven't delved in to the  two-album partnership of Angels of Darkness I and II yet, but I'm sure they are very good; I've listened to bits and pieces - their sound hasn't change drastically at all: the band are yet to move in to their techno phase. 2014's Primitive and Deadly, their most recent full-length, is a slightly more intense and dark record when compared with The Bee's, but it also picks up the pace delving into more blusey-doom guitar soloing and faster-paced rhythms. It also features excellent vocals from Mark Lanegan of The Screaming Trees fame and Rabia Shaheen Qazi. There's not much more I can say: Earth are truly one of a kind with a distinctive, mesmeric and unmatched immersive sound.

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