10 March 2006

Roll One Up (or two or three or...)

Earth - Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method
Southern Lord Recordings
20 September 2005
4 Stars

I was recently privy to a discussion about "droney" bands. It was held under the sway of several pints, so I'll spare you the meanderings, but the general premise was based on the atmospheric elucidations of a good two handfuls of bands. While one side argued based on the merits of some recent indie bands that aren't really my thing (and I can't even remember who to be honest) versus another friend and I who took a decidedly more doom/sludge position. After disagreeing for about 15 or twenty minutes, my side was left with little recourse but to bring out the big gun: Earth.

Earth isn't just some heavy band that incorporates atmospheric sounds to add dimension to their music. Earth IS atmosphere: it can crush you with one chord, turn you to dust and leave you to marvel at how small and insignificant you are in the face of the universe. It is incredibly difficult to utilize such plodding, sparse instrumentation and acheive such devastating results. To say Earth has been influential would be as much an understatement as saying the music is heavy.

Here, on their first studio album since 1996, Dylan Carlson (the sole original member) is joined by Adrienne Davies and Jonas Haskins to create an epic soundscape of the frontier. Unlike their earlier material, which exists predominantly in the land of doom and stoners, Hex:... opens with a call back to raw early country and the blues. This is desert crossing material laden with the echos of ghost towns, mirages of long-dead cowboys and indians; hints that America is truly cursed and blood-soaked land. Carlson has mentioned in interviews his idea of The Note: a continuum of music that has existed long before us and which will long outlive us. Earth has captured the essence of Americana in The Note and revealed how haunting our nature can be.