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Monday, February 04, 2008

CD Review: Earth - The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

Earth - The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull
2008 Southern Lord Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

In a few short years, Dylan Carlson has made a complete return-to-form that began with 2005's Hex: Or Printing In the Infernal Method, then accelerated (if such a word is appropriate for this unit) on the reinventive modes of last year's Hibernaculum and is now encapsulated in full with this year's The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull, an album that is Carlson's fullest maturation of craft, and getting to enjoy the ride with him is legendary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

While The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is the cleanest sounding Earth album since perhaps Earth 2, the substitute for the fuzzy desert slopes and sloughs on Hex is a gratuitously-filled album with organs and piano from Steve Moore, deeper bass extraction from Don McGreevey and an even steadier drag pulse from Adrienne Davies, all of which allows Carlson to both swim in his band's soothing rhythms and strangle out some wicked cool riffs and twangs to honor their efforts of helping him realize his sleepwalk sojourns.

At times, The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is utterly beautiful on songs like "Engine of Ruin," "Hung From the Moon" and "Miami Morning Coming Down II," which gives the listener relief that Carlson hasn't given us a repeat trip that is hinted on the twang-yanked "Rise to Glory." If anything, "Rise to Glory" (which houses an incredible sound wall sculpturing process) is Dylan's statement that he's embracing the familiar while taking a more distant trip away from the empty reservoirs, hollow dams and lonely highways that inspired Hex and instead follows his path of drone into deeper textures of jazz on the opening bars of "Engine of Ruin" and most particularly on the singular masterpiece that is "Hung On the Moon." The album also embraces slowed psychedlic rock which spices the title track and "Omens and Portents I: The Driver."

Could be this writer's weird imagination, but "Omens and Portents II: Carrion Crow" has notes and sequences that sound like a dismantled and rearranged take on The Cars' "Moving in Stereo," still creating in the process a hypnotic dirge given extra effervesence by Bill Frisell.

By every accolade possible, The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull adds to the legacy of Dylan Carlson's genius, just for the reverential display of his and Earth's greatest expanded capacity on "Hung On the Moon." It seems that every step Carlson has made since his return to the underground has been leading to that momentous song and one of his most polished and exact albums of his entire career. The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is skillful, precise, organic, detail-oriented and it is the collective sum of Carlson's troupe as much as it his hymeneal bond with his bandmates and Bill Frisell.

At this point, no one, and I mean no one, can take the crown from Carlson's deserving brow as the reigning king of drone.

Rating: *****


cjk_44 said...

as if my appetite for this disc wasn't deep enough ...

very much looking forward to this disc.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

this one's just devastatingly beautiful and grows thus stronger with each play....I'll take "masterpieces" for $300, Alex....

JP said...

It's a brilliant album, great review.

I could spend the rest of the year just listening to the spaces between the notes on 'Hung On The Moon'.

cjk_44 said...

finally got this! i'm loving it so far. brillant stuff.

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