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Sunday, February 06, 2011

CD Review: Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1

Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1
2011 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Duane Eddy is the Twang Thang. Link Wray is the Prince of the Power Chord. Ry Cooder, the Sultan of Slide. Dick Dale, the King of Surf. Howlin' Wolf, Leadbelly, Bo Diddley, Roy Buchanan all these guitar legends have figured into Dylan Carlson's dragged-out note schisms and if he wasn't already before, let's pay our respects to the crowned Deacon of Drone.

Beginning with his rise-to-prominence revisionist album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method in 2005, Dylan Carlson has created a stark realm of singular, crawling vibration still unparalleled at this point in his career. Girlfriend Adrienne Davis continues on as his saddle mate with her anti-giddyap slowpoke rhythms while Earth continues their meandering exploration of haunted grandeur on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1.

This being the first of a reported concept series continuing with the blueprints laid out by Hex, 2007's Hibernaculum EP and Earth's cathartic The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull album from 2008, the new album both extends Carlson's Texarkana on low-fi theme and expands them even deeper. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 incorporates whispered fugue strings into the deliberate mechanics of Carlson's writing and Earth's death echo effect is even more realized as a result.

"Old Black" could've landed on any of Earth's recent albums, yet there's a few more twists and revolutions to the script as Adrienne Davies plods along like exhausted horses lumbering a wagon full of slowly-dying settlers through a blizzard. As she's done for Carlson in all of their collaborations together. Still to this day, Davies is an underappreciated force behind the kit. Her methodic boomp...a-boomp...clang clang clang...fssshhhh...boomp style is as minimalist as it gets in drumming, which is precisely her talent. If you're a master of drone compositioning, it's key to have someone who can maintain an appropriate dirge shuffle behind you, particularly when playing live when said snail's pace becomes a nightly marathon. It's why Carlson can ooze into "Father Midnight" and why he can turn the coin from hapless to hopeful on "Old Black." Time to think as much as there is to surrender to his own escapist's swish, Dylan Carlson has mastered his craft to the point nobody else should dare challenge him.

The scratchy cello in the background on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 takes Carlson's inherently Faustian songwriting into a full expression of damnation and curious wonderment. If it's western lore Carlson has sought to bring to life following his formative years of disorted rowdiness and tone exploitation, listen to the beguiling, weepy notes on "Descent to the Zenith" and the raunchy grind of "Hell's Winter," both of which present lament for casualties suffered from both sides in the native vs. white man struggle for territorial dominance.

"Hell's Winter" carries a fifties' Gene Vincent/Duane Eddy rumble, focused largely on the drawled drag of bass and guitar. For you vinyl old-timers, think of playing a "Rebel Rouser" 45 on 33 speed. For that matter, keep the same resonance in mind for the 20-minute title track, which is even more stripped at just bass and guitar for a prolonged period until drum and cello join in. Davies actually gets to step the beat up a click with a few more rolls and bass drum taps the longer "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1" establishes itself. Carlson turns on the splicers in the later portion of the track and dog-paddles in his furrows of wah. In the end, Earth presents a gorgeous sequence of echoing, note-jerked haze serving as a swan song for Carlson's muse, even if we already know there is more to come in this series.

Thank God Dylan Carlson has finally shirked the Kurt Cobain monkey off his back. While we still pay attention to the fact Cobain and Melvins/High On Fire/Thrones wizard Joe Preston were a part of Earth's early foundations, namely their contributions on Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction, Carlson's 2005 reimagination of Earth has now become its true identity.

Earth 2 and Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions may be the most brutal work Dylan Carlson has presented his listeners, but every album since Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method has been his heaviest and continuing on with this album, his grandest.

Rating: ****1/2


Fred said...

Can't wait to hear this. I was little disappointed with the last album compared to Hex, which was excellent. Judging from your review, it sounds like a winner. Must preorder now!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Two words, Fred: Do it. :)