In this too often self-obsessed superficial age when the trivial and the frivolous frequently take precedence over more intimate and meaningful things, how wonderful it is that we have at least got Earth to elevate us above the slime.
Dylan Carlson’s warm and emotive instrumental tones seem to connect and speak in such a way that vocals are superfluous. For those willing and able to invest in his work the rewards are plenty and precious.
When Carlson set about laying the building blocks of Earth it was as a minimalist drone outfit, the 2005 Morricone-inspired Hex, signalling a change in musical direction that has extended through albums such as The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (2008) their latest full length Primitive And Deadly (2014).
Label: Sargent House
Full Upon Her Burning Lips is Earth’s latest full length release, Carlson again pairing up with his partner in musical harmony, Adrienne Davies. Earth’s ninth studio album opens with ‘Datura’s Crimson Veils’, a wonderfully delicate lilt that lures you sumptuously inwards with Carlson’s delicate Bakersfield Sound guitar riff, slowly rising and falling. The 12-minute ethereal masterpiece is supplemented by sparse and selective drum taps from Adrienne with a cursory stroke of a cymbal to add a final sprinkling of gold dust.
‘Exaltation of Larks’ is slightly more vivid, something of an easy roller, with some of Carlson’s string strokes given a lusty twang, the whole soundscape becoming a little bit busier, as lines become more blurred. ‘Cats on the Briar’ is an album highlight, starting with the familiar minimalist style that has endeared Earth to so many people down the years, before revealing its full self with a spine tingling ice-melter of a riff, almost capturing the sounds of icicles tumbling from a melting riff. Not so, ‘The Colour of Poison’ which by Carlson’s usual standards is a slightly more edgy expression of his craft, a stop-start screwball with a darker rumbling belly at its core.
As incongruous as it may at first appear Carlson sought to strip things down to as bare as level as possible on this album, with little frills or effects, although the soft chimes of ‘Descending Belladonna’ first came to fruition during a live soundtrack Earth put together for the film Belladonna Of Sadness at the Ghent film festival a few years ago.
Aside from the first monumental track the only other composition to extend Earth’s ether extremities is the opulent opus ‘She Rides an Air of Malevolence’ which crawls to almost 12-minutes. In contrast, at under three minutes ‘Maiden’s Catafalque’ hints at an absolute sprint although in reality the tempo remains as restrained as ever.
From its very title to some of the softer edges on show here, Full Upon Her Burning Lips explores a sensual element in a deeper way than much of Earth’s previous explorative recordings. The familiar aural austerity never goes away with Carlson but he has at least bended slightly with this release, probably as intimate as any that’s gone before. And while Carlson’s contribution is of course absolute, don’t overlook Adrienne’s priceless percussive touch with a track such as the captivating ‘An Unnatural Carousel’, demonstrating how less really is more in her hands.
Their previous album Primitive and Deadly practically gave Earth followers palpitations when they realised some songs actually featured vocals. Well none of that frippery this time! Earth resort to type, with Carlson again coming up with the kind of riffs that you simply never tire of hearing – even when he’s played it about 30 times in a row – ambient album closer ‘A Wretched Country of Dusk’ being a case in point.
Time waits for no man. But just maybe when you’re lost in Earth’s rich tapestry the hands go around just that little bit slower.