Earth, The Caves, 8 March 2012: Review
Standing in a crowded Caves under an arching ceiling is somewhat akin to being in a church. A noisy, boozy, standing-room-only church, but there is a similar feeling in the air: that of a converted mass of acolytes and disciples awaiting benediction from above.
But this fervour will not come from above, it comes from (excuse me) Earth. Dylan Carlson’s avant-metal outfit has been through numerous line-up changes in the past 20 years, with himself being the only stable member. During that time, Earth have gone on to become hugely influential, most significantly upon their doom-melded compatriots SunnO))).
But unlike their Southern Lord labelmates, this current Earth incarnation have no truck with the whole robes and dry ice approach. In fact, they’ve even begun to eschew maximum volume capabilities and flirt with folk and even jazz elements on their new, quietly robust, album ”Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II".
This deliberate lack of stagecraft is exemplified further as, with much of the audience oblivious to his presence, Carlson begins tonight’s gig by simply wandering onstage and tuning up. He is soon joined by Adrienne Davies on drums, Lori Goldston on cello and Karl Blau on bass. Unfortunately, the low stage level and tightly packed audience mass in the tunnel-like venue mean that anyone not lucky enough to be right down the front manage to see little other than Carlson and Blau’s nodding heads as they play over the course of a sublime ninety minutes.
Not that it really matters too much, as Earth’s music is about slowing everything down to a trance-like crawl. Around me, pierced and goateed metalheads close their eyes, zone out and start nodding along also.
While much of Earth’s previous music was steeped in doom and dread, their current work seems more focused on allowing a breathing space away from hellish reality. This is music for the listener to pay close attention to yet still lose oneself in. The interplay between Carlson’s precise guitar lines and Goldston’s drawn-out sonorous cello weaves is particularly inspired, making me wish I could actually see more of Goldston than her hand on her cello neck! Adrienne Davies, eyes constantly fixed on Carlson, lays a centring percussive focus while Blau picks nimbly at his strings.
It’s all calm and quite beautiful. The only commotion is caused by certain annoyingly idiotic audience members continuing their pointlessly loud conversations during musical quiet passages. Carlson also seems to be having tuning troubles with his guitar due to the heat, but he is all smiles between songs, extremely dapperly dressed in matching suit and waistcoat which gives him the impression of a serial killer in his Sunday best.
New numbers such as ”Sigil of Brass” and ”The Rakehell” are joined by rejuvenated classics such as ”Tallahassee” and a particularly fantastic finale of ”The Bees Make Honey in the Lion’s Skull”, which has Carlson wringing every last drop of feedback from his guitar frame. By the end of the set, everyone in the room seems extremely content as Carlson thanks us profuseley while Blau surveys us while beaming from ear to ear. A triumphant evening for intelligent, improvised rock music.