Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth—Hibernaculum (Southern Lord)
Earth hit upon something brilliant with their last release, Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, on which Dylan Carlson recast his drone/ambient metal ethic in cleanly plucked Telecaster tones. The resulting music was spare and ominous, a compelling soundtrack for staring out the window and watching the clouds roll in. This EP applies the Hex method to three songs from the Earth back catalogue, along with the 16-minute “A Plague of Angels” that saw release as half a split 12-inch with drone disciples SUNN O))). “Ouroboros Is Broken” (reworked from debut album Extra-Capsular Extraction) lumbers forth with a single extended riff that stands up well over 8 minutes of repetition. Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies create the track’s framework while Steve Moore, Don McGreevy and Greg Anderson of SUNN O))) drape various colours and embellishments across it, using tones from Hammond B3, trombone, bass and synth. In its original context on Pentastar: In the Style of Demons (1996), I always thought that “Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor” sounded like the end section of Yes’s “Starship Troopers.” The Hiberculanum version is slowed down and twanged up as to be nearly unrecognizable. This track is another exercise in single-riff dynamics with an extremely heavy payoff by the end. “Miami Morning Coming Down” is a piano-led piece incorporating some delicate fuzz guitar that builds into something jazzy and hypnotic. Possibly the least threatening (yet most intriguing) track on the EP, its placid demeanour is a tour de force of complementary tonal placement. The final track, “A Plague of Angels,” is the sort of Wild West death trip familiar to anyone who’s already basked in Hex’s dustbowl, making for a useful coda to that album.

Hiberculanum also contains a DVD with a documentary by Seldon Hunt entitled Within the Drone. The 50-minute film follows Earth on tour across Europe, with snippets of live performance (no complete songs, but enough to get a good feel for what they do on stage) and interview segments in which Carlson explains his fascination with slow music, touches on Earth’s place in the music scene and the band’s avoidance of convenient genre tags, and his own development as a guitar player. It’s a very nice companion to the EP, and one which matches the music quite well in its unhurried pace and straight-up presentation.

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