Author Archives: Editorial

The Bandcamp Guide to Earth

Earth

For nearly 30 years, Dylan Carlson has occupied an unlikely dual role as a true vanguard of experimental music and an undisputed Lord of the Riff, garnering respect from outer-sound explorers and metal heshers in equal measure. He’s also a critical part of a mainstream history of alternative music that doesn’t quite know what to do with him. Earth’s debut EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction, came out on Sub Pop the same year Nirvana released Nevermind, and when Kurt Cobain committed suicide three years later, it was with a shotgun Carlson bought for him (originally as a means of self-defense). You’d forgive a band whose early years were so intense for flaming out quickly, or for milking their notoriety on the nostalgia circuit. Neither of those scenarios has been the case for Earth.


Amid the chaos of the Seattle scene, Carlson was essentially inventing the drone/doom genre that bands like Sunn O))) and Boris would later expand on. He figured out a way to twist Tony Iommi’s amplifier worship into something with a dynamic spectrum so tight that the slightest deviations—a familiar riff coming back with its final note bent, a feedback squall that shatters a meditative drone, a cymbal hit that comes in a half-beat early—became seismic events. Reinvigorated by the addition of drummer Adrienne Davies in 2001, the band is making some of its finest work today, including the brilliant Full Upon Her Burning Lips. The album’s cover is a first for Earth—a portrait of Carlson and Davies in vivid close-up, both defiant, both still standing, all these years later.

Earth

Here’s a guide to a few of the most essential releases in Earth’s vast discography.

A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction

The seven songs that comprise A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction spent 20 years waiting to be reunited. Recorded in October 1990 as a debut full-length that never saw the light of day, the songs were parceled out across demos, EPs, and limited-edition records before finally being remastered and presented as a full album in 2010. It’s almost shocking how fully-formed the aesthetic of Earth’s first incarnation sounds on their earliest recordings. Carlson seems to have sprung from the womb capable of building towering drones out of detuned post-Master of Reality riffs. “Ouroboros Is Broken” is the obvious masterstroke here, an 18-minute treatise on heaviness that remains a staple of the band’s live set.

Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method

Following a series of essential ’90s albums that shaped the sound of drone metal as we know it, Earth went on hiatus. Carlson was in the throes of heroin addiction and dealing with the fallout from his friend Kurt Cobain’s death. Music was the last thing on his mind. The band rebooted in the early aughts, and 2005’s Hex LP was the first major document of their ongoing second era. The impossibly heavy guitar drones remained, but they were complemented by the genius feel of drummer Adrienne Davies, and Carlson’s country and Western influences started to come through more in the songs. Earth have always had an Ennio Morricone streak, but on Hex, he’s a spiritual ghost writer.

The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull

In 2008, Earth released what many consider their best album. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull is the band at their most grandiose, taking inspiration from the Biblical story of Samson and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and enlisting a crack team of collaborators to add new dimensions to their signature sound. Steve Moore—who releases music under the name “Stebmo” and has also performed extensively with Sunn O)))—splashes piano, Hammond, and Wurlitzer across the sonic canvas, and the legendary avant-garde guitarist Bill Frisell (of Naked City solos) with a controlled chaos that contrasts Carlson’s desert-rock drones brilliantly. The hypnotic riffs on the album double as hooks, too; good luck listening to “Rise to Glory” or “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)” without getting them stuck in your head.

Primitive and Deadly

The vast majority of Earth’s music is fully instrumental, and when it does utilize vocals, it’s typically to add another sonic texture, not to shift the focal point of the song. Primitive and Deadly is the glaring exception. Fellow Seattle alt-rock hero Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees brings his gravelly voice to the ominous tone poems “There Is a Serpent Coming” and “Rooks Across the Gate,” and Rose Windows belter Rabia Shaheen Qazi steals the show with her histrionic performance on album centerpiece “From the Zodiacal Light.” The remaining two songs are instrumental, and they make the case for Primitive and Deadly as the most metal Earth album. “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” is driven by a palm-muted riff that chugs forward like thrash played a quarter-speed, and “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” indulges in a 10-minute guitar solo.

The Bug vs. Earth – Concrete Desert

Here’s the album where Dylan Carlson renewed his experimental pioneer license. Concrete Desert is a collaboration between Earth and U.K. noise/dub/industrial artist The Bug. If that sounds like an odd fit, especially for the Western-obsessed Mark II version of Earth, then the project did its job. There’s room enough on Concrete Desert for The Bug and Earth to both sound like themselves, and also room enough for them to collide in unpredictable, thrillingly cacophonous ways. The best song here might be the JK Flesh-featuring bonus track “Dog,” which in an alternate timeline would have fueled the wildest raves of the early ’90s.

Full Upon Her Burning Lips

Full Upon Her Burning Lips, the latest Earth full-length, foregrounds the humanity of Carlson and Davies, both in its striking cover art and in the intimacy of its compositions. It retains the widescreen scope of the best Earth albums, but it also manages to make it feel like we’re in the room with the band while they’re tracking it. Musically, the stop-start dynamics of “The Colour of Poison” introduce a new wrinkle to the classic Earth sound, while the two 11-minute-plus tracks, “Datura’s Crimson Veils” and “She Rides an Air of Malevolence,” rival the most epic moments of the band’s career.

-Brad Sanders

Wino Willy’s “Burlap” Reflects Its Maker’s Journey

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Like a lot of young producers whose ambition exceeds their budget, when rapper/producer/DJ Wino Willy (born Charles Corpening) first started experimenting with music-making as a teenager in Edison, New Jersey, he had to get creative. “I used belt-drive turntables, mixers, and random early equipment to make primitive hip-hop beats,” he says. “Then, I strung them together in Audacity. I kept polishing until I started to get decent.” 

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Fértil Discos Brings Indigenous Andean Folk to the Dancefloor

Fertil Discos

An ancestral genre called “canto con caja”—song with handheld drum—is currently traveling the world, as reimagined by the ears and hearts of a collective of Argentinean electronic DJs and producers.

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Certified: Spirit Adrift Forge Modern Arena Metal That’s Built to Last

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Photography by Joey Maddon

Certified is a series on Bandcamp where we spotlight artists whose work we think is worthy of additional attention.

Arena metal. It’s a vivid phrase in search of a practical meaning. Outside of a few hallowed names—Metallica, Maiden, Priest—nobody playing heavy music can actually fill an arena these days. That makes the relentless, Sisyphean drive of Spirit Adrift’s Nate Garrett all the more inspiring.

“You can use the word ‘arena,’” Garrett says in response to a sheepish suggestion that Spirit Adrift’s third album, Divided by Darkness, sounds like it should be performed in huge rooms. “Hell yeah.”

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Album of the Day: Mourning [A] BLKstar, “Reckoning”

Cleveland Afrofuturists Mourning [A] BLKstar describe their music as “genre and gender non-conforming,” and their songs back up that assertion. On Reckoning, they continue the project they began on 2017’s The Possible, and continued with 2018’s The Garner Poems, unpacking the emotional spectrum of the African diaspora in songs that are equally adept at paying homage to Aretha Franklin as they are to J Dilla. Even in the context of their past work, Reckoning has a wide thematic and stylistic breadth. Led by producer RA Washington, the band shift seamlessly between classic and contemporary sounds, and between subject matter that’s both heartbreaking and life-affirming. They lament the loss of Harlem as a center of black art over a swinging funk tune, conjuring the era before the neighborhood gentrified; they set lyrics about sexual dynamics over a smoky groove, the modern pulse of triggered samples, and sparkly electronic sequencing. Classic soul instrumentation backs pleas for a lover to return on one song, and chopped soul samples underscore tales of intergenerational racial violence on another.

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8 Essential LPs From Italy’s Power Metal Renaissance

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Alex Staropoli of Rhapsody, photo by Claudia Chiodi

In the history of heavy metal, Italy is often considered the birthplace of symphonic power metal: a genre that combined the speed of early German power metal with the neo-classical guitar playing of Yngwie Malmsteen, all in the service of telling elaborate (read: over the top) pulp fantasy stories. To some, it’s a subgenre synonymous with self-parody; power metal is second only to black metal in terms of the potential for unintentional comedy. It’s an easy target, as power metal trades the transgressive nature of even early heavy metal for earnest nerdery, in increasingly baroque arrangements. However, that narrative ignores the pivotal roles Italian heavy metal played in the global scene throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s—not to mention the renaissance happening in the genre right now.

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Bandcamp Navigator, June 2019: From Finnish Thrash to Soviet Synth-Pop in 10 Steps

Navigator-May-1244Bandcamp Navigator is a column dedicated to a fan favorite Bandcamp practice: tag-hopping.

Figuring out how to live in a world where you can listen to any music you want to at any given time can be difficult. In the face of essentially infinite choice, it’s easy to stick with what you know and not venture outside the realm of familiarity. All of that unexplored territory is going to start calling to you sooner or later, though. If you care about music even a little bit, you’re going to want to get out there and explore. Back in the olden days, when music was mostly available on physical media, an album’s “thank you” list was an excellent way to discover new artists. If you liked a certain band, you’d probably like their friends, too. Bandcamp’s tags have emerged as a new roadmap, serving much the same function as the tiny type and often illegible layout of physical liner notes. This is a map I made. I was unsure of where to start, so I went with something familiar. I started with thrash metal and professional wrestling, then followed the tags at the bottom of the album page to see where they led me.

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Olivia Neutron-John’s Playful, Pointed Experimental Pop

Olivia Neutron John

Photo by Jen Dissinger

“When you don’t fit into any specific category, you make your own,” says Anna Nasty, aka Olivia Neutron-John, over the phone. “I use language as it suits.” Nasty describes Olivia Neutron-John’s music as “post-bro,” and if that, or the project name itself, doesn’t give it away, they’re very interested in artistic playfulness. But while wordplay and being clever are important, Nasty’s music and artistry is serious. Olivia Neutron-John combines Nasty’s Casiotone—used for synth melodies and drum patterns—with incisive lyricism, and fuses noise, post-punk, and synth-pop into one singularly delightful sound.

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