Earth ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I’ CD/LP 2011

Earth 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 1' CD/LP 2011Look. Before I write any further I want to go on record as being a ‘fan’ of Earth. I’ve genuinely enjoyed their music and followed their evolution with interest and enthusiasm over the years. When they dropped so much of the out and out ‘drone’ thang on ‘Pentastar’, I still dug it. When they added a drummer, I still dug it, and when they went full-tilt wide-open plains dusty hat Americana I really embraced the change.

‘Hex’ was a great record, and ‘Live Hex’ really brought out a lot from that music, thanks to the trombone and keys of the fabulous Steve Moore. 2008’s ‘The Bees Made Honey…’ was a subtle progression with an expanded palette that really opened Earth’s soundworld up…but…now we have ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 1’ and I have to say, it does feel like a stagnation rather than a further progression.

I realise that this puts me into a minority and makes me deeply unpopular but, you know, I’ve had a bit of time to really get to grips with this record and I can honestly say that it bores me.

There, I’ve said it. Sorry folks but I find it deadly dull.

Darker in tone than its predecessor, with a more ‘naturalistic’ feel and sound to the production and a grittier guitar tone at times, it seems that the slight changes in sonics and atmosphere are the only real differences between ‘Angels…’ and the music that preceded it. New bassist Karl Blau is more prominent than previous bassists, his warm bass tones adding a nice punch to Dylan’s minimalist guitar strokes, but cellist Lori Goldston is a poor alternative to the keys and trombone of Steve Moore, mostly being woefully low in the mix, hovering on the edge of hearing.

Carlson has described the music contained herein as being ‘less Wagnerian, and more Debussy-like now’, which I can understand, to some extent, but to my ears it just means that any sense of overt dynamics or subtle bombast has been replaced by a more ambient approach – this album tends to just ‘happen’, it drifts along in a haze. Not much really leaps out of the morass and sticks in the memory, I’m afraid.

‘Old Black’ contains a very eastern-sounding wah-wah section that I find very reminiscent of latter-day Soundgarden, think the more low-key ‘psychedelic’ touches on ‘Down On The Upside’, and also oddly reminiscent of Sun City Girls epic ‘Ghost Ghat Pass’ on their majestic imaginary-world-music opus ‘330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond The Rig Veda’ – partly down to that eastern sound and partly down to the skirling cello sounds behind the guitar having a touch of Eyvind Kang to them.

‘Father Midnight’ lazes along like a very sleepy river, punctuated by languid jazzy chords, and thick with warm bass. ‘Descent To The Zenith’ shimmers with a coating of univibed guitar, and ‘Hells Winter’ is pretty much more of the same but with the univibe turned off. The title track closes ‘Angels Of Darkness…’, emerging from a miasma of womb-like bass and subtly-applied guitar, unfolding ever so slowly over twenty minutes and ultimately going nowhere. Apparently this track is mostly improvised and heralds a direction that will be carried on into ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons Of Light 2’, but, it saddens me to say, I very much doubt I’ll stick around to hear it.

This record plods and trudges along and basically functions as sonic wallpaper. It does not build to anything nor reach any kind of conclusion, just drifts along in a narcotised haze. I’m sure many, many people will dig it for that reason alone, but for me it does nothing. Sorry folks.

Label: Southern Lord

Scribed by: Paul Robertson