Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 (Southern Lord)
[Editor's note: This album won't actually be in stores until February 22, but it's already floating around online. So holding a review until street date could be seen as pointless. Enjoy.]
Earthy (no pun intended), unassuming electric guitar lines (never riffs), slowly revolving ’round a mournful congregation made up of bass, drums and oftentimes cello, and laying out shivery, mirage-like, Crazy Horse-derived themes that lazily anticipate their next hallucinogenics-fueled duel in the noonday sun. That’s what this new Earth album sounds like to me.
Never known to be a particularly transonically-inclined bunch, these former post-grunge babies have lately taken to caretaking a somewhat “you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all” discography. And I suppose that may even matter to an extent—especially if you’re planning on playing their past few releases (Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method, Hibernaculum, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull [man, dig them there crazy titles!]) back to back in your humble Southwestern adobe abode, that is. But not by all that much, really.
Whereas previous offerings proffered much in the way of droning, diffused melancholy, of static and repetitive doom riffs, this here album’s a whole new old thang altogether. For on this particular go-around, these dudes (and ladies) make a point of establishing a harmonically simple, yet enticingly catchy set of spatially indeterminate “themes” (such as they are), possibly envisioned as soundtracks to non-existent post-millennial spaghetti westerns starring Neil Young and Crazy Horse, say, or maybe just alternate Dead Man re-takes/re-makes/re-models of their desert-doom fantasies? Dunno. But do ya suppose we could get clarification from Neil over the ol’ transom? No? Eh, it probably wouldn’t really matter, anyway.
Oddly enough, Earth mainman Dylan Carlson claims Fairport Convention and Pentangle—along with maybe a hint of blues and jazz here and there—as primary influences on this one. I don’t really hear that myself. Actually, aside from the obvious Crazy Horse vibe emanating from every track here, what it’s most reminiscent of—in a theoretical rock-dude kinda way—is what Tom Verlaine got up to on his cinematically jazzy, all-instrumental 1992 album Warm and Cool. The main difference is that where Verlaine aimed for a sorta suspenseful, Hitchcockian midnight-noir mood, Earth plainly go for the far more prosaically down-home aimlessness of the Southwestern school of humble shadow-puppetry randomness.
As for me, I dig a decently conceived, well executed neo-phantasmagorical horse-show as much as the next feller, so the fact that records of this stripe offer up nigh unlimited potential for the drooling wandering-spirit type (like yers truly, natch) is a blessing and then some. Put it this way: These guys do for the aimless-journey/desert-dwelling contingent what Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo once did (and still do?) for the harassed urban city dweller set. Soothing, tranquil, spacious, this album is good for long, unplanned, contemplative walks with naught but your own a-wanderin’ thoughts to keep you company.