Dylan Carlson - Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders from the House of Albion

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-24

Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders from the House of Albion is a release that needs a little context. Clearly a man who follows his muse, Dylan Carlson’s music has grown and evolved over the years, creating a unique and rewarding body-of-work. Carlson created the predominantly instrumental, drone pioneers Earth back in 1989, going on to release the uncompromising slab of noise that is Earth 2 in the early nineties. The album and much of what followed in those early days combined a love of deep, rumbling drones and incredibly slow, heavy riffs. Like Sabbath being played at the wrong speed.

By the 2000’s Earth was wholeheartedly embracing elements of country, jazz and psychedelia while retaining Carlson’s love of all things slow, heavy and loud. However it’s 2012’s folk indebted solo outing La Strega and the Cunning Man in the Smoke that serves as the best reference point for this latest release. Yet while La Strega saw Carlson team up with a female vocalist to deliver his version of folk, Falling with a Thousand Stars is a wholly solo and instrumental effort.

Stripped of the full band that he’s become accustomed to, Falling with a Thousand Stars is as pure and undiluted as that first Earth LP. Yet, it’s also vastly different in its mood, tone and texture. Whereas early Earth recordings sought to overwhelm the listener with their commitment to loud, oppressive drones and doom-laden riffs, Falling with a Thousand Stars is a strangely soothing listen. It’s tempting to observe the parallels between Carlson’s music and personal life; the early records reflect a life caught up in addiction while later releases reveal a man far happier in his own skin.

An American musician, Carlson has made no secret of his love of British folklore and this latest release presents us with 7 interpretations of Scotch-English folk ballads. ‘Reynard the Fox’ concerns itself with the anthropomorphic red fox of medieval allegorical tales while ‘The Elfin Knight’ is a dark, supernatural Scottish folk ballad from the seventeenth century. It’s not the kind of thing that’s going to make it onto Radio 1’s Live Lounge.

For anyone unfamiliar with Dylan Carlson’s approach/style, a folk influence doesn’t mean an album of acoustic finger-picking; rather 45 minutes of Carlson’s distinctive electric guitar and those ever present drones. It’s an album that feels connected to folk tradition while containing little of what you’d perhaps expect in a folk-influenced record. The drones are graceful and deeply respectful of their source material as they filter the past through Carlson’s hazy, meditative vision.

If all this talk of medieval elves and fairies is putting you off then don’t let it, Falling with a Thousand Stars is first and foremost an album of ambient and quite beautiful music. It’s the kind of music that’s designed for compete submersion, transportative drones that create a calm and immersive world of sound. It may not be the most essential release in Carlson’s discography yet as a snapshot of a unique artistic vision it’s as intriguing as ever.

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