The Bug vs Earth - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

The very idea of legendary drone-rock pioneer Dylan Carlson collaborating with Kevin Martin, the man behind The Bug, King Midas Sound and Techno Animal, was enough to have any self-respecting music fan salivating from the very start.  Yet even though I’ve seen Carlson perform with Earth on a number of occasions, own a small selection of Martins work and the fantastic new collaborative album Concrete Desert-  nothing could have prepared me for tonight’s show.

Before the newly formed duo take to the stage our ears are suitably warmed by Manchester’s Algernon Cornelius. Experimental DJ and beat maker, Cornelius starts his set with a misleading ambient wash before the volume is turned up considerably and the speakers lunge into a dirgy wall of noise. What starts as a sonically harsh set turns into an impressively eclectic mix of hip-hop, grime and noise. Never settling on one sound for too long, Cornelius delivers a loud and enthusiastic mix of dirty beats and party vibes.

There’s a sign in block capitols outside the gig room at the Belgrave Music Hall, WE ADVISE THAT TONIGHTS SHOW WILL BE LOUD. They weren’t joking. There’s a brief few moments of silence as Carlson and Martin walk on stage before the set groans into life and The Bug vs Earth comes into full effect.  While the duos sound revolves around Martins beats and Carlson’s distinctive guitar, it’s the duo’s love of and use of bone-shaking volume that hits you first. The floor under my feet is literally shaking as the vibrations pummel my entire body. The sound is akin to being punched in the throat by a particularly irritable lion.

It’s like watching the gates of hell yawn wide open in a horror film; with more red lighting than a Dario Argento flick, excessive amounts of smoke and the duo’s deeply heavy aural assault. We’re gratefully plunged into the depths. The sound pins you to the floor and it’s overpowering in a way that I’ve only really experienced previously with Michael Gira’s notoriously loud Swans. The venue has free earplugs available but having left my half decent one’s at home I opt to go without. My god, it’s loud.

Unlike Dylan Carlson’s more recent Earth LP’s this collaboration offers us something harsher, darker and more confrontational. While Primitive & Deadly was certainly the heaviest Earth album in memory, the sound here is closer to those early 90’s experiments in pure drone and noise. Wave-after-wave of droning feedback oozes from the stage, the music often slow, malevolent and menacing. The dizzying soundscape is frequently punctuated by Carlson’s persuasive riffs (‘Snakes vs Rats’ proving to be particularly effective) and Martins industrial strength beats. Both musicians are clearly enjoying pushing things to the extreme. Everything is almost permanently in-the-red.

As the set nears its end Martins beats become even more intense, offering up a gloriously head-banging form of sonic catharsis. I’m trying desperately to hold onto my thoughts so I can try and construct a review later on but the set pummels me into submission- pulling me firmly into the moment at hand. As we pour out into the bar downstairs afterwards it takes a while to adjust, the sets exercise in excess still burning its way into our brains. It’s been a punishing, absorbing and thoroughly impressive experience.

 

 

 

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