Earth - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Earth - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2012-01-31

Tonight’s two support acts, in different ways, feel intertwined with Dylan Carlson and Earth. First up, we’re lulled into a rather blissful psychedelic haze with The Don McGreevy & Rogier Smal Duo. Smal has recently recorded an album with Carlson while McGreevy currently plays bass in Earth. Tonight’s performance sees McGreevy on guitar and Smal behind the drums.

There’s an improvisational feel to each instrumental as they slowly unfurl with the harmonious, natural communication that flows between the two musicians. The duo specialises in laid-back, almost Floyd-esque psych interwoven with strung-out, free-flowing jazz. Smal’s drumming in particular has the lightness of touch and sporadic time-signatures more readily associated with jazz improvisation.

Things get significantly louder with the arrival of tonight’s second instrumental duo, Black Spirituals. Oakland’s Zachary James Watkins and Marshall Trammell create treacle-like waves of noise, thick all-consuming drones that rattle through the Brudenell like cataclysmic trumpets bellowing ominously through the venue's smoke.

Like Smal before, Trammels drumming bears little in comparison to the standard rock style; the beats skitter and dash over the heavy layers of drone, flying into hypnotic drum ‘n’ bass style sonic mantras at will. Watkins creates the mesmeric drones that underpin the sound while also adding slow-moving, monolithic guitar parts to the duo's performance. It’s an incredibly loud, soul-cleansing sonic ritual.

Tonight Earth play as a three-piece: Dylan Carlson (guitar), Adrienne Davies (drums) and Don McGreevy (bass). Carlson stands centre-stage, comfortable in the proverbial spotlight and looking very much like a man who loves what he does. The band open with the double-punch of ‘Badger's Bane’ and ‘Even Hell Has Its Heroes’, the latter in particular displaying Carlson’s mastery of the raw rock solo. It's spine-tingling stuff from the beginning.

I’ve seen the band perform with a cellist and a trombone player, while the latest album features rare guest-vocal contributions from the likes of Mark Lanegan. Tonight’s three-piece show brings the band back to its core aesthetic, an instrumental rock group with minimalist, repetitious tendencies. Carlson’s guitar playing remains unique; a guitarist equally interested in the spaces and drones between the notes as the notes themselves. Terry Riley with riffs if you will.  

‘There is a Serpent Coming’ doesn’t miss Lanegan’s vocal in the slightest; a darkly beautiful, hypnotic piece of heavy-psych that’s as gracious as it is loud. 'Old Black’ still manages to put me firmly under its spell, the ghost of Lori Goldston’s cello parts running through each reverberating note.

While the band's records are fantastic, it really is here in the live environment that these sprawling, meditative compositions really work their magic. The band doesn’t speak much in-between songs but then again, what can you say after you’ve played something as majestic as ‘The Bees made Honey in the Lion's Skull’?

Carlson salutes the crowd with rock-horns between songs, smiling and relishing every note. Davies' drumming is utterly mesmeric as usual, a swinging pendulum that keeps the band's distinctly slow yet powerful pace. The group embrace their more overtly rock side with the thundering, stripped-down Melvins-sludge of ‘Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon’, a mighty riff that obtains sonic perfection through sheer repetition.

The band began life as Carlson’s one-man project back in 1989, and tonight he unveils an updated version of the very first piece he wrote for Earth, ‘Ouroboros is Broken’. While the riffs lean more overtly towards metal, it also shows just how unique Earth has always been. It simply couldn’t be anyone else.  

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