Earth - "Sigil of Brass" (Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, Vol. 2)
When the first part of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light was released in 2011, it served final notice that the Earth of rattling speakers and guttural feedback was long dead. And while the sun-baked, landscape-obsessed Earth had been slowly forming since Hex and The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, Dylan Carlson’s obsession with drones and repetition has found him and his mates (percussionist Adrienne Davies, cellist Lori Goldston, and bassist Karl Blau) burrowing all the way into what can be described as a Bill Frisell phase, for lack of a better term.
The music on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Vol. 2 is quietly compelling. It’s shorn entirely of distortion, slamming drums, or anything of the representational devices that typically prompt associations with “metal” (“experimental” or otherwise). These five pieces resound instead with spare strings, chiming arpeggios, and simple melancholic figures. With a focus on oscillation and timbre, the opening “Sigil of Brass” sets the tone for the remainder of the record in terms of structure and feel, but it also has the quality of a ritualistic opening. Over the course of these five mid-length tracks, Carlson and Co. hew fairly closely to a tonal center, wringing all manner of tonal and textural variations from obsessively worked-over intervals and progressions. Note how the deep tones, slide guitar and thrumming strings of “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” create an effect that’s both expansive and contractedly minimalist, droning and ringing endlessly in your ears.
The tunes aren’t in a hurry to go anywhere, and are sometimes slow to the point of being ponderous. On “A Multiplicity of Doors,” Blau and Carlson climb and descend the skeletal staircase of the pared-down structure as they suspend the notes across the skittering snare and cymbals, as well as the gently skirling string overtones (and in this regular series of contrasts, I was at times reminded of Sampson’s and Silva’s role in the old Albert Ayler groups, although something like Grails is probably a more relevant touchstone here). The tracks meld together with a shared hypnotic effect, particularly the lengthy “The Corascene Dog,” giving the cumulative feel of occupying a kind of sonic dwelling or of being privy to some musical rendition of slow, organic growth. The closing “The Rakehell” feels a bit different stylistically, capping off the two-album stretch with a more buoyant rhythm (though still quite nodding), some major key filigree, and just a touch of radiance to the otherwise spare, somber music. And again, its sizzling lines hovering in a reverb’d distance are the closest you get to distortion (I’m serious: this is like mid-’90s Frisell in everything but name).
It’ll be interesting to see where Earth goes next, as Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light feels like the culmination of a phase of music-making. An enjoyable, at times provocative companion piece, this one’s a satisfying musical bath.