Earth at Mad Planet
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Seeing Earth play gives the clear impression that this journey might not last much longer. The band’s modern music is a far cry from the crushing drone-doom it pioneered in the ’90s, but there’s still an apocalyptic weight to the minimalist music. Frontman Dylan Carlson makes every plucked guitar string sound like it could be his last, and you can feel the multitude of drug and other health problems he’s endured over the years in the gravity of these instrumentals. Thankfully, even if the specter of mortality looms large over the mood of Earth’s music, the urgency hasn’t quickened the glacial pace at which the band plays.
Thursday night at Mad Planet, as the band rolled out several songs from the recently released Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I—as well as a few cuts from the early days—Carlson’s presence and music projected like a wordless David Lynch film, and the separation between the older, heavier Earth style and the new, more twangy and cello-inflected songs began to blur. While Carlson has seemingly found some semblance of levity over the past few years, there is still a ghostly, hollow demeanor to everything he writes. Even the brightest moments in his music are tempered by an uneasy, shuddering beat and cryptic intent.
Earth has never been known for its rhythmic precision, and it took the entirety of the first song for drummer Adrienne Davies to reach any consistency. Throughout the night, there were times when it was unclear whether Carlson, Davies, or bassist Karl Blau were on the same page, lending the performance a stubborn, Neil Young-flavored sloppiness at times. Particularly on new track “Multiplicity Of Doors,” Carlson played disturbingly dissonant chords, almost as if he was determined to take a step back from the polished serenity of Earth’s 2008 album The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull. During “Descent To The Zenith,” Carlson played a twisted, painful variation on the actual guitar part that made the crowd question whether he knew just how discordant it sounded. But when everything came together, as it did during the title track from Bees and the final song of the set, “Ouroboros Is Broken,” the restrained majesty emanating from the stage was untouchable.
At times, it was tough to reconcile the lack of precision with the powerful beauty of the music, but it’s possible that a tight rhythm section would rob the band of its wasted, desolate sound. Despite any shortcomings or missteps, Earth gelled as a band just enough to deliver wave after wave of slow-burning intensity—imperfect, but with as much sheer power as just about any band out there.