Don’t you love when things are beautiful? I don’t mean casual beauty, or that which we’ve been forced to hold close as beauty, but true beauty, something that opens closed doors just a little more for you. Such beauty exists in Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Volume 1 the newest studio offering from Seattle drone visionaries Earth. This is an album that more of a rich experience than just an album. Most records play, the music comes forth and you react to it. Angels slowly crawls from your speakers, it’s like a living entity that is being released in small increments in order for you to absorb all that’s going on. At the risk of sounding pretentious, this is more of a dark artistic statement than a record.
While Earth made a name for themselves pioneering the idea of droning, heavy music what’s going on here is more indicative of their later work. The drone has been replaced with delicate guitars and methodical, very purposeful drumming. Part of what I love so much about Angels is how Dylan Carlson’s guitars intertwine with drummer Adrienne Davies. Most drummers play off the guitars, or they invest what they do in pushing the song along. Davies is more direct that than and each strike of a drum or touch of cymbal, feels laid in purposefully to enhance what the guitars are doing. Adding to the weight of this pairing is the eerie mix of cello and bass. Earth are creating real, living, breathing creatures of music. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an album that feels like it’s transcended what it started off as and become something quite different.
To try and breakdown the “songs” on Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, would be doing a disservice to the album. Though it is broken up into five sections, they are more movements within a greater idea than songs. It would be like trying to break down the individual thought process behind the artist’s great painting or the writer’s brilliant novel. The music here spirals, moves in a straight line, valleys and crescendos, each instrument plays a part in holding up the dream like quality of Carlson’s guitar sound. If I were forced to put this into some kind of straight musical context, I would really have to call it a soundtrack. I don’t know what dark, melancholy tale it would tell, but the music brings that idea to mind much more than anything else.
Instrumental music is a tough nut to crack, but Earth has always risen to that occasion. Some use instrumental music to show their musical masturbation abilities, some use it to construct long and boring passages of pretentious “slow” music. Earth seems too focused for that, almost as if they write music that has no need for vocals. In approaching their music from that direction, Earth strips away a lot of the pomposity and gets down to the business at hand. It’s refreshing to find a band with artistic vision that lacks the affect of others in their genre.
For some the argument rages on about which era of Earth is the best. The drone fueled guitar/bass era or the full band, more ethereal work. To me those people are missing the point. Carlson and crew have always been about the next step, the continuing push forward to find new artistic ground to cover. Listening from first album to Angels, the arc of growth and musical integrity here is astounding. Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Volume 1 (volume 2 is due out later this year) is another chapter in that movement and proves once again that Earth is a not just a band but a force of nature.