Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 1
posted on 2/2011 By:
Dylan Carlson's Earth is the closest thing to a genuine glacier that music can offer. Sure, plenty of other bands take a similarly crawling approach, but Carlson's project has been inching its way down the mountain pass for 20 years now, and unlike their increasingly doomed true kin, the Earth glacier still manages to progress and expand into new territory as time continues to slip by.
What's kept this venture fresh over the course of the last two decades has been Carlson's ability to occasionally reinvent himself without fully losing site of his original snail-attack blueprint; the largest and timeliest rebirth occurring with the bleak, "wind-swept glide across the dusty Great Plains"-styled shift heard on 2005's pioneering Hex. That record also marked the stage where Dylan found a true partner-in-plod with drummer Adrienne Davies, who remains the only other steady collaborator as the project continues to poke forward.
The "duo approach" has proven very beneficial to Earth, as each release since 2005 has allowed Carlson and Davies to subtly shift their brand of down-tempo instrumental atmospherics to incorporate whoever steps under the guest spotlight. Dan Tyack's lap steel folded in flawlessly with the bleak Deadwood-drone of Hex, and Steve Moore's piano and organ flourishes on 2008's Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull perfectly suited that record's slightly brighter, more playful passage. With Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I, the project's sixth full-length scattered amongst a pile of live albums and various splits, the guest spots are filled by Karl Blau (The Microphones, Laura Veirs) on electric bass and Lori Goldston (Nirvana, David Byrne, Laura Veirs) on cello, and the results, summarily put, are amazingly relaxing.
There's a naturally somber mood inherent to the cello that melds seamlessly with the dusty Western bend of Carlson's fret-play and Davies' plodding rhythm. But despite the cello's dour predilection, Angels of Darkness doesn't strike as an exceedingly dark record. Instead, there's an overwhelming peacefulness radiating from these tunes that defies the album's grim titles and sweetly dire artwork. Songs like opener "Old Black" and the 11.5 minute "Hell's Winter" amble cooly and casually enough to accompany any pleasant early evening walk, and "Descent to the Zenith" lazily stretches and calms freyed nerves with Dylan's blithe guitar work.
But the real highlights pop when Goldston's loooong, drifting notes and Blau's deep tones cavort more freely with Carlson and Davies during the album's more improvisational moments. The jazzy jaunt of "Father Midnight", for example, gently snakes into the air like the smoke off a passed out cigarette, and the 20 minute title track playfully closes the album like a lazy afternoon spent kicking back on a patch of cool grass dreamily picking out shapes from slowly drifting clouds -- yes, it's just that motherfucking cozy, friends.
Obviously Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I ain't gonna fit the bill if you're looking for something brutal to scare your in-laws out of the guest house, but that's never been Earth's goal, even in their much heavier Extra Capsular Extraction days. This is about amplifying a predetermined mood -- in this case, tranquility -- through the subtle shifting of instrumental textures folded within a slooowly gliding step, and in that regard, Carlson and crew are masters of their trade. So, if you're looking for something to take the edge off, or to accompany you on a pleasant trip to an untroubled, serene place, this is a purchase you definitely need to make. Truly sublime stuff.
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Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II
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The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull