24 February 2015
Last time Earth came to Brighton they played The Haunt, a tiny space which scores highly on the intimacy scale, but you couldn’t help feeling a band of this stature deserved a bigger stage, both literally and metaphorically. It’s pleasing then to see them upgrading to the Komedia, but before the main event we have the intriguingly named Black Spirituals, who turn out to be a duo from Oakland, California.improvises ever-changing percussive patterns, like an expressionist painter daubing Miro-like pictograms over his bandmate’s canvas. He’s a superb drummer – I was repeatedly reminded of Rashied Ali’s playing on John Coltrane’s ‘Interstellar Space’, and while I hesitate to make such an exalted comparison, I’m guessing it’s an apt one, as the pair come across as belonging to a lineage that’s traceable back to the avant-jazz excursions of Coltrane and the ‘fire music’ of Albert Ayler – certainly their name suggests they see themselves this way. Black Spirituals deliver something fresh and original, a rarity in these jaded post-everything times, and I urge you to check them out – there are clips on YouTube, but why not support them in material fashion by snagging their fine recent album Of Deconstruction. Dylan Carlson on guitar). The difference isn’t just one of personnel, however – rather mysteriously, Carlson appears significantly younger than when I last laid eyes on him three or four years ago. More on that later.
It’s over 20 years now since Earth unwittingly spawned the drone-metal genre with their confusingly-titled classic album Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Edition (it’s their first album and only comes in one edition), a monumental slab of hypnotic low-end sludge which set the template for SunnO))) and others (all of them vastly inferior to Earth, in this reviewer’s opinion – hold the comments section) – but they’ve long since moved to a style that fuses roots Americana (looping, country-blues guitar figures) with the raga-like long-form structures that have always been their trademark.moving s-l-o-w-l-y by raising her arms high in the air between drumbeats, almost as if she is playing in a series of freeze frames. It’s a theatrical but highly effective device – whether it really helps her and her bandmates stick to the rhythm I don’t know, but seen from the audience, it serves to emphasise the tension and release of each beat. And this is important, because it’s this tension and release that gives this stately, largely unvarying music its strange power. What this means, though, is that they have to be absolutely precise to sustain it – whenever it gets even slightly ragged, the spell is broken. the mythology of the Old West recast as an ancient shamanic rite, or even a way of being. It runs the risk of being extremely hokey, but mostly it isn’t, because of that tension and release, tension and release. Al in the pub afterwards as we’re pondering all this mystic cowboy stuff. Well there you go, he says – he’s come out of the desert and aged backwards. And that seems to settle it. This heavy, dry, dusty Earth magic – you know what? It really works.
-Words: Haunted Shoreline-
-Pictures: Al Robertson-