Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Review - Earth - Hex-Or Printing in the Infernal Method

The Old West was a brutal place to live. In fact, I'd rank the Old West as the worst time and place you could have been alive, after ancient Egypt and the Dark Ages. Life was dangerous, harsh, monotonous and dreary, which is almost exactly how I'd describe this album by drone pioneers Earth. This is an interesting album, and of a style that isn't too often seen. Instead of the enormous fluctuating walls of bass and low end that usually define drone, this is made up of entirely clean instrumental playing that includes banjo, steel lap guitar and even some tribal drumming in a style that really brings the epic Western music of Ennio Morricone to mind.

This album is basically 45 minutes of really, really, really slow and really, really, really heavy country/western music, with hints of the bands drone history as well as some psychedelic moments thrown in. The guitars twang sounds like something out of a Johnny Cash era country album and definitely give the album a real authentic Western flavor. There's no real amazing solos or crazy riffing going on here; this is pure mood/atmospheric music. Some songs, such as An Inquest Concerning Teeth and Tethered to the Polestar convey feelings of hope and more uplifting themes, while tracks like the ominous Raiford (The Felon Wind) really bring to mind images of the Badlands in all their desolate and harsh glory and is the only time I've ever heard a banjo sound heavier than a metal guitar. Raiford (The Felon Wind) is the probably my favorite song off the album simply because it's one of the most crushing songs I've ever heard yet still manages to retain its country/western style. Being a drone album (and I use "drone" loosely here) this is very slow and repetitive music; it really has more in common with ambient than drone, I think. There's moments here and there where the music really isn't that interesting, and part of me thinks that this goes along with the dreariness of pioneer life, and the other part of me says they just ran out of ideas for the song at hand. But for the most part the music is engaging and genuinely atmospheric, calling up images of vast deserts and canyons, vultures circling and many other harsh realities of life in the Old West.

If you're looking for normal, happy and upbeat western music, this is not for you. However, if your looking for authentic, truly mood setting western styled drone/ambient, or just interesting country/western music in general, this album is for you. While not perfect, as it can drag on as ideas are simply repeated over and over, this is an all round interesting album by a fantastic band.

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