Wild Mercury Sound

Earth and The Cave Singers

John Mulvey

A couple of records I’ve been meaning to blog about for weeks today. One is the new album by Earth, “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull”, which further confirms Dylan Carlson’s drift away from absolute minimalist metal drone to a kind of slow, but surprisingly melodious desert rock.

I wrote a review of this for the magazine the other day, which suggested – perhaps fancifully – that there was no reason why Calexico fans shouldn’t enjoy this as much as more typical acolytes of doom; those of us who’ve faithfully followed Carlson’s pained journey from grunge outrider (and, notoriously, Kurt Cobain’s gun club buddy) into a godhead for any number of monolithic noise artists, most notably Sunn 0))).

But still, “The Bees. . .” has that distinct blasted Morricone aspect, a parched and reverberant twang that locates it as a heavy interloper in the world of Americana. It’s curious that Carlson’s music once felt utterly disconnected from the idea of a grand tradition, an absolute negation of the rock continuum, but now it seems, ostensibly, to be the blues; a music wired into the culture, rather than the product of some backwoods avant-garde. There are similarities, I think, with Savage Republic, and the early Scenic albums, expansive landscape music that sought to evoke the American wilderness without resorting to the easy clichés.

Anyway, if you’ve been mortally afraid of Earth records since those grim – though compelling, to me at least – blots on the early Sub Pop catalogue, maybe give them another go? Bill Frisell, bizarrely, guests here, if that makes a difference.

A quick mention today, too, to “Invitation Songs” by The Cave Singers, a more conventional take on Americana by some Seattle associates of the mighty Black Mountain. American readers have probably come across this one already – I remember someone recommending it in the comments here a few months ago – though it’s only just got a release date in the UK.

It’s growing on me, though. There’s something of The Violent Femmes about the band, though none of the manic eccentricity – maybe it’s the pinched, sometimes pretty shrill, nasal vocals of Pete Quirk, which I suspect might be a stumbling block for some people. Instead, there’s a homely, mildly eerie folk intimacy to these songs which would probably work for old Iron & Wine fans. The links with the Black Mountain Army are revealing, too, since there’s a similar vibe to the underrated Lightning Dust album that came out last year (Amber Webber contributes backing vocals here), and a primitive synth hum under a few tunes (most notably “Helen”) which sends these earthy little songs towards a woody, handcrafted take on spacerock. Nice record.


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