Sixteen years from their formation, and Earth may only now be starting to produce...
Louis Pattison 2008-02-01
That The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull takes its name from the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah seems strangely appropriate; after all, there is something redemptive about the story of Earth. The story, really, is that of Dylan Carlson, a Seattle guitarist who released a string of thick, extraordinarily heavy, sometimes almost featureless instrumental drone records throughout the late ‘90s. The uncompromising nature of Carlson’s music, arriving as it did at the height of grunge, coupled with a steadily worsening drug addiction and a peripheral involvement in the death of his friend Kurt Cobain– Carlson was said to have bought the gun with which Kurt committed suicide – made him something of a black sheep, so after 1996’s Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons, Carlson disappeared from music altogether.
Since their resurrection in 2005, however, Earth are bigger and bolder than ever. The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull, Earth’s third full-length since their return, is a warmer, fuller record than anything that’s come before. The opening Omens and Portents I: The Driver feels a bit like sliding into a familiar swamp, a baked drone jam with something of the apocalyptic country vibe of 2005’s Hex (Or Printing In The Infernal Method). The passage here, however, goes from dark to light. Hitching Carlson’s thick, country guitar twang to Wurlitzer and Hammond, grand piano, and upright bass, the likes of Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine) feel, to quote a former Earth song, both divine and bright. Drummer Adrienne Davies remains a constant, underrated presence, her steady, measured drumming the perfect foil to Carlson’s unhurried, ponderous guitar. A wild card, meanwhile, is dealt by improv legend Bill Frisell, whose fuzzed-out guitar lines on three tracks lend an exploratory vibe to proceedings. Sixteen years from their formation, and Earth may only now be starting to produce their best work. Resurrections seldom come more startling.