This Afternoon: Earth at Amoeba
July 5, 2007
Better Than: Sitting in your office at 2 p.m., unless your office happens to be the riverbank of a magical forest in the middle of nowhere. If so, I want a job there too.
For a band with such a heavy history as Earth –- a group worshiped for the feedback howls and quaalude drones it poured onto a couple early slabs for Sub Pop –- it’s interesting to hear the group’s transformation into such pensive instrumentals. But standing with the other head-nodders at Amoeba this afternoon for the band’s in-store appearance, the phrase “meditative metal” kept drifting through my brain.
Earth tacked an Amoeba appearance on to a tour stop last night at the Independent, using the Haight St. outpost to display the menacing beauty of Hibernaculum. That’s Dylan Carlson and company’s latest experiment in repetitive minimalism, a trend he veered toward with 2005’s Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method. Hibernaculum covers older Earth material, putting the songs through a sieve that cleans out the feedback but leaves the darker undertones still intact.
Live, the songs sounded like a methodical Pink Floyd getting a tad country-fried, as keyboard melodies pooled around foreboding guitar lines and barely-there drum patterns. The other Amoeba events I’ve been to have all been about the crush of the crowds around the CD bins, the high energy of the performers. But Earth was a different animal. Maybe it was due to having a mid-day set time in the middle of a holiday week, but the performance gave everyone a lot of space. There was space to watch Earth’s delicate movements, space to let your mind wander in and through their songs, even space to chat with the band afterwards, for the couple teenagers stoked to get their vinyl signed by Carlson himself. There’s an art to making music this restrained without lulling your listeners to sleep, and Earth’s practiced at producing music that’s more of a séance than something inducing slumber. Maybe it’s because even if the band isn’t storming you with thunderous theatrics, there’s always a disquieting sentiment behind its calmest of spells.
Personal Bias: I love Hibernaculum. I’ve had the disc on repeat for a good week now. Definitely one of my favorite records for those special mellow moments.
Random Detail: Many local rock stars in the crowd: Utrillo Kushner of Comets on Fire, Tim Cohen of Black Fiction (oh wait, he works there. Does that still count?). --Jennifer Maerz