Seattle experimentalists Earth have long dabbled in drone-inflected sonic minimalism. Over the course of their 30 years – and their eight studio albums – they've explored new musical territories and influenced a legion of bands in their wake.
With new album Full Upon Her Burning Lips, Earth – now a duo consisting of founder member Dylan Carlson and purcussionist Adrienne Davies – have stripped their sound back to its core. It's still Earth, but it's Earth at their most essential.
"It was definitely a very organically developed record," says Carlson. "I limited the number of effects I used. I always like the limiting of materials to force oneself to employ them more creatively. Previous Earth records were quite lush sounding, and I wanted a more upfront and drier sound, using very few studio effects.
“I wanted this to be a ‘sexy’ record, a record acknowledging the ‘witchy’ and ‘sensual’ aspects in the music… sort of a ‘witch’s garden’ kind of theme, with references to mind-altering plants and animals that people have always held superstitious beliefs towards. A conjuror or root doctor’s herbarium of songs, as it were.
"I feel like this is the fullest expression and purest distillation of what Earth does since I re-started the band."
Here, Carlson takes us through Full Upon Her Burning Lips, one track at a time.
Datura’s Crimson Veils
"This is the longest track on the record, and is an epic collection of riffs. This was written in the month leading up to the recording, and the arrangement came together in the studio. It is full of nods to Jimi Hendrix and some of my favourite soul/r'n'b songs, with a heavy ending."
Exaltation Of Larks
"This was an off the cuff piece we started playing in the studio. Mell recorded it, and we took the best part and put it on the album – not only because we liked how it turned out, but it helped to make the sides more equal to improve the cutting of the vinyl."
Cats On The Briar
"This was the song I had kicking around the longest. It was written during soundcheck at Hellfest a few years back. I really like the chords in the ‘b’ part (Ab6-Ab7-Ab) because it gives a sense of movement while really remaining static (oblique motion). I also really like the melodic parts."
The Colour Of Poison
"This is my favourite song on the album at the moment. It's a heavy song with a soul/r'n'b groove to it, full of dramatic pauses and lots of pinched harmonics. It's a rocker, and I like playing it live."
"This song was originally part of a live soundtrack we did for the film Belladonna Of Sadness at the Ghent film festival a couple years ago. I took elements I liked and rearranged them and added a third part. It uses a descending chromatic riff (more oblique motion). I really like playing this one."
She Rides An Air Of Malevolence
"This one was written in the month leading up to the recording dates as well, and arranged during recording. The way the song ‘breaks’ down at the end was a spontaneous idea that occurred during the recording, I really enjoy when there's improvisatory moments during recording. This one also has a real soul/r'n'b groove to part of it, and I'm really into the melodic moments."
"This is another improvised song, where Mell rolled tape while we were playing off the cuff. We then used the best part."
An Unnatural Carousel
"This is the most intricate riff, based around arpeggiated chords, and a lot of melody lines. I think it's quite beautiful and has some of my best playing."
The Mandrake’s Hymn
"This one also contains elements from the Belladonna Of Sadness live soundtrack we did. I added the heavy chordal bridge, and the descending Db minor break, and increased the repetition of the melodic cells. I used delay on this one to create a hypnotic pulse behind it all."
A Wretched Country Of Dusk
"This is a perfect closing track, with a really epic, yearning quality to it."
Earth's new album Full Upon Her Burning Lips is out on May 24 via Sargent House.