If you bring together Lee Buford of The Body, Kristin Hayter of LinguaIgnota and Dylan Walker of Full of Hell for a project, you’ll get something special. That’s one thing to be certain of and you would know this is if you’re familiar with the relationship between these acts. Kristin Hayter is not someone who takes collaborations lightly and chemistry is essential. The result, Sightless Pit, is an audio exploration of bleak existence and darkness, unlike another on ‘Grave of a Dog’.
The vocal intro to ‘Kingscorpse’ instantly gives you the chills. It’s that weary, forlorn intonation of Hayter that lulls you to a sense of calm. Before you know it, the heavily distorted and gritty vocals overwhelm you over a steady beat. It is pulsating, threatening, dark. An incessant beat that swells and pushes you along into ‘Immersion Dispersal’. You feel as if you’re deep underground at some ‘end of the world’ techno party, where Skinny Puppy worshippers gather.
That vibe is only further enhanced with the ritualistic introduction to ‘The Ocean of Mercy’. It’s remarkable how there’s always tension. Even during the mellow, droney parts of this song with the clean vocals, it’s looming. I have to think of some of the more ambient works by Ulver. The oft angelical singing of Hayter breaks through the haze of noise and crackling effects, providing a new clarity.
Throbbing sounds guide us on ‘Violent Rain’, which takes us back to the minimalism of earlier tracks on the album. It’s a long build-up towards the minimalist piano and a bridge to the much more visceral ‘Drunk on Marrow’. A gloomy, dystopian soundscape, with barking bursts of distortion and pulse that booms in your ears like blood pumping through your veins at full force. In turn, ‘Miles of Chain’ feels more harsh and noisy, with a martial beat that reigns over the roaring sounds and reverberations. It’s a hazy track that turns more sinister and dark as it continues onwards, opening the gate for more darkness to seep in on ‘Whom The Devil Long Sought To Strangle’. Pounding rhythms and minimal, destroyed instrumentations lead us onwards, further down into the pit…
To end up with the sheer magic and tenderness of ‘Love is Dead, All Love is Dead’. It’s despair in its most fragile, hopeless form. A heap of shivering vulnerability, that is left when all is stripped away. It evokes a feeling of guilt, sadness, the sense of inevitableness. We did this, as a world and planet. But that, like anything here, is interpretation, but it’s one based on the power of evocation in this song and the whole album.
Label: Independent Band: Divide and Dissolve Origin: Australia
It’s convenient sometimes to think that the whole world is alright. We’re wrong though. Divide and Dissolve are highlighting some issues that are still part of our landscape and life. White supremacy is, according to Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, still a part of the world around us and the wounds of the past have not fully healed. That is what ‘Abomination’ is about.
Takiaya is part Cherokee and Sylvie part Maaori. Their music is designed to decolonize and decentralize and pay homage to the ancestors. With drums, guitar, saxophone, and live effects, they make music that shakes the walls and breaks down common perceptions of the world around us. I’m hooked. From a comfortable background, it’s too easy for me to say that all is well when there’s still so much hurt in the world. Luckily, those voices are heard.
The music is absolutely punishing with erratic patterns and a deep, droning vibe to it on opening track ‘Abomination’. The drums are so you feel them inside your bones before we get into the eerie intro of ‘Assimilation’. Almost painful, almost grotesque, is it still a beautiful howling effect that you here? Before you can really process it, the lumbering bass and drums hit you again. It stomps and curdles onward, through the next track, all the way to ‘Reversal’, which is a spoken word section about the immigrant mind. The light music support only emphasizes the words, makes them stronger and more potent. It’s touching in its alienating form, but also is the only word of explanation the record offers us.
At times the music almost feels ritualistic or even slightly jazzy, like the tune ‘Resistance’. There’s a mystique, a feeling of movie-like suspense to the tune. Repetitive riffs come by, enriched with even further effects and sounds that take you into this trippy realm. The sound is strangely subdued, almost inaudible at times and less structured on ‘Re-Appropriation’ and ‘Reparations’. They feel like strange sound experiments, full of droning bass lines.
‘Indigenous Sovereignty’ is the short, but foreboding closer of the album. Perhaps a sign, a light, showing what is to come in the following years. Guiding the path for change.
I like cats. I don’t think this should surprise anyone, because I’ve mentioned that before. So if you have an album cover that looks a bit odd, but features a black cat and a cool sounding name like Midnight Coven, there’s a fair chance I’ll check it out. And, I have to say, I do not regret listening to ‘Bewitched’.
The project is initially a solo endeavour by Aaron Baker, a 27-year old multi-instrumentalist who has several other projects going. I haven’t been able to find out much more, but there are some musical references given like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. That’s never a bad thing in my book, so let’s get to the music.
‘Sinister’ sounds much like any witchy sounding, doomy psychy band you may be familiar with. Angsty, creepy… Think Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, but a bit on overdrive on vocal effects. It’s cool. And weird. I guess both. I don’t get why the sound is rather wonky though. It wasn’t my headphones, I checked. What it does, is add a little spooky vibe to the song. The same goes for ‘Blood on the Wall’, which at times feels as if it’s merging all parts together into a formless mass of evil creeping up to you. The vocals are something else though, and might even hint at modern psych bands with that nasal tone that keeps sorta poking at you.
But let’s get down to the more doomy, theatric side of the record with ‘Midnight Summoning’. There’s certain bombast to the sound of the streaming guitars. A lot of space is left for those stadium rock-Oasis riffs that blow out with a slight dissonance as you’re familiar with from many pscyh bands. That slightly snotty whingy vibe, but Midnight Coven can do the riffing too in a grand heavy metal style. Just listen to the opening of ‘Corporate Slave’. Tell me that doesn’t sound like ‘Looks that kill’ by Mötley Crüe’. And that’s a great tune, so it works well here too in that specific vibe. At times the sound can be a bit highly processed though, which is very audible on ‘Welcome to the Horror Show’. The drums feel mechanic, the bass is just too perfect, and those soaring sounds in the back make it feel like you’re listening in a very, very tiny room. Does the job, though.
So, Midnight Coven is simply weird. It’s a weird sounding band, and therefore really cool. On closer ‘Conditioned Nation’, I like the flow, but I feel as if I’m listening to a synth track at some points. The lumbering guitars are so thick, like a frosty milkshake. The vocals are very clear on this track, though, which creates a unique vibe. I say, just check ‘m out.
It should come as no surprise that I’m excited about a new Possessor record. The horror-inspired doomsters from the United Kingdom have been quite prolific in the last few years, and they are one of the rare bands that I’ve interviewed twice already (you can read the interviews here, and here, they’re quite fun).
The main inspiration for this group is hard to define. Where before I had a strong Sabbath vibe from these gents, now we’re moving more towards a punky, upbeat sound. It must be that first wave-style black metal influence, but also, most definitely, Black Flag. It’s more energetic, pushier, more domineering. I mean, it’s all good stuff and good clean fun.
So the horror samples are still there, and you only need to glance at their artwork to get that vibe. ‘Gravelands’ is less spooky though, it’s more ‘scary-biker-gang-might-be-werewolves’ scary. I suppose that’s a thing. After that hardcore beatdown beat on ‘Jim The Mutilator’ (obscure reference to the Rotting Christ originator?), the buzzsaw bassline on ‘Backwoods’ is pretty rad.
We turn a darker corner on ‘Savage Rampage’, with a higher pace, which approaches that primitive sound of bands like Midnight. The guitar riffs definitely contribute to that, no warm walls, but gritty, grim bursts hit your darkening mood. All good and set to go for the next bangers, which are ‘Breathe Fire’ and ‘Creature of Havoc’. Here we get back to the good old hard-rocking vibes we love about Possessor. Punchy, heavy sounding tunes, with nice heavy metal hooks and riffs. It feels like music made for a simpler time. It feels odd to get this classic metal vibe in these times, but it also just feels fucking good to hear these riffs that sound like sludgy Iron Maiden efforts.
‘Hiking To Hell’ underlines the coolness of this album again, by returning more to the grimy, repetitive sound and mossy walls of sound from their ‘Dead By Dawn’ album. Groovy stuff. You gotta love Possessor.
Our world still holds plenty of mysteries. There are intricacies, complexities and connections, we can hardly fathom, all around us. Some people tap into the beyond, into the mystery of sound and vibration. One of those is Dylan Carson, a modern day musical shaman and explorer, who by that time had just released ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’ with his band Earth.
On this album, he is exploring a more feminine spirit, a sensuality that is almost transcendental. Carson has his roots in the grunge scene, has gone through the darkness of addiction, lost his good friend to suicide (yes, Kurt Cobain) and somehow has emerged as an icon in a musical style that is entirely his own.
Carlson is often called the father of drone metal. Not a moniker he would pick, but one he gratefully accepts. Currently, as we talk over Skype with a bunch of disruptions on the line as friends try to reach him, he is staying in Los Angeles. For the film soundtrack he is making, but also because he will be moving there in December. It’s a lot more sunny in L.A. he concurs: “It’s way warmer up here, nicer weather for sure!”, he chuckles.
We talk about the new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, which recently came out. But also about his solo record Conquistador, on which he collaborated with Emma Ruth Rundle. And Bagpipes.
Never Mind The Hype let me interview Dylan for last years’ Le Guess Who? festival, a fest I’ve never visited. I was happy to do so anyway.
Good vibrations and universal harmonies
What do you think about the Le Guess Who? Festival yourself? “It’s one of my favorite festivals. I’m not crazy about festivals, but this one always has an interesting program and many people are there that I’d love to meet. Not that I get to usually, but last time I was there I saw jazz icon Pharaoh Sanders perform. That is really cool!”
How does Earth fit within the confines of a festival like Le Guess Who? And how did you end up playing there this year? “Well, The Bug is one of the curators and we did an album together, so I think that’s how it went. But why we fit in is that even though people love boxing us into genres or microgenres, Earth has always tried to do something new, always pushed itself into new directions. That fits within the confines of this festival very well. As a musician, I don’t feel confined to microgenres. I make music, as best as I can, but I can’t affect the way people deal with that. But we play all sorts of festivals, because we are not limited to just heavy music. We’ve done Hellfest, Primavera, but also Le Guess Who? and Levitation festival. That’s a big range. Big Ears in Knoxville is another one of my favorites by the way. We’re not stuck in a corner, we can go many different ways with Earth.”
Is that what gives you more freedom in starting up collaborations? “Definitely. I’ve done a lot of those and I’m always open for new opportunities. It’s all about being open to possibilities and look for that ‘common ground’. If that’s not there, it won’t work. Our collab with Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin is a good example. Even though he grew up hating guitars, we have a lot of similarities in our taste for music and love for dub. Even though we come from opposite worlds, there was enough of a match to do something very cool. So kudos to Kevin for having the guts to do this.”
Do you ever worry if such a collaboration will work out? “If it doesn’t work out, you just won’t release it. No one will have to suffer through it. I’ve had those in the past, where it just didn’t work out. But now, I think I’ve done this long enough to know early on if something will work or not, if the audience would like it or not. I believe in ‘happy accidents’, just letting things happen. If it’s a lot of work and effort, the magic just isn’t there.”
For your solo album ‘Conquistador’ you worked with Emma Ruth Rundle. How did that happen?
“She’s just fucking amazing. I seriously can’t praise her enough, both as musician and as a human being. I’m so happy to see all the recognition she is getting, because she deserves every bit of it. She is one of the few people I always love seeing perform. She is signed to the same label as us, Sargent House, though I met her earlier when we did a show with Marriages and Deafheaven in LA. I borrowed her amp and we’ve sorta become friends since. When I was working on ‘Conquistador’, our schedules matched and we met in the studio of Kurt Ballou to work on some music. So that’s what happened.”
How was it for you to create a solo record, instead of an Earth record? “With Earth there are always multiple people involved, which makes the process more complex. Solo I simply have more freedom and a white canvas, possibilities for collaborations, but it also feels more free for me. Though Earth is not a formula, you always look for progress and continuity. Not that there’s a set course, but we don’t want to repeat ourselves while there may be directions I’d like to play with a bit more. The theme of an imaginary western you could here on ‘Hex, Or Printing in the Infernal Method’, so that was a done deal for Earth. ‘Conquistador’ allowed me to further explore that theme.”
“But what was also an influence, is that we had just left Southern Lord. I knew that finding a new label was going to take time and we had just toured intensively for our previous album Primitive & Deadly. There was need for a break, and I had all this music I wanted to work on. So I took the progressions I had and made my own songs with those. So it was a time of finding our bearings and experimenting.”
If I understand you correctly here, Earth is kind of your highway and solo work enables you to take all those interesting byways and explore, is that correct? “That’s basically it. Earth is the main focus of my career, but there’s so much else I want to do. This enables me to do that and it helps my creative process. Making music is one of the few things in my life I haven’t had problems with. It helps me find the right flow, also in other aspects of my life. I feel very fortunate to be able to work on music all the time and I don’t want to waste any of that time. The fact that I once just… disappeared for 5 years, showed up again and was embraced, is something I’m very grateful for.”
But that’s also your own doing. You get called the father of drone for a reason. “Well yes, that. The fact that people respect what I did so much and validate it, that’s an incredible honor. That’s what motivates me to try hard and keep innovating, not rest on my laurels. I could have made Earth 2 25 times, but that’s not how I want to be remembered.”
Does the solo work make you hungry for more? “Definitely. I’m currently working on the soundtrack for the film From A Son and I hope this will be released as a solo album too.”
You’ve often said you’d like to make soundtracks and this is your second, right? How did this happen? “I’ve made a soundtrack for a German film, called Gold. This is the second. The director of From A Son is Gilbert Trejo, son of Danny Trejo, who plays in the movie. His production manager Kyle pitched my music and Gilbert liked it. He tried what it would be like by using some Earth songs and music from Conquistador as place holders and it was a fit. Kyle happened to know my manager Cathy and contacted her. Long story short, I got to make a soundtrack.”
“The process itself has been pretty intuitive. I watched the movie, which gave me some ideas. We then played the movie and I basically jammed to it. Then it’s a whole process of cutting, pasting, filling, adding… Until you have it. Austin from Starcrawler added percussion to the recordings. All in all, this was a very straightforward process. Similar to Gold actually, though there they were shooting while I was composing, so I would get bits of the film sent my way. That was interesting.”
I’ve actually seen you play another soundtrack. In Ghent you did a live soundtrack for the 70’s psychedelic movie Belladonna of Sadness. “Ah, but that was a different process. They actually expected us to play an Earth set, but instead we composed a whole soundtrack. We watched the movie a number of times, chose a number of themes and worked with that. That developed into what we played live that night and which has shaped part of the new album, like the song Descending Bella.
We actually should talk about your new album, but first, you did sign with Sargent House. What made you join their roster? “Cathy Pellow was already our manager and that’s why my solo record is out on Sargent House. Going there with Earth was a natural choice. Cathy is fantastic, really good with artists, supportive and I like her way of doing business. We just click and Sargent House is a great label, with camaraderie between artists I haven’t experienced before.”
Full Upon Her Burning Lips is the first record you’ve done with Adrienne Davis as a duo. Why did you choose for that and how did it work out? “I felt that on previous records, we had to give way to a lot of other instruments. That’s not a complaint, I worked with great people and I’m happy with those records. But I wanted to see if I could give more room for the essence. The drums also could do with more space I felt. By making this record with the two of us, we get to show what Earth sounds like at its core. And I got to play bass, which I like, so that is cool.”
“The process was very smooth. Most of the material was composed a month before we went into the studio, and there everything just got together naturally. It’s again a very intuitive process, where most of the overdubs, solo’s, and bass lines are improvised in the studio. The basis for the song was just there to complete.”
Did you have a clear concept for this record, like you did for previous ones? “That’s actually one thing that was very different on this album. I had various ideas, but not one big concept. My wife, Polly, she’s a dancer and I thought a lot about music and dance, which are so separate in today’s world. I also read a lot of books from Tanith Lee, which have many sensual themes. I wanted to create a record that was more feminine, more sensual, as opposed to the hypermasculinity of heavy music, but also play with dance. Dance is not just for EBM, it’s a form of getting together, interacting physically, of ritual. It’s a communal thing that I find very important.”
I noticed that this whole record refers to that essence. Just the design of the cover, with its 70’s hardrock reference and the picture of you two, it really points to your roots. “That picture was not intended for the cover, but when I saw it, I knew it was just right. It’s the band itself, and this design makes me think of classic albums like the debut by The Stooges. It was just right.”
Could you tell me what, in your view, is that core or essence of Earth. That which makes the band unique? Is that drone? “I see drone as more of a technique. In music theory, it’s called an oblique motion and that can be found in numerous types of music. From Indian meditation, classical music, blues to even Scottish bagpipes. What attracts me to that sound is the open string you work with or against. I think that’s what I’ve always done in my music. Many people think of massive amps and volume when they hear drone, but there are drones in a hurdy gurdy or acoustic music. That’s what I love anyways. Tempo has always been less interesting to me so we’re sort of countering that, which was particularly interesting when we started out in a time when each band wanted to be the fastest in the world. Within those factors there are many directions to explore and as long as this is all in there, it’s Earth I think. Currently I’m using a lot of chromatic movements, which is something new in my music. But that’s still an oblique motion.”
All these examples you mention, like a hurdy gurdy and bagpipes, those create a sound that I think resonates with people. Isn’t that part of the charm? “It might be my Scottish heritage, which makes me cursed with liking bagpipes. But did you know the bagpipe was really used everywhere until the accordion became available? I read somewhere the king of Hungary even burned all bagpipes then and forced people to buy accordions. Maybe that’s where bagpipes got their bad name, but it’s definitely a global instrument.”
“But I feel, making music, that I’m just a conduit for music that’s already there. Like a pipe, the way I’m shaped affects the final form. That vibration though, it’s already there, the universe is all about vibrations. Solid matter are standing waves and I like the idea of a sustained note, that is fed and keeps resounding, which touches us. It’s a shared, universal resonance. Music and dance are the original technologies for ecstasy and transcendence. When I play a really good show, I never remember it afterwards, I disappear into it. When I think too much, when it’s a lot of work, then I remember it. It’s still a good show, people enjoy it, but it’s where I don’t lose myself in that vibration of the music.”
Is that how you experience collaborations? Is there that shared resonance that you look for? “I think so, but it’s also a form of synergy. The sum needs to be larger than the parts, if that’s all good, it’s going to work out.”