Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Earth Post That Barely Mentions Kurt Cobain

One of the stranger marriages in modern music is heavy metal and minimalism. As an 80’s thrash metal kid, I expected all my metal bands to be fast, loud, and obnoxious. Bands like Cryptic Slaughter, the Crumbsuckers, and Wehremacht were the Speed Kings and there were a million other garage metal bands fighting for the fastest band in the heshian land status. Of course, in their speed quest, a lot of bands forgot about songwriting and good riffs. The music was played at such a spazztic blurr that heaviness took a back seat to insanely fast tempo. However, the Melvins took the opposite approach. They realized that heaviness is found in the low frequency so they played lower and slower than everybody else. Dylan Carlson, who once swore off music because the Melvins already perfected it, soon came along with his Earth project and took the Melvins’ dirge template even further. Earth slowed it down even more and used repetition to create some of the heaviest music on the planet. At the time, I used the Melvins as my reference points, and enjoyed Earth in that context. Years later I heard classical minimalist composers like Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Morton Feldman, and Earth’s music made even more sense. Earth were one of the first heavy bands who understood that there is power in the drone and influenced a whole slew of modern day dronesters like Sunn 0))), Growing, Black Boned Angel, Asva, and the Holy McGrail.

The band was originally formed in ‘89/90 by Dylan, future Kill Rock Stars’ head honcho Slim Moon, and Greg Babior in Olympia, Washington. Greg and Slim didn’t stick around long and were then replaced with Joe Preston and Dave Harwell for their debut 1991 recording, Extra-Capsular Extractions. Recorded by Mike Lastra at Portland’s Smegma Studios and featuring guest vocals by Dickless’ Kelly Canary & Kurt Cobain, Earth’s debut confused the hell out most hipsters who were expecting the ‘Sub Pop’ sound. Joe Preston soon left the band for the Melvins, recorded the great Lysol and solo EP on Boner, and then set off to join as many bands as possible. The remaining members (with some help from Laceration’s drummer Joe Burns) then released Earth 2 in 1993, which was pretty much ignored at the time yet has become the definitive drone metal record. Several line up and records later, Earth broke up and Dylan vanished from the public eye. But Dylan couldn’t stay away from the drone metal spotlight for too long and resurrected the band with Adrienne Davis a few years ago and released the great Hex LP on Southern Lord Records in 2005.

Around 1994, some friends and I drove from Bellingham to Seattle’s Velvet Elvis for a Thanksgiving Day Earth show only to find out that band had canceled at the last minute. Since we were already there and made such a big effort, we decided to stick around and watch the other bands. Earth’s replacement was a New York hardcore band called State of the Union and their signer went on a twenty-minute lecture on the genocide of Native Americans in the 1600’s. It was not a fun show and I will carry the disappointment of Earth’s cancellation to my grave. Luckily, a Portland friend taped this solo Dylan Phase 3 era show on his hand held tape recorder at the X-Ray Café a few months later. It’s crude and lo-fi, but if that bothers you then you are a pussy.

Earth – Live at the X-Ray Café

Buy the Sub Pop reissues here.

-- MC Tom


Steve said...

Hey Lamestain --

Earth named themselves Earth because Earth was the original name of Black Sabbath. One time I saw Joe Preston perform in his one-man band named Thrones -- it was fucking awesome.

Later dudes -- Steve

Lamestain HQ said...

That's cool. I saw him during his brief tenure with the Melvins. I always found it amusing that he happened to be a Melvin when they put out their solo records, although he had only recently joined and was quickly kicked out.



Thanks alot for posting this. I'd been eagerly awaiting it! I really enjoyed it anyway - was exactly as I thought it'd be! Absolutely brilliant to hear an earlier Earth live recording from the 'Phase 3' era. Had been hoping something would turn up for a long time. So, who's got anything else? Dare I say, anything earlier?!

Flatlander said...

Glad to have the comments turned on.

You may want to also choose the word verification option on also to filter out the spam. It doesn't look like the spam masters have found you yet but they will.

Lamestain HQ said...

Thanks--I'll turn word verification on right now.

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G. V. Drutchas said...

any chance of re-posting the earth at x-ray cafe bootleg? I've never heard any solo dylan carlson stuff except for this excerpt from a seattle show he did in 2009 or 2010.

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Anonymous said...

would there be any chance of yet another new post of the earth live please?

daviddylankelly said...

Heyy, can you post the -Live at X-Ray Cafe' again pleeeeease? The link is broken but I'm so excited to hear it!!



discosmoothie said...

dude, i can only imagine your pain with that thanksgiving day earth cancellation. serious bummer! but just for clarification, state of the nation were from salt lake city, utah, not new york!

also, for anyone who is wanting to hear this amazing piece of earth history, it's now up on youtube. just search "earth x ray cafe"