The 1990s saw guitarist/bassist Dylan Carlson generate body-rumbling instrumental drone-metal as part of seminal Northwest band Earth. The 2000s have seen Carlson steer the musical evolution of Earth into a haunting mix of doom-metal and dark Americana. Earth's new record, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, is out now. We caught up with Carlson to discuss the new album:
L.A. WEEKLY: Earth's previous record, 2014's Primitive and Deadly, had guest vocalists and additional instrumentation, but the sound on the new record is stripped back down to just you on guitars/bass and Adrienne Davies on drums/percussion. Was that a conscious decision heading into the writing and recording of the new album?
DYLAN CARLSON: That was conscious. I enjoyed playing with other musicians but I really wanted this album to show what the two of us are capable of. Adrienne's drums are a big part of the live show, but on record they have not necessarily come out as much. I wanted a dryer recording, a sort of '70s style record where there's not a lot of studio effects and guitars are hard-panned left and right.
Was the five-year gap between Earth albums intentional?
Not really. We spent three years touring. [Primitive and Deadly] was our last record with Southern Lord, and we were changing management. I knew there would probably be a delay because that stuff was getting sorted and we weren't sure where we are going to end up. I also had the opportunity to do a solo record (2018's Conquistador), and that went well. I did the collaboration with The Bug (2017's Concrete Desert). The plan wasn't for it to be five years. It just sort of happened.
You have described the sound of the new album elsewhere as “sensual.” What is it about Earth's music that defines it as a “sensual” experience?
I feel like our music is immersive. I consider what I do rock music. I know nowadays it means something else to a lot of people, but to me, rock music has always been about freedom and infinite possibilities, and is immersive. In the head it puts you in a mental landscape and state, in the heart it speaks to you in some way, and then, let's face it, rock & roll is about movement, dancing and fucking. It should hit the hips as well. A lot of hard rock and heavy metal now doesn't hit those buttons. It's mental music that is stuck in the head, as opposed to all over the body.
Do you ever get the urge to write new music in the style of Earth's heavier drone-metal from the 1990's?
Not really. I've never understood the idea of recreating a record I have already done. A record is a moment in time for the people involved and everything is different each time. I've never understood the idea of having a formula and making the same record over and over again. Obviously there are certain things I feel need to be present in order for it to be Earth, but at this point, I play what I play and my sound is always going to be me, regardless of the situation.
Earth performs at The Echo on Wednesday, May 29 and Friday, May 31 with Helms Alee.