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The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Pt. 1: B+ / Minks - By the Hedge: B-

"Father Midnight"                                                                       "Indian Ocean"

Sometimes, originality can be really pesky. Sometimes, you’d just rather listen to an album and not have to worry about whether the artist playing it is going to influence generations of musicians or even whether you’re going to remember it a month from now. Sometimes, there’s just music that you want to indulge in for a singular mood and Hell to all else if you just want to hear background music for forty or so minutes. The music by New York duo, Minks, can be safely considered indie pop and the music by Washington quartet, Earth, can be safely considered drone. Both groups have released these types of “mood” records; pieces of music that are not meant to be enjoyed for individual songs, but for the stringently monolithic moods they represent.

Earth have been playing music since 1990. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Pt. 1 is somewhere around their eleventh album. It is composed of five tracks, the shortest of which is over seven minutes and the longest of which is over twenty. For over an hour, the group, with a new cellist added to their basic guitar/bass/drums ensemble, finds one melody and repeats it with military-like precision and ungodly stamina. To give you some perspective on how much Earth is adverse to change on Angels of Darkness, the addition of a cellist has been regaled by some critics as being a radical change for the group, but it is barely heard on the album, playing long, desolate notes just off in the distance as Dylan Carlson’s guitars take center stage. Angels of Darkness evolves in texture from minute to minute much like a glacier melts, but there’s something fascinating about listening to it occur. The album is mixed beautifully, accentuating Karl Blau’s bass, which gives each song a valued richness, especially on the closing title track. The group sounds like they’re soundtracking a nonexistent Western and can be rightly compared to Mastodon’s work for the film, Jonah Hex. Angels of Darkness may run about twenty minutes too long, but it’s an excellent album to just brood over, in a masochistic sort of way.

The debut album from Minks, By the Hedge, actually has some semblance of distinction between its songs. “Kusmi”, the record’s opening track, has a nice hook and sets a good tone for the rest of the album. “Indian Ocean” is a delicate instrumental composed of layers and layers of jangling guitars. By the Hedge, overall, however, plays with the fluid anonymity of countless other groups dabbling in shoegaze, indie pop and the like. Singer, Shaun Kilfoyle’s, voice reaches comical levels of inscrutability, repeating nonsense in “Funeral Song” and mumbling into his sleeve for just about everything else. To give you a sense of how very average By the Hedge is, my notes on the album pretty much end here, and the rest say things like “Decent”, “Again, decent”, “Shoegaze-y”, “Quite shoegaze-y”, “Again a decent song”, and, in a startling change of form, “Again, blah”. By the Hedge is very similar in sound to Wild Nothing’s painfully boring Gemini, but sounds much more like a group that cares somewhat about what they’re writing. It’s consistent, and, if you’re into that sort of thing, who would I be to deter you from it?


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