A sound. Like a burning in the soul. That is the sound of pre-Hex Earth (post-Hex Earth can almost be considered a separate entity). A recording group with such stunning purity of vision it is hard to separate out releases or make any in-depth sense of the overall meaning of the work, and yet the main thrust of their point is so obvious. Rock transportation is a reality, and Earth are completely aware of that. While I have talked about Sunn O)))before, the music of these two bands can be clearly separated. The music of Sunn O))) is very much a country understanding, as are all of Earth’s most notable drone contemporaries, what separates Earth’s pre-Hex discography from the rest of the drone music genre is the connection with modernity, electricity, the modern world and the post-industrial era. Earth’s music isn’t mechanical, it is electronic. It isn’t a rhythmic steam engine, it’s a circuit board composed of distortion and plugged right into your head. No release of Earth’s illustrates this more directly than the 2001 re-release of the 1995 live track Ripped on Fascist Ideas, and live recordings from 1990, collected in one release named Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars.
Ripped on Fascist Ideas is the half-hour feedback ripple which takes up over half the album and cascades across your consciousness like two car-bombs simultaneously detonating at either side of your head. The sound is so monolithic it’s hard to believe anything other than it is the combined sound holding you up and holding you together, as without distortion feedback so thick you could swim through it, you would just liquefy. The songs of early Earth are the soundtrack to the urban nightmare. Miles from greenery, miles from nature and with ability to breathe stifled as the doors close on the subway train or lift you’re crammed into. No souls found here at all. You look around at the city, because that is all there is to see, monoliths and citadels sing out, noisy reminders that in becoming more advanced, we have destroyed ourselves. There is no warmth to be found in glass and chrome. No love to be had in laboratory-sanitary family homes three hundred feet up. Jet trails light up at dusk, the sky turns into a beautiful rainbow running across half the horizon, and you look and your mind knows that all you see is the prismatic effect of airborne poison. Circuit boards, circuit wires, wireless information and fast food. The music is a single streak of sound, like the constant electric burble of a city, and yet is so atomised. Each movement being separate and distinct from all others just as we are from each other. Sounds pass each other on the musical street and keep their eyes fixed firmly on their feet. It’s sun distortion beating down on a satellite dish through the pollution-streaked clouds.
The rest of the album, from the 1990 demo, is something I’ve been reflecting on for a long time. While rock and roll is the transformative medium to allow us to transcend the modern world, it is clearly unacceptable to most of the straight population of the world. The second side of this LP is probably the contact point for most, the keyhole in the doors of perception through which most will slip. Compared to the time-elasticising Ripped on Fascist Ideas, the rest of the album is staid and regular. To god, even Jesus would in comparison pale. We still have three five minute plus instrumental drone tracks and Divine and Bright, featuring vocals from Kurt Cobain. This is where Earth slip into their doom trainers and do a little rhythmical running, songs thud together in surprising and sometimes shockingly explicit ways, considering up to this point Earth have largely confined themselves to the kind of distant, visionary Ripped on Fascist Ideas distortion rain drenching.
The album then descends into a final twenty minutes of thudding doom grooves right out of Sleep’s heaviest unopened groovebooks. A biblical act of unparalleled strife with no end or respite in sight. These tracks elevate it from merely being a stunning recording of Earth doing what they do best at full volume through my flat, but a strung out desert road burn, straight out of Denver and headed for the sea, across miles of mountain-fenced desert like a true Vanishing Point aficionado. It’s the closest I’ve ever heard Earth to drunk, always so tight and controlled and perfectly balanced, but here they are more ragged and raw, swaying more organically and less electrically. It’s a spellbinding journey I’ve taken again and again.
Sunn Amps and Smashed guitars is a sonic abuse charge waiting to happen. Thirty minutes of distortion feedback loop dirge is supplemented with a second side of twenty minutes of dirty doom written by a Bongripper that ate their ice cream too fast. Creeping frostlike sounds fill the post-juggernaut wastelands. It’s an experiment, Earth are whitecoats mixing substances hither and thither looking for a formula, it’s interesting just to see them evolve and the sounds they make along the way are spellbinding. It’s called an EP but it’s nearly fifty minutes long. Come for Cobain, stay for the grooves. Never leave because of Ripped on Fascist Ideas.