Dylan Carlson's Earth is a religion to some.
Hex: or Printing In The Infernal Method is the first release in nine years from this ever-changing Seattle band. Dylan has quite a personal history and story besides the music, but that has been already well documented numerous times.
Coming back from a half-buried grave appears to wear well on the man who along with his drummer / girlfriend Adrienne Davies and a small list of guests have created what I initially found to be a perplexing set of Sabbath-tinged death country instrumentals. I listened to it a few times and didn't get the message. Then something strange happened; before I could finish my original review, the flap slip media copy I was given went missing. After a few days of searching around with no luck, I went out to buy another copy so I could finish up.
I was stunned to see the series of stark, black-gray American Gothic nightmare photos in the booklet provided with the commercial release. The seventeen images (including the cover) are a vision of a true dark Americana: Grim looking early settlers; American Natives; a bovine skull mountain thirty feet high – creepy. No dates or historical notes provide explanation which make them even more ominous. The songs on Hex are the soundtrack to these images. The images are the lyrics.
This package is a classic example of the sum of the parts being much more than the individual worth. The stripped down moods and textures are sonic meat for the bones of these images. Earth have created a beautifully tortured soundtrack envisioning a deconstruction and redesign of the raw Western frontier. All hail the Death Country master for his name is Carlson and he walks in shadows.
There are no bad tracks. Standouts are:
”Land of Some Other Order”- Hypnotic flange drone with bell like melodies floating in the brain.
”Lens of an unrectified night” - Like a Nashville session player whacked up on thorazine finding his inner Iommi.
”Raiford (The Felon Wind )” - Proto drum and distorto guitar like a wary cry of the doomed - I hope the reunited Stooges hear this.
”Tethered to The Polestar”: Gentle, stark picked lines like a communication to the beyond. Verbed-up and feedback-dreamy. Hey David Lynch and or Jim Jarmusch: you need to get this band in your next film.
This is one of those records I can see myself pulling out during a psilocybin adventure. It broods without being repetitive and drones without becoming machinery. Drag-down-tempo melodies keep you locked in for the next revelation. Can they recreate it live? Who cares. Watching them try would be another journey in itself.