10 November 2016

Gig Review – Earth and Cobalt Chapel, Mama Roux’s, Birmingham, 8th Nov 2016

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I am going to borrow/steal some words penned by a fellow noise enthusiast* who so eloquently surmised the following: “Cosmological metaphors notwithstanding, the association that Earth are a “metal” band is a misnomer and is to suggest they are bound in the gravitational pull of a single genre. Almost 25 years since the release of Earth 2, their true orbit is much wider with their seminal beginnings in avant garde experimentalism. They have since spanned traditional rock genres, brooding country, sub bass excursions with The Bug and traditional English folksong.”

Dylan Carlson is the core of all of this activity and has remained Earths only original member throughout their creative journey. I was privileged to interview Dylan again prior to tonight’s performance in Birmingham, the birthplace of metal and the home of Black Sabbath, who’s early pre-sabbath name Dylan accosted for his own purposes. Somehow this makes any experience of witnessing Earth play these unhallowed grounds just that bit more special. However, I get ahead of myself, as first we bore witness to a service curated by Earth’s own choice of support act, Cobalt Chapel.

ccCobalt Chapel are Cecilia Fage, a long-time collaborator and member of Matt Berry’s backing band The Maypoles, and Jarrod Gosling, of electronic duo I Monster padded out to a five piece band for tonight’s live show. Their set was entertaining, charming and whimsical in equal amounts. Their heavy psychedelia is delivered by dealing vintage organs, swirling elaborate bass lines and rhythm sections, all wrapped up and delivered with a chaste and ghostly kiss by singer Fage. Cleverly processed vocal harmonies lift things further into the misty realms and if I shut my eyes I felt as though I could be standing on Summerisle. The disarming between song sweetly polite banter only helped to drive home the impression that were witnessing something quintessentially English and wonderfully folky, progressive and psychadelic. Refreshing.

Earth are no strangers to the Birmingham live scene and they look right at home from the moment the first droning and shimmering notes ooze out of their amplifiers. This is my third time experiencing Earth as a band and I suspect I’ll never tire of it. Tonight they are present as the familiar trio with founder Carlson taking center stage with more aplomb than I have previously dcviewed. His guitar is frequently pointed skywards, like a beacon or even a transmitter as the unquestionably unique riffs are poured forth. Perhaps a tad heavier than on the previous outings I have attended, their dustbowl desert rock is still darkly mesmerising. Tracks from their recent era albums are delivered alongside a few newer cuts that sound as good as ever. One song performed as a soundtrack to “Belladonna of Sadness” pleasingly sounded to me rather Zeppelin-esque. Tonight was a solid Earth performance, steadfast in quality and reliably transfixing. A suitable antidote to the chaos of the political surprise that was confusing and upsetting so many beyond the walls of the venue. To quote another associate of mine**, “Earth. Basically defragging my brain.”

* Andrew Pritchard

** Lewis Burn