Earth, Mount Eerie & O Paon – The Caves,Edinburgh – 08/03/12
A much looked forward to roadtrip to the capital for Mr & Mrs Godzilla Blues.
A great piece of timing fell into place for this gig – myself and my wife were supposed to be heading to Edinburgh for a delayed anniversary trip to see a gig of her choice on the Friday evening and we were originally staying for the Saturday night as well, however, when I spotted that Earth were in town on the Thursday night, the babysitting and accommodation arrangements were hastily changed, as they have been on my list of desired bands to see for a while now.
The Caves was not a venue I was familiar with, and it’s quite difficult to adequately describe. Set just off the Cowgate below the South Bridge area, it’s an old building more often used as a wedding venue, with a maze-like arrangement of nooks and crannies inside, the walls mainly being unadorned brickwork. We discovered a small balcony area upstairs that overlooked the stage so we decided to grab a seat to obtain a relaxed vantage point. The stage sits at the end of a tunnel shaped room that must be around 30 feet high, with a simple lighting rig set along each side wall.
I was unfamiliar with both support acts and first on stage was O Paon, stage name for a French-Canadian lady called Genevieve. She introduced herself in a slightly rambling fashion that may have been partly due to nerves but was amusing and made you instantly warm to her. The music itself consisted of layered guitar and vocals built up on a loop-pedal. It’s a technique I’ve seen used before and it never fails to amaze me how some relatively simple guitar lines can be tied together to such great effect. She sings in French and with me not being fluent in that language it gave the songs an other-wordly quality that I suspect would not be present had they been in English. Those songs which were solely comprised of layered vocals were reminiscent of some of Bjork’s work on the ‘Medullah’ album and O Paon proved to be such a pleasant discovery purchased the CD’s that were available on the merchandise stand afterwards.
Next up was Mount Eerie, another unknown act for me, who are apparently a full band normally, but on this occasion consisted solely of their front man performing solo. Armed with a 12-string guitar he regaled us with rather wordy songs, some of the accompanying guitar parts sounding as if they were being made up on the spot. Random distorted guitar interludes added to the slightly disjointed effect and I was left with the impression that he was using song dynamics that may work within the context of a full band but taken into a solo format just didn’t work (for me, certainly).
Earth took to the stage with sole remaining founder member Dylan Carlson looking much slimmer than he has in recent years, sporting a Lemmy-styed moustache-sideburn combination with the chops grown to a good 6 inches in length; this, along with his shirt, tie and waistcoat attire makes him resemble a character from the Old West, which is fitting given that his band’s music since their mid-00’s re-emergence with the ‘Hex; Or Printing In the Infernal Method’ album would represent a reasonable soundtrack choice for any decent Western movie. His long-term partner Adrienne Davis occupies the drum stool while Karl Blau is currently fulfilling the bass role. I was happy to find that Lori Goldston, who played cello on the ‘Angels of Darkness’ albums and also played with Nirvana for their classic ‘MTV Unplugged’ performance, is joining Earth on this tour as in my opinion the addition of cello has really added a new element to their music on these recordings, the low end cello drone providing a nice counter-part to Carlon’s guitar lines.
The set was drawn mainly from the second instalment of the ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light’ project, with a couple of visits to the mid-90’s and songs such as ‘Tallahassee’ from ‘Pentastar: In the Style of Demons’. Earth’s music is based around what Carlson refers to as ‘the drone’, with songs being extremely long and repetitive in structure; this basic foundation has constantly evolved from the slow, distorted sound of the ‘Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version’ style (which Sunn O))) adopted as their modus-operandi and have made a career from, although they did acknowledge the debt to Earth by naming an early song ‘Dylan Carlson’) through to the current country and folk influenced songs. Since the music relies so heavily on repetitiveness and the slightest shift in guitar lines, it is essential that the venue’s sound is up to the job; a previous visit to Edinburgh to see Mogwai at The Picturehouse proved that bigger venues can kill the intricacies of such music, with the piano melodies that provide a key change in the song dynamic being lost within the general wall of guitars. The Caves presents no such issues, with the sound being crystal clear; possibly the brick walls assist with this, I’m sure sound engineer types would know.
This was a fantastic night, my only minor complaint being that ‘Old Black’ from the first ‘Angels of Darkness’ album unexpectedly didn’t appear in the set, as it has fast become one of my personal favourites (and showing that good music transcends all ages, my 5 year old son is also a big fan of that particular song, insisting it is replayed in the car endlessly). Surprisingly, even my wife enjoyed it, which I didn’t really expect given she was bored to tears when I dragged her along to Mogwai, but I think we agreed that the poor sound in that instance probably contributed to her opinion that everything just sounded the same…”
Words and pic by Godzilla Blues.