On Repeat: Earth, Wind, and Conceptual Guitar

Recent favorites

I’m getting back in the habit of posting brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ The opening of the new Earth album, Even Hell Has Its Heroes, the soundtrack to an upcoming documentary (directed by Clyde Petersen) about the band, is the perfect way to celebrate Droneuary. And then it evolves into something revelatory, as only an Earth performance can. It’s just Dylan Carlson, guitar, and Adrienne Davies, drums, though several other musicians do appear later on the album, including Mell Dettmer on Moog (what Moog specifically I’m not sure). Even by Earth’s subharmonic standards, this is an often rewardingly subdued collection. (Oh, and the striking cover art, featuring Carlson’s profile, is by Richey Beckett.)


▰ This cover of “I Put a Spell on You” by Alice Smith is an incredible rendition (veering-on-minimalist reduction when it starts) of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song, heard here as channeling the accusatory syllabic insistence of Nina Simone’s classic recording (Smith herself recorded it previously for the various artists compilation Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone, back in 2015, and it’s clear that subsequent years of consideration have given her insights into every nook and cranny of the composition). It’s part of the Gagosian gallery’s ongoing video series (which included a Bill Laswell / John Zorn team-up I mentioned here last week). Smith is supported on piano by Dennis Hamm, who manages to stay out of her way without being utterly erased by the sheer power of her voice. It’s quite something.

How Will I Know This Will Make a Memory, the latest from Cinchel, is gorgeous both sonically and conceptually. The title/opening track is a live concert recording from back in the middle of last year: layers of processed guitar achieving a cloudy, looping ambient quality that extends for three quarters of an hour. Two other tracks rework that material into even denser, at times downright orchestral, splendor. And the final track is a test run that precedes everything we’ve heard thus far: it’s Cinchel’s recording of his rehearsal for the concert performance that constitutes the first track.


▰ The Golden Gate Bridge has gained unintended renown in recent years because of how recent re-engineering has led to it emitting singing-like tones when the wind picks up. I live less than three miles from the bridge, as the (numerous and territorial local) corvids fly, and I can often hear it from my backyard. This tweet from during the recent storms captures that drone from inside a car as it crosses the bridge — and for bonus cinematic flair, it features an overturned tractor trailer. The footage is like a clip from a Michael Mann or Nicolas Winding Refn film, score and all.

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