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Showing 1-2 of 2 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on 24 February 2008
If Earth's previous album; Hex, was the wounded, lone rider slumped across his mule's back trudging off into the sunset in a barren 1930s American dustbowl; The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is the sun rising with the rider long gone and the first new shoots of grass are escaping the ground.

There is a majestic uplifting hopefulness in these recordings compared to the stark, sombreness of Hex. It's a masterful evolution for Dylan Carlson's Earth and `The Bees...' has proven to be one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated releases of 2008 so far.

The tracks are far more structured and cohesive this time around and more varied; not a whole lot, but just enough for this album to capture and idefinitely keep your attention. It's obvious the songs are intricately crafted and layered, Carlson's countrified Telecaster twang being the hub by which every other instrument is guided. The only hint of virtuosity is when Bill Frisell appears on three tracks providing complimentary psychedelic, fuzzy guitar lines.

Adrienne Davies' steady drumming is very understated here and merely provides a backbone to the chiming and interleaving guitar and piano lines. Her drumming is essential to Earth's vibe; it's ofter hard to overlook and take for granted how hard it is to drum so slowly and with infinite restraint. Don McGreevey's bass is also an essential aspect to the band's overall sound yet is so subtle and restrained it's easy to forget that underpinning warmth is actually there. Though you'd miss it if it werent. All of this points to how much a band effort this is and how well the tracks are composed.

The production is also fantastic. It's an incredibly warm sounding album as opposed to Hex's stark coldness. Yet it's not polished by any means; any studio trickery and sheen would render the album sterile.
Plus Arik Roper and Seldon Hunt's artwork make this definitely something special to get hold of rather than to download.

This is by no means a perfect album however; it's one dimentional pace will likely test some people's patience and the fact that there is no vocals or virtuoso instrumentation; blistering solos and the like, gives the album a sameness and you'd be an obsessive listener indeed if you could name each track if put on random.

These songs were also undoubtedly meant to be experienced live; I was fortunate to see these songs at All Tomorrow's Parties festival before the album came out and I have to say the vibe Earth created through these tracks in a live setting was unparalleled and I was slightly disappointed the album recordings couldn't quite live up to the experience.

So, however brilliant The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is, it is not perfect; go and see these guys live.
I expect perfection to come from Earth's next evolutionary step!
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on 23 February 2008
When the members of Earth come out of the studio these days they probably have to consult calendars to find out what month it is. Their recent output is so immersive and deep, the sound so spacious and huge that their records are worlds unto themselves. Hex was a mindblower. In music it's pretty rare to hear something that's pretty much non-referential, that you can't trace the antecedents of easily. Hex was such a piece of music, a new artistic idiom as it were.

Production is crucial to the new incarnation of Earth, not that it wasn't previously (although the crux of Earth 2 era Earth's sound was the palpable, physical resonance effects created by interacting waves of stereophonic distortion, which could be achieved without the kind of perfectionist refining that I imagine goes into recording the new Earth sound), but you get the feeling listening to The Bees Made Honey... that Earth want you to study every swirling, reverberating microtone in the aftermath of a chord. On "Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)" nearly two minutes of the exact same two bars of guitars, bass and drums let you view those two bars panoramically, completely, and when finally they are broken up it is only to return again almost immediately for more ecstatic exploration of the same mantra. The song drifts languidly away from this repeated introduction and really blossoms when the organ swims into the mix but always tightly wheels back around to its initial cheery but desolate emotional timbre.

Tightness seems to constrain Earth somewhat in the first few songs. A stiffness becomes perceptible against all odds given the graceful fluidity of the sounds, the crash cymbal sounding like a breaking wave, the bass a subtle, liquid complement to the proceedings, it is the song structures that is slightly paralytic and rigid. The fourth song, "Engine of Ruin," is liberated by guest guitarist Bill Frisell (a prolific, talented master of the instrument with a Nels Cline-like diversity of discography, but generally affiliated with the modern jazz community) and his arcing, molten leads singing above a bracing Earth dirge. This seems to open up the rest of the players and indeed the rest of the album (though I really have no idea if the album was recorded in the order of the tracks). From here on songs are flush with narrative momentum. The patient, near-blissfully-static Earth approach isn't cast aside, but is modified to spin looser, more organic songs. The last two songs have extended guitar and organ solos. Bald repetition vanishes from Earth's palette; even the drumming, which is beautifully slow, delves into dynamic motion, and fills drive song parts together. The organ sounds like a tambura on the final track, which shares its name with the album, droning exotically and smearing fat chords into an empyrean gauze.

Where Hex was obvious, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is nuanced. There's no mistaking Hex, almost anyone who hears, whatever their musical heritage, is pulled in; it's saturated with irresistible hooks and sheer novelty of sound. To the uninitiated that novelty is present on The Bees... in equal measure but the songs unfold more cryptically and ultimately, just as rewardingly. (Wilson Dinsdale)

For fans of: James Blackshaw, Fursaxa, Labradford, John Fahey, Birchville Cat Motel, the 1970s
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