Imagine that you are a dormouse, a very small rodent, living in nocturnal forests. It is autumn. Food, chestnuts, acorns and hazelnuts are harder and harder to find. The days are getting shorter, as shadows grow longer: "The morning small / The evening tall". Small as you are, even the brown leaves that cover the forest floor are huge, they cast dark and unnerving shadows, as large as you are or even larger. And as the night air grows colder all the time, the snout and feet feel close to freezing, your orange-brown fur providing only limited protection against the chill. It is time to retire to your hibernaculum, a nest sited in a hollow tree and padded with bark, grass, moss and leaves, woven to surround you entirely. It is time to let your breath slow down, to let the rhythm of your heart slow down, to let the blood flow more slowly through your tiny veins ... so slow as to become one with the earth.
I bought "Hibernaculum", the newest album by Earth, together with a recent release of Pandit Pran Nath's classical Indian raga's on Terry Riley's Shri Moonshine label: "Raga Cycle - Palace Theatre - Paris 1972".
Earth's "Hibernaculum" is a shortish (36 minutes long) album, an ep really. The first two tracks and the last track on the album are reworkings of tracks from earlier Earth titles: "Ouroboros Is Broken" is from "Earth 2", "Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor" is from "Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons" and the final track "A Plague Of Angels" is from the "Angel Coma" 12 inch, a limited edition split with Sunn 0))) which was (to the best of my knowledge) only sold on the 2005-2006 tour of these two bands. Only the third track, which is the least long of the album, is new: "Miami Morning Coming Down". But don't let the limited duration of the album and the fact that there is little really new material deter you from buying the album at once. All tracks are done gloriously in the American gothic (as in Cormac McCarthy and Nick Cave, not Marilyn Manson) style of their previous outing, "Hex: Printing In the Infernal Method". And these restylings genuinely add to the originals - Earth's music has developed, matured through the years, evolved from an aesthetics of subdued, sedated aggression into something simple but very subtle. Earth's music is not only deep in the sense of the weight of (sub-)bass ... it is also deep in the sense of 'deep listening' - listening to 'Hibernaculum' one hears musicianship which is almost meditative in it's attention to sound, and more specifically it's attention to the spatial dimension of sound. One can be sure Dylan Carlson has (is?) a powerful "sonic awareness", which "...is the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound, requiring continual alertness and an inclination towards always listening...". Earth's "sonic awareness" is especially apparent in the relationship between the Drone and Rock within Earth's music. Earth's music is not Drones with Rock, the way some Drone Electronica can be "drones with beats": the beauty of Earth lies in the way the sparse and elegant drum and guitar arrangements flow into deep-listening drones... The Dream World of Drones and the waking world of Rock becoming communicating vessels.
Pandit Pran Nath album was recorded at the Théatre du Palais Royal in Paris, with Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Marion Zazeela serving as accompanying musicians. It is an album of very serious Indian classical music, deeply rooted in Indian mystical traditions. I must admit I find it very hard, almost impossible to write about Pran Nath's music on this album, as I lack deep-going knowledge of classical Indian music and the cultural background of the music. One thing, however, is very striking: the inward-directedness of Pran Nath's chanting, the way the sound is directed towards the interiority of the chanter, towards the interiority of the chanter of the subject - like silence.
What connects Hibernaculum and Pran Nath's music? Breath is what connects these two albums. In Pran Nath's vocalizing of ancient raga's, breath takes center stage, the syllables pronounced in a cavernous way, with an immense and distant resonance. And in Earth, Dylan Carlsons compositions lets the guitar itself breathe...