Earth: Placating the Bureaucracy

Perhaps the most striking thing about Earth’s A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction — which combines the band’s 1991 debut EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction with cuts from their 1990 demo previously available as bonus tracks from No Quarter’s 2001 reissue of 1995’s Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars Live (you get all that?) — is that if it came across my desk today and I popped it in for review, it wouldn’t be at all out of date. I wouldn’t call it innovative, or laud it for how it will change riffy drone forever, but this kind of stuff is most definitely still being made. It goes to show that whatever the venerated Olympia, Washington, outfit get up to, they seem to be ahead of their time. Certainly they’ve continued to prove that throughout their career, from the low frequency noise of Earth 2 in 1993 to the beginning of a new era with 2005’s Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method. Even now, as main songwriter and guitarist Dylan Carlson prepares to enter his 21st year operating under the Earth moniker, the push is still toward innovating and refining the creative process.

I don’t doubt that it was a bureaucratic desire that led to the album’s being reissued, perhaps by Southern Lord, perhaps by Carlson or the band wanting to mark the 20th anniversary of some of this material, but whatever it is, the new visitation of Extra-Capsular Extraction finds it no less relevant for the time passed. In fact, given the trail of influence Earth has left behind them, they’re probably more relevant now than they ever were at the time. Nonetheless, the “bureaucratic desire” is also obviously a play on the two-part piece that makes up half of the original EP, “A Bureaucratic Desire for Revenge.” On both “Part 1” and “Part 2,” Earth prove they were ahead of the game entirely, evoking an atmosphere that not even Godflesh would come close to touching for some years yet. Carlson, joined in Earth at the time by bassist/percussionist Joe Preston (Melvins, High on Fire, Thrones, etc.) and bassist Dave Harwell, provides landmark riffing that’s slow enough (especially compared to most of what was coming out of their geographic region at the time) to be called drone, but still somewhat groove-based. Sabbath heads and experimental geeks would have been on it, but the grunge kids must have shit their pants.

The vocals are notable given the band’s mostly-instrumental history. Kelly Canary of Dickless contributes to “A Bureaucratic Desire for Revenge, Part 2,” and some dude named Kurt Cobain appears on “Divine and Bright” in the bonus material. They hardly make or break the reissue, in any case, as it’s clear even then Earth was destined for an instrumental approach. The 18-minute “Ouroboros is Broken” and the undeniably triumphant riffage of “Geometry of Murder” (maybe Earth’s most Sabbathian moment) speak to how much more in their element they were without vocals, where “Divine and Bright,” shorter, less fleshed out, sounds awkward and like it’s trying to fit in a structure unnatural to the band. Maybe that’s me reading into it. In any case, the material not included on the original Extra-Capsular Extraction fits right in with what was, and true to Carlson’s tale in the liner notes, A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction sounds like a complete full-length, rather than an original release with other songs tacked onto the end. None of this is new, in the sense of not having been heard before, but Earth nerds will no doubt dig the Simon Fowler artwork and the chance to revisit a record that’s been out of print for some time.

Carlson has shown in the past with a release like Hibernaculum – made up of re-recorded older material – that he’s not shy in revisiting Earth’s previous work, and though A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction doesn’t go that far, the quality of the material it contains and how well the record has held up more than justifies this reissue. Yeah, the drum machine makes it sound dated, but being dated doesn’t stop it from kicking ass, and as Earth’s legacy continues to build with the impending Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I in February 2011, it’s a perfect time for those who weren’t there the first time around to familiarize themselves with the band’s beginnings so long ago. Whether you own the original Extra-Capsular Extraction and haven’t listened to it in a while or you’re completely new to Earth, A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction excellently recaptures a droning revelation.

Earth on MySpace

Southern Lord Recordings

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One Response to “Earth: Placating the Bureaucracy”

  1. UKGuy says:

    Awesome review. Thanks. Neat t-shirt available to go with it too! :)

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