Review: Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II

Despite a year standing between the release of each part, this second instalment of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light was actually recorded in the same two-week session as the first. So it’s no surprise that the same minimal instrument palette returns: ideas and momentum are passed and expanded between Earth’s four elements of cello, guitar, bass and percussion, resulting in a sound that turns blind to the potential to expand into new instrumentation in favour of a heightened focus on player technique and compositional process. Once again, Earth cycle deep, deliberate rhythms and chord progressions, waiting patiently for the improvisation to slink naturally out of the resulting hypnosis.

But these are two separate works, and in some respects, this album begins as if it has no knowledge of the first half of the narrative. “Sigil of Brass” is a gentle awakening: guitar slowly plucks out chord shapes while the rest of the band croak and rustle into life as though disturbed from sleep, stirring into a state of consciousness and blearily picking up their instruments again. Even throughout the following nine minutes of “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine”, the band have yet to resound in unison – monotone palm muting provides the track’s only rhythmic propulsion, drifting beneath interweaving blues scales, whammy-driven guitar noise and a sporadic backdrop of maraca shakes. There’s a looseness and liberation about this track that nudges it ever so slightly back towards the drum-free, fluid drone of Earth2, and while the soloing occasionally veers into aimlessness without a song structure to guide it, it’s an interesting break from the “signature” sound that Earth have carved out since 2005’s HEX.

It’s not until “Multiplicity of Doors” that Adrienne Davies returns to her distinctive drum patterns – rich in ride cymbal wash, punctuated by heavy and meaningful thumps of bass and snare – and the band re-enter the lonely Americana of their trademark, plodding through a waltz that continually rises from its murky, bass-centric descent. Meanwhile, the guitars of “The Corascene Dog” teeter continuously on the edge of full-scale improvisation, tethered to recurrent melodic motifs that just hold the piece together. Strings are left to resonate for bars at a time, only to fuse into more intricate harmony combinations mere seconds later, and the track feels in a limbo-cycle of eternal collapse and rebuild.

Closing piece “The Rakehell” is something of a lumbering psychedelic jam, reprising somewhat the indulgent guitar solos of “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine”. But this is indulgence of a most positive kind: it’s driven Earth’s music for years, and forever reminds one of the joy of a single idea wrung until its inner merit materialises. From those melodies that emerge into meaning over ten minutes of constant repetition, the band conjure spontaneous ideas that vaporise the moment they depart from audibility, bringing both players and listener forever further into a circle of enlightenment and intimacy.