Earth and Pillars – Earth II (Avantgarde Music, 25 October 2019 [digital]; 15 November 2019 [CD]; 22 November 2019 [LP])
Good afternoon! Looking back a few years, I remember being quite taken with the atmospheric qualities of Earth I, the debut album by Italian blackened entity Earth and Pillars — which had originally been released in 2014, but we wrote a little something about it upon its vinyl reissue in 2016.
Well, just last month its sequel Earth II has emerged out of the æther, with the first physical manifestations (on compact disc) popping up last week, to be followed by a vinyl record edition tomorrow. Whichever format suits your fancy, would be worth seeking out.
Whereas Earth I‘s song titles (“Rivers,” “Lakes,” “Tides”) and overall vibe had a very hydrarch nature, this successor represents a different type of elemental fluid. In other words, the four tracks here (“Becoming,” “Falling,” “Ascending,” “Howling” — altogether just slightly longer than an hour) have a much more anemological essence.
In keeping with that theme, at various points the sound of gusting winds serves as a segue before or between some of these four tracks — much in the same way a similar sound was employed on this Pink Floyd classic. In fact, the gentle guitar line that emerges from the gale to start the first track has a tone that reminded this listener of the similarly-fingerpicked part at the beginning of “A Pillow of Winds” from that album.
Clean, arpeggiated guitar parts serve as a foundational touchpoint for most of the songs on Earth II; the last track also has a soft guitar that gradually makes itself audible above the noise of the blowing breezes — this time accompanied by a fragile-sounding oscillating organ, the combination of which brings to mind a different Floyd song from around the same era: “Cirrus Minor” found on the More film soundtrack.
Of course, knowing Earth and Pillars, building off those clean guitar lines and haunting melodies we find plenty of harsh blackness fleshing out the remainder of these tracks. Viscious howling and hurricane-force swirling madness, alternately layered with impalpable atmosphere provided by various synths and keyboard instruments.
This hellish soundscape feels very alive and breathing: very organic — surely at least partially due to the band’s addition of live drums to this recording in contrast with their earlier material — in the same way that a winter storm feels alive. Grim, icy blasts hitting you from all directions at once as soon as you step outside; an overwhelming sensation radiating from the inside out as you try to take the frigid air into your lungs; and a chill that cuts straight through to your bones even through the heaviest coat and gloves.
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