Earth, “Like Gold and Faceted (Kevin Richard Martin Remix)” (Sub Pop)
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, Sub Pop has reissued the monumental and influential ambient-metal album in a deluxe edition featuring a bonus disc with five remixes. Titled Earth 2.23: Special Lower Frequency Mix, the addendum contains reconfigurations from some of the most cerebrally brutal cats from the electronic music and rock worlds. Hardcore fans of Earth and their leader/guitarist Dylan Carlson will want to hear what these artists did with the Seattle band's precious metals; aficionados of the remixers will also be curious to experience what their heroes did with the iconic source material.
In a 2013 feature in The Stranger on the occasion of Earth 2's 20th anniversary, I called the LP “a devouring swarm of down-tuned guitar and bass dirges that coalesced into a threnody for forward motion... and possibly the human race. Never has sonic stasis been so domineering and exhaustive. It is Metal Machine Music as interpreted by a La Monte Young acolyte. Its infernal growl makes the Stooges' 'We Will Fall' seem like sheerest New Age and Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man' sound like bubblegum pop.” A decade later, nothing's happened to change my mind about it.
Given three epic slabs of doomy drone with which to work, the remixers here faced challenges. Loop and Main guitarist Robert Hampson decided to conjure a scouring 30-minute homage titled “May Your Vanquished Be Saved from the Bondage of Their Sins.” One can imagine Carlson nodding in approval to the mind-blotting sheets of forbidding engine noise and simulated explosions. Godflesh/Techno Animal member Justin K Broadrick bruises “Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine” with methodical, pugilistic beats and deepens the bass pressure while adding eerie high-pitched synth wails.
Kevin Richard Martin—who collaborated with Earth under his Bug handle on 2014's Boa 12" and 2017's Concrete Desert LP—converts "Seven Angels" into apocalyptic hip-hop with dread rapping by Flowdan. Martin closes the record with a 12-minute renovation of "Like Gold and Faceted" (sadly, only available digitally). He somehow slows things down even more, opens up some space to breathe, the better to let in more desolation, and morphs the low end into a rich purr. What was once ambient metal is now the dankest, most isolationist chillout music imaginable—a track that would fit on the "Heavy Lids" disc of Techno Animal's Re-Entry. Cool beyond words...
Earth perform Earth 2 in its entirety on November 22 at the Moore Theatre with Sunn O))) and Jesse Sykes with Phil Wandscher.
Hania Rani, “Hello” (Gondwana)
Polish composer/vocalist Hania Rani is a classically trained pianist who's been working on soundtracks since her mid-20s (she was born in 1990; 2023's On Giacometti is a gorgeous example of her film compositions). On works such as 2019 debut album, Esja (which was recorded in her Warsaw apartment, but sounds like it was captured in a concert hall) and Home, you can hear her technical prowess and melodic gracefulness in full flower. On the latter release, Rani sings in a mellifluous pixie voice that should make Kate Bush fans prick up their ears.
Rani's is a cinematic sound, but introspective rather than panoramic and bombastic. Her third studio LP, Ghosts, on which popular experimentalists Ólafur Arnalds and Patrick Watson guest, grew out of a two-month visit to an allegedly haunted sanatorium in Switzerland. The press notes refer to Ghosts as an "exploration of life and death," and it's also Rani's most improvisational and adventurous full-length to date. By adding synths and strings to her usual sparse palette of piano and voice, Rani has produced her most varied and interesting album yet.
The icily melancholy "Don't Break My Heart"—which features Portico Quartet’s Duncan Bellamy—could almost be Portishead going chamber pop. Bellamy also appears on another standout, the orchestral psych-pop gem "Thin Line." "Whispering House" is a trance-inducing séance masquerading as a Julee Cruise reverie. The 11-minute "Komeda" sets a high bar for anyone who thinks they're making sweeping, "cinematic" music. "Dancing With Ghosts" sounds like a hit single in a more rarefied world, with Watson sharing hushed vocal duties in an ethereal ballad that carries some of the featheriest gravitas you'll hear all year.
The album's peak comes on the atypical "Hello," which cruises on a brisk, quasi-techno rhythm and burbling keyboard motif that somehow recalls the Doors' "L.A. Woman," but with Rani's winsome singing in place of Jim Morrison's alpha-male belting. The song accrues spine-tingling sonic details and spirals ever upward as it goes, generating a sense of gentle euphoria. If you can't afford therapy or psych meds, "Hello" could function as a reliable panacea.
Hania Rani performs December 5 at Neptune Theatre.