Friday, August 2, 2013

Earthenwomb - Maw of Light, Ochre in Dawn Silhouette

There is an idiom that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. Earthenwomb is a good musical analogue as this EP “Maw of Light, Ochre in Dawn Silhouette” ranges from passable to mediocre, but only when it comes to the quiet ambient sections. These parts use soft synth pads in a way that can be pleasant although forgettable as they meander around. The unwelcome reality is that when Earthenwomb doesn’t remain quite so silent it removes all doubt as to whether this EP is foolish. It is.

Described as “in a way much more a compilation than an EP,” it is naturally difficult to synthesize critiques rather than focusing on each track alone. Thematically, the first two tracks are most similar, and aside from the passable ambient sections, what we have at first is an especially raw and shoddy variety of DSBM. Echoey forlorn guitars are interspersed with melancholic progressions, which are often hidden away under the snap snap snap of the brusque drums. The overly loud percussion is especially glaring on “Talon Absolute,” and the black metal sections as a whole are a step down for the EP. Even within these two songs the melding of black metal and ambient music is disjointed. A great example is how abrupt, befuddling, and unsatisfying the transition from loud to quiet is at around the five minute mark of the first song.

The next stain on the ambient sections’ relative silence is “Talon Absolute (Crystal Shyps Remix).” This leads us to a stark departure from the earlier songs because of how it mixes ambient not with metal, but a dance-electronica beat. Being only moderately offensive compared to the rest of the EP, this ends up as the best song. The lighter style blends into the ambient music rather than overshadowing it like we have elsewhere.

On the last and worst track “Cold Dust” we have an even greater style departure with a piece described as harsh ambient. It is a loud recording of wind using a cheap microphone? Or perhaps its the sound of a volcano, the Earth’s womb? Some kind of clicking noise is layered on top to spice things up, but thats it. Ten minutes of noise, over a third of the EP. After around three minutes of this, I started to become incredulous at the idea of another seven minutes of the same awful repetition. Musicians are at liberty to experiment with sounds and that process is an important part of discovering ideas. However, this is a clear example of a presentation of the experiment, rather than its fruits. After about seven minutes in I found myself wondering if this was any different from static and started to carefully listen for patterns. A louder click every four or so seconds and a subtle ebb and flow in the volume of the clicking while our volcano noise similarly varies in how much it sounds like clipping. Effectively no different from static. Finally, Krakatoa fades away and we just have the clicking. This too fades away, and thus the Sisyphean ordeal is over.

Why would a musician do something like this? To make listeners ask that very question? To act as a microcosm for a repetitive and unpleasant life? The motivation doesn’t matter because the end result of “Cold Dust” is grueling enough to occlude any motive and ruin the all ready ailing EP/compilation.

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