• Earth
  • Extra-Capsular Extraction (Sub Pop) 1991 
  • Earth 2 Special Low Frequency Version (Sub Pop) 1993 
  • Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (Sub Pop) 1995 
  • Pentastar: In the Style of Demons (Sub Pop) 1996 

Although Earth’s Dylan Carlson gained some degree of infamy for his role in arming longtime pal Kurt Cobain, the Washingtonian deserves far more credit for his efforts in dismantling rock music. Carlson’s blueprint seems to have been (a) remove the rock and then (b) remove the music. Everything that’s left went into the making of Earth, a “band” that expends more effort redefining notions of time and space than it does working out anything as trivial as songs or chords. Suddenly, the brown acid seems like a pretty good idea after all.

If you use it as incidental music (which it actually can serve as), the three-song, 35-minute Extra-Capsular Extraction could pass for a particularly amorphous Melvins outing, replete with warily circling riffs and grinding, uni-directional riffs that operate at two speeds-glacial and stationary. Cobain makes a cameo (as do Melvins’ then-bassist Joe Preston and Dickless/Teen Angels singer Kelly Canary), and the wordless, textural wails he discharges into the maelstrom hammered out by Carlson and bassist Dave Harwell resound eerily and tenuously beneath the grind.

Earth 2 denudes the musical beast even further. The three pieces-totaling nearly 75 minutes — spread horizontally rather than building vertically, taking on a character not unlike LaMonte Young’s protracted pieces. To that end, the individual listener can take an active role in altering exactly what he or she hears with only minor mental exertion, delving into (or totally ignoring) the multiple, constantly shifting overtones that lie beneath what seems like an undifferentiated throb on “Like Gold and Faceted,” which does with low-frequency guitar tones what Tibetan throat-singers do with their voices. The comparison isn’t so far-fetched: despite the intensity in the grooves, Earth 2 is actually quite soothing — ambient, even — for those willing to surrender to it.

After that, the most rational progression for Earth would have been the creation of a single woofer-annihilating tone. Unfortunately, logic lost out: Harwell departed and Carlson devolved, surrounding himself with rock musicians in order to make rock records. Yawn.

[Deborah Sprague]