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A review of...
Earth live at The Cluny, Newcastle
Black Spirituals are a two-piece from Oakland, California, literally bringing the noise to Newcastle with an intense attention-grabbing performance. They seem to be an ambient-noise band with a jazz band ethic, a classier Lightning Bolt shall we say? This seems completely wrong on paper but works surprisingly well with the jazz element creeping in through Marcshall Trammell's erratic improvisational drumming (his slightly stunted - but thoroughly endearing - introduction after their first song isn't a million miles away from jazz room shtick either). I don't think I've ever seen a cymbal solo before but Trammell pulls it off, in fine restrained fashion on a single MASSIVE cymbal. The other half of Black Spirituals is James Watkins who is armed with a guitar and a desk full of effects pedals to create some truly awesome waves of sound and intricate feedback, taking bass heavy fuzz to whole new levels of lovely. Anything that isn't tightly screwed in or nailed to The Cluny is rattling like a bastard (which in many ways adds to the effect).
Earth are touring on the back of an album which is somewhat of a departure from their usual fare. The vocals were the most startling aspect, but there is also an air of accessibility about Primitive and Deadly which might not have been so prevalent on their previous few efforts (namely 2012's superb Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II), and is a million miles away from their early work. It would be interesting to see how this new-found sound converted to the live stage, but in truth it isn't all that noticeable. They stick to the more traditional sounding tracks from the latest record, including a brutally powerful rendition of "There Is A Serpent Coming" (sans Mark Lanegan's vocals) which really set the tone for a room trembling night. Dylan Carlson is in fine form, posturing like a slow motion Kerry King, always placing his guitar so that it's the centerpiece of the show. In reality though, the unsung heroes, Bill Herzog (bass) and Adrienne Davies (drums) are just as irreplaceable to this incarnation of the band. Davies in particular manages to make every crash and kick count, despite the lagging tempo. "Old Black" from Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I gets a welcome airing, introduced by Carlson as a song which may be a nod to a certain Canadian's guitar (an audience member excitedly - and helpfully - cuts through the ambiguity with a scream of "NEIL YOUNG!!"). Carlson also thanks the audience for making Primitive and Deadly their best selling record (from any of their guises), he didn't go into specifics but it's good to see a band bucking the trend and having some late blooming success. As a nice little reward we're treated to oldie "Ouroboros is Broken", complete with a restored intro, and it's a gem. At times it seems like it's a song that never ends (despite some teases), but then again, you kind of don't want it to. They finally do end with something new, "Torn By The Fox of the Crescent Moon" a mighty fine finale to a vociferous evening.