Earth at the Grog Shop, 6/12/11

On Sunday night I went to the Grog Shop with a friend to see the band Earth (video). They've been around for about 20 years, spawned at least one subgenre, and probably inspired many of my favorite bands like Low and Morphine.

Low, for example, plays loud, distorted rock music at maybe 60 beats per minute. That's half the pace of a typical rock song (Ben Folds Five "Song For The Dumped": 108bpm). Low's album The Great Destroyer is bleak, soul-wrenching, beautiful, and placid. And Earth makes them sound like the Minutemen.

The subgenre Earth inspired was called "drone metal" or "drone doom" or "doom metal", with rich harmonies and song structures from drone music executed as if they were heavy metal. It was pretty strange to watch the drummer slowly lift her arms in the air and bring the sticks down onto her kit as if she was at the bottom of a pool.

Ambient music was once described as "as ignorable as it is listenable"; it is not meant to be focused on, but rather to create atmosphere (see Harold Budd's early work Abandoned Cities). The super-slow pace of Earth's songs achieved the same trick: they developed too slowly for me to focus on the structures, and my mind drifted. For me, then, the experience of the concert was the unexpected memories it conjured up. That's never happened to me at a concert before - I'm glad I went. And it told me something about myself: that my mind is still not quiet enough to slip into meditation and simply be present.

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