The Bug Vs Earth Concrete Desert Ninja Tune
You could have been thrown by news of the 2014 The Bug / Earth collaboration, perhaps even troubled by the potentially crude marriage of two heavyweight sounds. Happily, the resulting Boa / Cold 12” proved any worries unfounded. Kevin Martin, aka The Bug’s punishing, acid-burnt dub electronics meshed well with Dylan Carlson of Earth’s glacial guitar-work; beats were sparse enough that the drone-metal pioneer’s enormous sound had space to unfold, but powerful enough to drive that immense weight forward.
Now the duo return for a full-length effort Concrete Desert, which was recorded over two days in LA. It opens with City of Angels, in which we immediately recognise Carlson’s latter-day sound – a far less distorted affair compared with 1993’s Earth 2, but every bit as heavy. Like other tracks on the album (American Dream, Other Side of the World), it’s beatless, with Martin instead using his prowess to whip up a hallucinatory frenzy of thick, shimmering synths.
London Zoo it ain’t. Martin’s best known tunes evoke a specific sense of urban dread, but Carlson’s guitar drags Concrete Desert in the direction of something spiritual, and overwhelming. On Gasoline, for example, a slo-mo dancehall pattern begins to thud beneath an airborne stream of ethereal feedback, joined quickly by Martin’s harsh, trademark stabs of white noise and bass swells. Then, like a river bursting through a dam, Carlson hits a huge power-chord, and suddenly we’re soaring above the city, rather than walking its streets.
It’s moments like these, with the pair moving at full momentum, when the record is at its most immediately gratifying. On balance however, Concrete Desert is a deeply meditative listen, led largely by Carlson’s guitar – a colossal work of texture and atmosphere that rewards those who pay attention.