EARTH Dylan Carlson

The Exchange, Bristol

14th Sept 2013

Louder Than War went to check out master drone-folk artist Dylan Carlson on Monday. Although musically genius, the night wasn’t what it should have been thanks that perennial problem at your quieter gigs, an audience who wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

Aristotle once said, “Hope is a waking dream.” If so, then “Disappointment is an unconscious nightmare”.

Gigs can be a trial. When it’s not the ‘time of your life’ experience you hope for, it can sometimes be the antithesis. Take this show for instance. Standing, nursing aching shoulders in a hot sweaty room with variously ill people coughing spittle at you, whilst the crowd that can’t see (3 / 4s of them) chatter among themselves because a venue is so tiny and slim that only the front two rows of people can see the performer (who doesn’t help matters by being seated). The view for most is a whisper of hair or a fleeting cheekbone, if anything – and, when a crowd decide to chat during the gig in a small space, it sounds like a din. A comedic battle ensued throughout the night between the music and the chatting throng nightmare.

Look, this guy flew here from halfway round the world and is here for an hour, one hour. Can you not give him the time and respect due for his effort, which you have all paid gladly to be a part of? Despite my psychic demands, the din continues nonetheless ‘til the end, but luckily, Carlson and his excellent drummer managed to find the ‘Golden Mean’ and performed an audible selection of his amazing esoteric compositions.

Carlson’s philosophy as expressed in the Earth DVD documentary, ‘Within The Drone’ is that:

“If you keep doing something long enough, eventually people become more interested in what you’re doing, because if you’ve been doing it that long there must be something to it.”

That is true, especially when you were Kurt Cobain’s best friend. The one who bought the gun. Carlson is infamous. Throughout his career he just kept on, and from out of his addiction and recovery came a maturing talent with a distinctive musical voice, touching on some very profound transcendental moments in which the instrumental chanting nature of the melodies he plays with his electric guitar becomes musical poetry that allows the mind to wander into it’s perimeter, to feel the relationship between the unspoken and the infinite. The drumming adds a ceremonial tone in which such esoteric acts as summoning or evoking come to mind. It’s electric drone folk music in which a spell is cast in the sustain (“an effect or facility on a keyboard or electronic instrument whereby a note can be sustained after the key is released” – dictionary corner ed). Shaman can come in many forms and culturally they are those who have spoken with spirits or experienced the divine through ritual, returning in order to teach and heal through enlightenment. His music isn’t divine, but it taps into the deep unspoken unconscious, a waking dream where patterns of tones vibrate until the frequency is just so that a transcendence occurs. After each song, I am pulled back to the reality of the surroundings and how loud people can talk.

In the end my shoulders give in and I make a break out the door, into the fresh cold October night. Tonight, Dylan Carlson was a joy to listen to and his performance, exceptional at times. But hell, can’t the man get some respect people. He’s been doing it a long time now don’t you know.


Dylan Carlson’s website can be found here. He also uses Twitter as @drcarlsonalbion.

All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.

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