Kevin Martin (The Bug) and Dylan Carlson (Earth) have each been mining and defining their genres for more than 20 years. They’re united by an interest in – really an obsession with – heaviness. They search for, examine and break the boundaries between beautiful and ugly, minimal and maximal, light and dark – but The Bug and Earth always make music that is heavy in the most thrilling of ways.
Earth, and its founding member Carlson, first appeared in the early ’90s, and came to prominence with their Sub Pop release Earth 2. An exercise in SLOW distorted droning minimalist riffage, their debut was the blueprint for what Dylan coined at the time ‘ambient metal’ – a style still being pushed forward on his latest Southern Lord release Primitive And Deadly.
Kevin Martin’s career spans the same timeframe. Techno Animal, Ice, God, Razor X, King Midas Sound, and of course the The Bug moniker. All of which explore(d) the fringes of experimental and heavy music. With his recently released Angels & Devils LP receiving high praise across the board, he once again put his sonic stamp on the here and now with his collaborators Liz Harris (of Grouper), copeland, Miss Red, Gonjasufi, Flowdan, Death Grips, Justin Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), and Warrior Queen.
Recorded in Los Angeles, Concrete Desert is inspired by J.G. Ballard’s urban dystopias, and the Californian dream capital’s sordid, fragmented underbelly, Martin says that the album is in some ways a LA-set companion piece to ‘London Zoo‘.
The record’s beautiful, chiming melodies are like shards of sonic light, glowing in currents of heavy bass darkness. There are pulsing soundscapes, ambient pinks and whites, and irresistible grooves. This is music that grips you entirely, and catches you in its lava-flow – an astonishing, primal album of vast depth.
In making it, Martin decided to break from The Bug’s obsessive study of groove, tone and texture, and think more cinematically. The result is a wondrously visual album, akin to finding oneself wandering amongst the rocky red hills of the Californian deserts. In fact, he says, the album could be understood as reflecting a ‘mistrust of ‘Hollywoodisms’ and the shadow of Hollywood fantasy that looms large over life in LA, and the USA in general.