Dylan Carlson Recommends The Bug’s <i>Angels & Devils</i>

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Dylan Carlson is a guitarist, singer, and the only constant member of the band Earth, whose ultra-slow and muddy incantations massively shaped the genre of doom as we know it today—thanks also in no small part to drummer and partner Adrienne Davies. Earth’s latest album, Primitive and Deadly, is out now on Southern Lord. 

I had heard about Kevin Martin, or The Bug, through a mutual friend of ours, Simon Fowler, who did the artwork for Angels & Devils and was working with the label Small But Hard. Simon approached me about working with Kevin. Then, funnily enough, I actually met him because we were both playing at Unsound festival in Poland. I had just missed his show as King Midas Sound because he had played the night we got there and then we just happened to run into each other on the street in Krakow. But that was already after everything had been agreed on, I guess. And it wasn’t until later that I realized he was in GOD and Techno Animal with Justin Broadrick. Then I was like, “Oh, I realize now who he is.”

Earth has this weird history with electronic music. The first time we came to England in 1995, Bruce Gilbert from Wire was using our records to mix as background tracks as DJ Beekeeper, and just recently we played in Joshua Tree with this group called Simian Mobile Disco—who I wasn’t aware of, but apparently one member is a big fan of ours. For some reason, even though I’ve always thought of us as a fairly rock or metal band, we seem to have this weird crossover attraction. It’s funny, during my “missing years,” I guess you could say, I liked a lot of electronic dance music. I really liked Massive Attack, Goldie, a lot of the jungle stuff. I actually worked security at a few raves in Los Angeles. My dark dance past.

One thing I’ve always liked about some electronic music is that it’s really repetitive. It’s very cyclical. I think there’s definitely a similarity in approach with what I do where it’s about looping and repetition. Obviously, with that, it’s more technological, whereas with what I do, since I’m a Luddite, I do it on a guitar. But there’s that same emphasis on loops and layering and songs not revolving in a snappy way. I’m not super well-versed in it, though; the thing I like about Kevin’s stuff is that it’s got that darker feel, like the Massive Attack stuff I’ve always really liked. I really dig the way his rhythms start out and then do these weird turnarounds where it suddenly changes, rather than that constant, really straight beat that so much electronic music has. And it made playing with him quite interesting. I’d be playing and then think, “Oh wait, I missed something there.” Basically we did three tracks together. He just sent them over and I played guitar on them at a studio. I’m sure he altered them once I was done with them.

It was kind of funny when I saw the title of the new Bug album, since our last record was called Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light. Thematically, I guess, we’re riding the same zeitgeist. His is what I’d call dualist: obviously the Angels side is the first six and the Devils side is the last six. Whereas mine sort of canceled each other out, or provided a synthesis, to get Hegelian about it. There are tracks on both sides I like, like “Fat Mac” with Flowdan because it’s immense and slow and it has the good loop thing he does. I like the other Flowdan ones, too; he’s someone I wasn’t familiar with previously, but I’ve always liked that Jamaican patois sound. The part I would listen to the most, I have to say, would be the first six songs, probably because it’s the slower and more instrumental side. It’s a little more unsettling, whereas the second side is a little straighter to me. Does that make me an angel? ~

This text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 39 (Fall 2014). You can purchase the new issue, and back issues, in the EB Shop.