A pioneer of both drone and ambient metal, Seattle musician Dylan Carlson has also shown himself to be a capable writer of interesting and innovative heavy music. Beginning his career with inspirations like early metal groups such as Black Sabbath and the Seattle music scene and groups like The Melvins, his main band Earth has, over twenty five years, developed and pushed itself into more varied sonic territory, especially over the last decade since their return from a hiatus caused by Carlson's drug addiction.
Gold is the first foray into soundtrack work for the Earth front man for a film of the same name. It comes amongst a productive time for Carlson, shortly before the release of his first solo album, funded through Kickstarter, and a new Earth album, both due before the end of the year. The film follows a band of German settlers, traversing the western frontier in hopes of striking gold on Canada's west coast. A familiar story unfolds, where the often environment and those that inhabit it become the main obstacles for the travelling group.
The twenty four tracks, titled Gold I through to Gold XXIV, that make up this soundtrack exists in a lonelier space to Carlson's usual work with Earth. Many of the tracks just featuring a single guitar, an effective representation of the vast and empty North American wilderness. Sparse percussion is used like punctuation for the riffs as splashes of cymbals pass by like clouds or a bass drum hits like distant thunder.
Whilst this isn't metal, the music does bare the hallmarks of Carlson's main project, Gold I establishes a guitar progression that reappears throughout Gold with slow tempo pentatonic riffs and a thick and carefully constructed guitar tone that crackles and splits like the dry ground under an oppressive sun. It does explore some of the directions that Earth has taken over the last decade, with the sound sun-baked country and drawn-out Morricone melodies dominating, twisted into a much more minimalist form.
The vast slide guitar chords of Gold VII ring out and echo like their being performed in a valley, it's the most identifiabley “western” moments on the soundtrack. Gold XII echoes about like an demo from the heyday of psychedelia, wah pedal-soaked guitar jams that sound lost and wandering. Some tracks barely hang around for more than thirty seconds, filling in the gaps between the longer tracks with soft hums of feedback and low drones rattling away, swathed in reverb.
Fans of Carlson's work should know what to expect from Gold for the most part, the thick and warm guitar sounds but the stripped down approach creates something a little different, for creating a lonely and vulnerable sound that could crackle and fall apart. There is something powerful that rings out in these singular riffs and isolated chord progressions, familiar styles that feel somehow other placed on their own with a result that is much more evocative than you'd expect from it's simple approach.