Earth/O Paon/Oak

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Earth has been a band I’ve wanted to see for years now, but they never seemed to make it out to the East Coast frequently enough to give me the opportunity to do so. So when I saw earlier in the year that they would be coming to Baltimore early in the summer in support of this year’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. The group has brought one woman drone/folk act O Paon along with them on this tour and on the Baltimore date death/doom band Oak was chosen to open the show. It was a very interesting night, and all three acts gave it their all at the Ottobar.

It’s always funny how bands from around your area tour a lot but you somehow never seem to catch them. This is what has happened with Oak, as the Baltimore death/doom band has been a part of a wide variety of different shows since their formation in 2005 yet I’ve almost always missed them. I was very excited to experience their live performance, as I had heard great things and knew that these guys had created a stir within the local underground scene. Although Oak was significantly heavier than both O Paon and Earth, all three groups clearly appealed to the same type of people as the crowd was already fairly sizeable as they took the stage. Oak took no pauses between songs, instead inserting ambient/drone interludes and one interlude that incorporated a lengthy sound clip. It’s an interesting combination that creates a very crushing and ominous feel (this was also enhanced by the fact that the group’s merch table had candelabra with incense and a human skull). When the band kicks up their death/doom moments their riffs are great and they really grab your attention, and while I could tell that the ambient/drone moments were testing some people’s patience I personally enjoyed them. It was a very impressive set from an act I feel are one of the better locals, and hopefully our paths will cross again.

Back when this tour was announced I was curious to find out more about what sort of act Earth would pick to open for them. After some Google and Youtube searches I discovered that O Paon was an entrancing folk/drone act created by Genevieve Castree, a Canadian now living in the Pacific Northwestern United States. Castree does some very interesting things in O Paon, as she layers her vocals on the fly to create vocal harmonies and droning arrangements over top of sparse guitar melodies. Unfortunately the Ottobar is not the greatest venue for this type of material, as not only is the back bar area typically pretty noisy but there is another bar upstairs (and on this particular night it sounded as though there was a rave booming through the ceiling). It was clearly frustrating Castree and at one point she asked the back bar patrons if they could quiet down, but she still gave it her all and really captivated those of us who were situated closest to the stage. O Paon has this almost magical quality to it, as the layers of sound ebb and flow to create beautiful melodies and haunting, droning vocals. If you have a taste for experimental folk that has some ambient/drone touches this artist comes highly recommended, and despite the circumstances regarding the noise level I am glad Castree was able to persevere and offer a stunning performance to those in the immediate vicinity. I’d like to see her play somewhere that might be a bit quieter in the future though, perhaps in someone’s house or somewhere intriguing like a cave or tranquil outdoor location.

Earth has gone through some major stylistic changes since reforming in 2003. While Dylan Carson and his crew of musicians may be considered one of the innovators of the drone/doom style, their more recent efforts have been a combination of drone and post rock with some country and jazz influences. In particular, I’ve described Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I as the soundtrack to an old time Western as the characters explore the environment and head off on a long journey. While the group’s lineup has changed fairly frequently (the newest addition is bassist Angelina Baldoz who joined for this tour) Carson appears to pick musicians who have good chemistry with him and are capable of playing material from any point in Earth’s discography. As you would expect much of the group’s set was focused on the new album (along with a sneak peek of the follow up which is due out in November) but some old classics were included and the band was able to perform them flawlessly. With music of this type you need a lot of control and technical ability because if you mess up it is easy to tell, but Earth never missed a beat and lulled the audience into a dreamlike state throughout their entire set. I’m not quite sure if they hit the two hour mark or not, but I know that their performance did move past the hour and a half mark and not once did it drag or seem boring. Earth’s set was so calming that even after going home and getting eight hours of sleep I was still in a bit of a trance the next day, and when a live performance has that kind of effect on you that really says something. This show was exactly how I hoped an Earth concert would be, and I eagerly await their return which hopefully will be timed with the release of their next full length.


O Paon-

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