• Fri, Nov 16, 2018
Reviews

EP Review: Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness by The Earth Below

7.0

album Reviews Apr 02, 05:01pm

The Earth Below’s new EP is unapologetically weird, but fun  

Once in a while, there comes an artist in the scene who is prepared to sacrifice perfection for entertainment; who trusts instinct over structure. Deepak Raghu, earlier part of the experimental outfit Rat King and drummer for the bands Shepherd and Bevar Sea, falls emphatically in this category. His new EP - Dreams Of A Thousand Stilness - is catchy, beautiful, dissonant and a mess, all at once.

 

 

Deliberately dark music like this lives and dies based on its sound. It has to be ominous and at times unsettling. Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness scores well in this department due to consistently solid performances by Deepak and his guests. The acoustic guitars are played fluently and cleanly; they are the emotional core of almost every song on the EP. Leslie Charles’ string and flute work on ‘Indestructible’ are fantastic; the same goes for the banjo and reverb-soaked electric guitar (provided by Nihal Anand) on the first half of closer ‘Patient Man’. Deepak’s vocal work, while thin and certainly not the most accomplished, sits in his soundscape surprisingly well. The full sound and the excellent musical range add truckloads of texture to every second and thus let Deepak do a lot with relatively simple songwriting.

 

It is worth noting that the EP has no difficulty in engaging the listener out of the gate, even though the first two tracks do not hold the listener by the collar and demand attention. Opener ‘Square One’ is just a big spacey guitar riff; big chords and bigger reverb. The vocals are ethereal and shouldn’t "technically" fit in with the massive guitars, but they offset each other really well. A fuzzy little lead adds some welcome colour. ‘Ice Hotel’ picks up the pace a little bit and gives the listener a more accurate taste of what is to come. The acoustic guitar lead is haunting and purposely played off-time; it is a mass of bends and reverb that shifts into a sludgy, grungy chorus riff. Deepak’s vocals are the only thing that holds this song back; it needed a more powerful voice to project the gloom and despondency that he tries to put across. It is engaging nevertheless; an important strength of this project is that it is always leaving the listener off-balance. ‘Love In The Temple Of Greed’ sounds like an unabashed tribute to David Bowie’s Blackstar and is actually pretty entertaining for it; Deepak’s wobbly baritone is on point and the acoustic guitar is haunting. Points for the slow, rumbling bassline, heavily compressed drums and bonkers fuzzy solo towards the end of the song.

 

Late Bowie and Storm Corrosion- era Steven Wilson seem to inform vast chunks of this EP though ‘Indestructible’, unquestionably an album highlight, jumps away from that dreary sound. Though its subject matter is dark; an introspective look at failure and helplessness, the phenomenal strings and cello sections make it far more emotional and uplifting. A wonderful flute melody pops in and out of the song to fill gaps left by Deepak’s vocals. Even though he sounds hopeless and defeated, the instrumentation around him seems to suggest otherwise. It is the closer ‘Patient Man’, however, that delivers the EP’s biggest left hook. It has the familiar sound that the previous songs built; reverb, a plinky guitar melody and slow tempo. But the main melody here is provided by a delightful banjo lead that sticks around for only a few seconds before being replaced by a sprawling tremolo-tinged electric guitar. But even that does not warn the listener of the last minute of the EP; suddenly all the beauty cuts off and all that is left is a throbbing bass drum, a weird distorted vocal refrain and a heap of noise; as if Deepak threw his guitar at a wall and jumped on it repeatedly while leaving it plugged in. It’s deliberately unsettling and ugly, but it works.

 

Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness is certainly not for everyone, but at the very least it is greatly interesting. There is a lot of variety in the five songs, and they do not overstay their welcome. The sound is varied and large, and there are more than enough interesting elements to keep listeners expectant and surprised at the same time. Plus, there are some moments (like on ‘Indestructible’ and ‘Patient Man’) that are objectively beautiful and moving. If you are into experimental pop and the like, this EP will definitely hit home with you.

 

Listen to the EP here:

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