Full Upon Her Burning Lips by Earth is the ninth studio album from the Washington-based band founded by Dylan Carlson in 1989. Their latest release sees Carlson playing guitar and bass alongside Adrienne Davies on drums and percussion. Out through Sargent House on May 24, Full Upon Her Burning Lips is a transcendental journey with stripped-down melodies, a rich landscape of sensual instrumentation, and gritty atmosphere of sound.
The album begins with “Datura’s Crimson Veils,” a slow-burning, 12-minute opener. Earthy ambience permeates the ether on this track. “I limited the number of effects I used,” Carlson says in a promo. “I always like the limiting of materials to force oneself to employ them more creatively.”
Adrienne Davies’ easy, simply playing on “Exaltation of Larks” propels the motion forward on this track. “I really wanted the drums to be present,” Carlson says. “I felt with previous Earth records that other instrumentation took up so much of the sonic space that the drums were kind of pushed to the side.”
Carlson’s slow droning riffs on “Cats on the Briar” sound like a distant hum and rumble in accompaniment to Davies’ building rhythm and beats. The two play off each other in a way that escalates and builds tension in the song’s rugged tone. Witchy guitar riffs on “The Colour of Poison” sounds like a purr, as if the guitar is a voice. The playing towards the end peaks in a way that’s like climbing a mountain. “Descending Belladonna” unearths Carlson’s long, hypnotizing licks and is joined by bass and the snare and percussion from Davies. There are some ambient interludes embedded on the track that offer a minute variation to the steady beat and riff.
“She Rides an Air of Malevolence” is striking in that there are magical yet brutal riffs. There is a sense of wandering in the wilderness, and the earlier feeling of going on a journey. Tonally colorful, the song emotes the colors of nature. “Maiden’s Catalfaque” offers twinkling cymbals and chiller, drone riffs. By this point in the album, the previous melodies feel compressed into a singular experience, blending into one another as if they were steps on a hike. “An Unnatural Carousel” enriches the album with desert vibes. Davies’ shake percussions and snare elevate dirty guitar notes and inflections.
“The Mandrake’s Hymn” has meditative chimes in the beginning. Like the mandrake, the bass is absolutely deadly and devastating. Like the song’s namesake, there is an affecting heaviness to this merciless hymn. “A Wretched Country of Dusk” is awesomely titled track to end Full Upon Her Burning Lips. The song sounds like a sabbath, with guitars searing and burning bright. Black magic twang and an ambient finale conclude this rewarding album.
Full Upon Her Burning Lips is a complete and full expression of an aesthetic, mood, and narrative in sound. The songs blend together and feel like one meditative, transcendental trip. Carlson said of the album, “I feel like this is the fullest expression and purest distillation of what Earth does since I re-started the band.” That passion and expression shows on Full Upon Her Burning Lips.