Drone music is a tough pill to swallow for some, and I’d be willing to bet an ear that Dylan Carlson doesn’t exactly spend his evenings soaking in treasure baths from record sales since Earth‘s inception in 1990. The interesting thing is, it’s precisely these pioneers of the peculiar who end up creating trends because of their fearless dedication to pushing boundaries at acclaim’s expense. Such is the case with Earth, not just because of what the project did for drone through their seminal early works, but thanks to what it continues to do for the sub-genre through releases like 2005’s amazing Hex. That record introduced a heaping dose of “The Dusty Ol’ West” into the blueprint with enourmous success, and now, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull pushes the boundaries even further by incorporating even more traditional song structures into the band’s familiar footprint.
Now, before you go looking to hear seven new cuts of traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus, understand that The Bees Made Honey still creeps like molasses down a cactus stalk, so those who thought Earth was boring last year will likely feel similarly in 2008. But there’s a subtle shift toward more variation this time around, and more instruments with more layers are afoot, particularly with regard to incorporating organ and general ebony/ivory tinkling alongside Carlson’s western guitar work.
Bees Made Honey also has an easier/breezier feel compared to Hex. There’s still a fair amount of shadowiness, but this material flashes a newfound optimism in cuts such as “Hung From The Moon” and the wonderful “Engine of Ruin,” which spotlights the superb guitar work of special guest Bill Frisell, who plays on three of the seven tunes offered.
Dylan Carlson and company continue their slow morph into something that feels less and less like drone and more like… Well, Earth. It’s a far cry from what was delivered in the Extra Capsular Extraction days, but it still holds true enough to the band’s crux to keep old fans interested. Bees Made Honey is a suitable soundtrack for anything that involves road-tripping into open spaces and big skies, and it’s clear proof that Earth plans to continue challenging the borders they’re largely responsible for building, which is a great, great thing.