What is this weird music I can hear? It is a band called Oxbow. Until today I had never heard of this Noise-y, avant metal jazz, experimental band, active from 1988 until the present day. A few minutes ago they were relaxing me with cerebral, folky acoustic sounds, before that they were amusing me with Frank-Zappa-Ship-Arriving-too-Late-to-Save-a-Drowning-Witch-or-The-Illinois-Enema-Bandit-style yelps and squarks. Now they are freaking and unsettling me with a dodgy dirge of pitiful dying croaks and drones. Speaking of folkiness and drones, I do believe that today is the day I am missing the godlike Earth playing in Manchester today. Damn-fuck-it, I completely forgot. What a fool I am to miss this. As a music nerd, which I claim to be, missing Earth playing a gig not four miles from my front door is a serious faux pas; one that I am already feeling serious regret over.
If you don't know Earth -the legendary noise band who released the three track drone album Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version in 1993 then eventually morphed into a (still drone based) folk/noise band- you probably know of Earth's main man Dylan Carlson by reputation. An unfortunate and morbid claim to fame of Carlson's is that as a friend of Kurt Cobain, the former bought the latter a gift of a shotgun, later used in the latter's suicide. Not that Carlson actually claims-to-fame this; he didn't know it was for a suicide; it was for defence... I never meant to start going on about suicide of all things. Drone music can be a little depressing (see Sunn 0)))'s Black One album for example), but I find Earth strangely uplifting and meditative. Not at all depressing. It's not for dancing though, so had I gone to tonight's concert I would have been nursing a pint and stroking my beard.
Noise/drone/noise-music (whatever it's called) takes a lot of time and sometimes effort to appreciate. Sometimes it goes nicely in the background, sometimes it intrudes unwanted in the foreground, sometimes it deserves to be in the foreground. But when, like on Earth's Earth 2 album, there are three songs per album totalling 80 minutes, or when, like on Merzbow's Merzbox, a 50-CD album, it becomes clear that noise is a nerds' pursuit. Plenty of time, and an anal appreciation of subtle difference and the intentionally difficult, is required. Life is too short for the Merzbox, but not for Earth.