Review: EarthEarth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix

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To call Earth 2 seminal is underselling its impact—it’s an album that redefined guitar music. For every seminal release from Boris, The Angelic Process, Sunn o))), Hell, Jesu or Black Boned Angel, nothing has had the visibility or impact that Earth 2 did. Releasing in the midst of the peak commercial years of Sub Pop Records, Earth 2 was more than the right record at the right time; it was an exemplary record at the perfect time. Its impact is comparable to something like what Discharge‘s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing did for hardcore or Dizzee Rascal‘s Boy In Da Corner did for grime. It not only influenced individual musicians and projects but had a downstream effect, influencing how three decades of albums would approach tempo and space in their recordings.

As an album with such a unique timbre and approach to creating texture, it’s no surprise that the new anniversary remix record would feature such a disparate collection of contributors. Though to call Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix just a remix record is maybe selling it short; there’s a lot of radical rearrangement at play on the album.

“Angels (The Bug Remix)” is the most immediate departure. Taking an early portion of the original Seven Angels as the foundation for its instrumental, longtime British underground icon The Bug draws upon his past catalog of ragga, dubstep and grime classics to inject this opener with infectious start-stop rhythms that underpin these massive, soaring sirens that sweep through the top of the mix. This serves as the bedrock for a hell of a performance from longtime collaborator of The Bug, Flowdan. As a musician with maybe the biggest pedigree of any featured rapper in Britain, Flowdan’s appearance links the texture of Earth’s guitar tone to the dark angularity of grime, and Earth’s atmospheric use of atypical tempo to the shuffling, staccato rhythms of 2-step. Flowdan’s work with Skepta, Akala, Dj Magic and—of course—The Bug, to name just a few, has always marked him out as a versatile and dynamic emcee; but here, rhyming on top of an apocalyptic dronescape injected with relatively minimal melodic flair, he’s relied upon to do most of the musical heavy lifting, which he nails.

Less of a stylistic departure is the 30-minute ambient tidal wave “May Your Vanquished Be Saved From The Bondage Of Their Sins (Robert Hampson Remix)”. To me, Robert Hampson‘s most famous work in neo-psychedelic rock outfit Loop (who had a solid return record of their own in 2022) seems to inform the sound of this remix less than both his own solo material and his work in Main does. A glacially paced track even by the standards of the original record, it brings to mind how Hampson uses wide, multichannel atmospheric composition on albums like Vectors and Répercussions. The track is mostly segmented by changes in volume, with intense moments acting as little bookends to each movement, best illustrated just after the 17 minute mark, where the music roars back to life from the relative calm of the prior few minutes. It’s a track that sounds like a massive, lumbering animal yawning after waking from hibernation.

The first of two back-to-back “Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine” remixes comes from Justin Broadrick, who largely invokes the spirit of both his work in Techno Animal and his current solo project JK Flesh. Injecting the track with colossal, shotgun-sized percussion, Broadrick’s contribution nonetheless can feel a bit underdeveloped. Though quite good, it’s a track that, in increasing the spectacle of the original, in increasing its gravitas, ultimately ends up being less than the sum of its parts. The second remix (contributed by past Earth collaborator and Built To Spill luminary Brett Netson) similarly feels underwritten, though with a more a pronounced, reified post-rock sensibility as opposed to Broadrick’s gritty, industrial electronic approach. Another solid track, but less immediately impressive due to how transformative the rest of the record is.

Finishing the album is another contribution from The Bug, here attributed to his real name Kevin Richard Martin. His version of “Like Gold And Faceted” is interesting because it imbues the most impenetrable song of the original record with a muted, dub-like delivery. More than half the length of the original, the remix manages to be more understated while retaining its oppressiveness. Whereas the original felt like a ripping sandstorm in the night, the remix feels like it’s collapsing in on itself, a suffocating and resonant bass tone grounding the sounds of muffled distortion like long, baleful moans being shushed by the elements. It’s the track that’s most evocative of the new album art; the cyclical implications of the ouroboros tied to its looping drones, the self-destructive imagery of the dragon eating its tail tied to how the track finishes the album with a weak, feeble crackle of distortion that leads to silence.

Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix goes above the call of duty for a commemorative remix record. It’s the ultimate rarity of a remix album that stands on its own feet. As both a companion piece, left-field experimental venture, and record in its own right, it’s a definite late-year highlight.

3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix is out now via Sub Pop Records

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