PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

The Bug Vs. Earth: Concrete Desert

This is difficult, oppressive music, full of sounds that would rather suffocate than eviscerate. The Bug vs. Earth really feels more like Earth's, and specifically Dylan Carlson's, project, in mood if not instrumentation.


The Bug Vs. Earth

Concrete Desert

Label: Ninja Tune
US Release Date: 2017-03-24
UK Release Date: 2017-03-24
Amazon
iTunes

It almost seems disingenuous putting the Bug's name on Concrete Desert. Sure, Kevin Martin is involved, but those looking for anything inspired by hip-hop or dancehall or anything else you can nod your head to aren't going to find much. What we have here is a collection of tracks with only the loosest connection to dub, expansive and oppressive things with only a tangential relationship to the genres that Martin, as the Bug, has dabbled in.

To be sure, the Bug vs. Earth feels more like Earth's, and specifically Dylan Carlson's, project, in mood if not instrumentation. Concrete Desert is a post-apocalyptic solo death-trip, featuring collaborators who know how to offer the sorts of sounds that fill out the others' ideas while maintaining a clear separation from their day jobs.

Martin shines brightest throughout Concrete Desert when he takes Carlson's sense of expanse and fits it into a tight space through the confinement of steady, dense beats. A track like, yes, "Agoraphobia" is only five minutes long, but the entire first half of it is a build-up, a steady drone underlying Carlson's regular, melodic, slightly distorted guitar musings. Its second half, however, offers a slowly building beat and bassline, forcing that guitar into a rhythmic box, resulting in a creepy-crawly sort of quiet that suits its title perfectly. "Snakes Vs. Rats" continues this theme, though this time, its entire five minutes are dominated by Martin's beats, minimal and deliberate, while blasts of static and cuts of pendulum-esque guitar offer visceral frights to go along with the oppression.

Perhaps the strongest of Martin's beats contributions is on "Don't Walk These Streets", a song as foreboding as its title (all of the titles on Concrete Desert are well-chosen, actually), and which actually shows a little bit of complexity and build to its beat and bassline. It is surrounding, encroaching malaise put to tape, and its beats are rendered more effective by their disappearance late in the track, at which point you hear just how loud and impenetrable the underlying atonal drones have become.

The contrasts present in "Don't Walk These Streets" are emblematic of Concrete Desert as a whole, as the beat-oriented tracks are propped up by the more ambient material, particularly two mammoth tracks that act as the midpoint and finale of the album. The ten-plus minute "American Dream" is a striking work, with a thoughtful and peaceful guitar motif floating over the top of tremendous washes of sound, like passing ocean liners or idling airplanes. There's little progression to be found here, but it is a success in the way it draws you into its dark, mechanical world, with only a hint of life -- those guitars -- to be found. The title track, which closes the album, is similar in scope and mood to "American Dream", but its 15 minutes are more resigned than oppressive; guitars are layered on top of one another, the electronics are more like melodically passing clouds than mechanical behemoths. While nobody would mistake it for an uplifting piece of music, it's almost pleasant in its construction, at least offering more hope than Concrete Desert's first 60 minutes.

What these extended ambient segments serve to do is to underscore the menace of the more beat-oriented material. Without the beats, there is, at least, some sense of safety. With the beats, threats are imminent.

There's a limited audience for something like this; to call Concrete Desert "exciting" would be a stretch even by those who love what it has to offer. It does offer plenty, though, especially if the near-flawless setting and maintaining of a mood are of interest. This is difficult, oppressive music, full of sounds that would rather suffocate than eviscerate.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.