Earthen Sea – An Act of Love

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An Act of Love is a gentle midnight surprise, music as pulsing revelation birthed in the moment between waking and tumbling into dreams. It comes on ominously before dissolving into inescapable rhythm, leaving a breadcrumb trail through memory toward some warm place half-recalled.

It’s been hard finding motivation to write about music ever since my country was taken over by a wannabe fascist, but I’ve been listening nonstop, thirsty for inspiration, desperate for the colors of hope to emerge. I’m torn between staying informed and wanting so badly to feel optimistic about the world. When all news seems like bad news, it’s a difficult trick to pull off.

But then comes mysterious music, calling me away. It’s like drifting off to sleep: inevitable and all-encompassing. Whether dreaming helps in the long run or not,  it’s a welcome distraction. It’s also a method for thinking in new ways. So, I welcome somnambulent flights in the dark, soundtracked by artists like Earthen Sea.

The artist, real name Jacob Long, first entered my orbit as the bassist for “tribal-punk” trio Mi Ami back in the heady hipster garabe days of the late 00’s internet. His work anchored the keening, obtuse energy of that band, placing a groovy heart into the angular experience. But his solo material is infinitely removed from that era in both tone and intent, more meditative throb than primal strut. Like many artists who come to techno from realms outside the electronic world, Long brings a fresh perspective on an often insular genre of music.

An Act of Love is an embryo of future techno, wrapped in a womb of cool ambient drone. Its deepest pleasures come from the subtle friction between tangible beats and miasmatic atmosphere, the frayed edges of the production obscuring the scale of structure. Blackened rhythm emerges in smoky tones, decaying in the slowly encroaching tide of melancholic dub echoes. All sense of propulsion is beat back again and again, redoubling its effort in Sisyphean futility. The powerfully subdued bass work is eventually swallowed by a mirror image of the opening mist, evaporating as the album comes to a close.

It’s one of those hermetically sealed experiences, an album as deep dive into a specific little world. Like the best of its peers, the feeling lingers on after the final track fades, leaving only a trace of a memory and the urge to listen again.

As it turns out, the music was itself crafted under tumultuous circumstances. Long stated that it was made “over the course of the most emotionally difficult and stressful year in my life thus far. As such, it is both a reflection of that experience and also something that gave me space to begin working through issues to see a way forward, to a better place both psychically and physically.” It’s no wonder I’m finding An Act of Love to be the perfect balm to this year’s burgeoning chaos.

Long also stated that the album’s central concept was the idea of “being out in the city at night, wandering around a large urban area after dark – the contrast of empty streets but with life still going on all around, and the openness and possibilities that can bring.” In this way, the reflective opening and closing drones can be seen as a sunset and sunrise, a curtain that shrouds a solo journey through nocturnal life.

•  •  •

The album drops on February 17th, courtesy of Kranky, one of my all-time favorite labels. You can hear a preview and purchase it digitally or on CD or vinyl on the Bandcamp page.

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