Earthen Sea - Ink

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  • Jacob Long has been kicking around the Bay Area music scene for years after time spent in Washington D.C., notably as the bass player for Dischord five-piece Black Eyes. That band split in the mid-2000s and reformed in San Francisco as dub-punk unit Mi Ami, which served as a launchpad for three different dance projects: Long's Earthen Sea, drummer Damon Palermo's Magic Touch and singer/guitarst Daniel Martin-McCormick's Ital. Ink is the first LP on Martin-McCormick's Lovers Rock label and the first for Earthen Sea. Inspired by the dense fog, striking beaches and hilly horizons of San Francisco, it marks Long as a rising talent in the world of dub techno. Stylistically, the music is of a piece with Terekke's smudgy sounds, most Further Records acts and Opal Tapes affiliates like 1991, but Long's touch is more immaculate. "Unseen Life" uses harpsichord over an insistent house beat and fluctuating cosmic wind, reminiscent of nothing so much as the melodic ends of Shinichi Atobe's brilliant Butterfly Effect. It also proves Long to be a dub classicist, especially once an elongated melodica lead takes center stage. Ink is expertly sequenced. If dub techno is loved for its transportive, brain-cleansing effects, then minute-long intro "Entrance" is like burning sage after entering a room—the beatless piece establishes the palette and mood. Long also waits until the third track, "Stateless," to introduce any muscular low-end; he's given you your trance, now dance. A 14-minute, three-track suite looks back to the period when Earthen Sea issued ambient cassettes in micro-editions on niche US labels. "Days Are Getting Shorter" begins with the dull roar of the ocean, a calming drone flitting in and out of the mix in stark contrast. A slow build introduces "RMLZ" and "City Life," Ink's most straight-ahead, DeepChord-style productions. As a whole, the triptych is less developed than the rest, as it strays from Long's gift for melody. Closer "Blues In Black Ink" makes up for this. Its dueling, slo-mo arpeggios and clattering rhythms summon the elegant gloom of Burial's "Stolen Dog," but without field recordings—their absence proves Long doesn't need them. He's fluent in simple, washed-out melodic themes that capture the hills, beaches and winding streets of San Francisco's misty peninsula. That knack for texture creates a disorienting, lost-in-your-head sensation on Ink, allowing it to work as both trippy ambience or immersive dance music. It's enough to make Long look like his city's finest dub techno export since Kit Clayton.
  • Tracklist
      01. Entrance 02. Unseen Life 03. Stateless 04. All Men Know The Truth 05. Days Are Getting Shorter 06. RMLZ 07. City Life 08. Blues In Black Ink