Dylan Carlson – Conquistador (Sargent House)

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I interviewed Dylan Carlson many moons ago, when his band of sonic pioneers, Earth, played an outstanding set of minimalist drone in Cardiff Millennium Centre. It remains one of my favourite interviews; rather than cover the usual ‘tell us about your new album’ line of questioning, we talked about Carlson’s Scottish/Irish family roots and his childhood travels around the USA, during which he developed an affection for folk music and Americana, both of which were to play a part in the developing sound of Earth, and even more so in his solo work.  Opening title track ‘Conquistador’ is a 13 minute repetitive and austere guitar phrase, that manages to sound both epic and expansive. It drips with the imagery of riding across the open plains of an America in its infancy; the arid, seemingly endless stretches of barren country perfectly reflected in the frugal structure of the song. Carlson moves things up a notch on ‘When the Horses Were Shorn of Their Hooves’ with a distorted, bluesy riff being one of several layers of guitar which builds to a powerful, unsettling song, that belies it’s simple structure. The minute long ‘And Then the Crows Descended’ provides a slightly sinister psychedelic interlude before ‘Scorpions in Their Mouths’ returns to a similar vibe to ‘When the Horses…’ with its harsh and heavy repeated refrain. Closing track ‘Reaching the Gulf’ offers an upbeat, refreshingly light close to the proceedings, as if the protagonist has left the life sapping harshness of the desert for the promise of a better life. Carlson’s music is a testimony to the concept of staying true to your roots and influences, while at the same time remaining fearless in moving forward. ‘Conquistador’ is an album to lose yourself in.  Ian Pickens 

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