An Unquiet Stillness

Years and years of listening to music, and a wide assortment of it too; jaded ears are hardly a surprise then. Yet, even now I still get surprised and delighted by the art and craftsmanship of some musicians, old and new. And like a child, it pleases me that it happens more often than I’d think possible. There lies an irony in my love of The Earth Below’s “Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness” released earlier this year; for the music and words here tell of the jaded and the weary.

The Earth Below is the solo project of Deepak Raghu, drummer for a seeming myriad diverse bands including Shepherd whose last album I had reviewed. In my opinion, The Earth Below is the man at his elemental, bared-soul best. Of The Earth Below’s 3 EPs released thus far, “Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness” voices it most tellingly. The relative sparseness of instrumentation here in no way diminishes the gritty intensity of the songs; instead it is arranged intelligently to enhance it. The gnarly production adds to the rawness and despairing desolation of these pieces. In his other bands that he used to sing (sometimes), I was never impressed with his vocal work. But this EP was, for me, a sock to the jaw. He sings with a gravitas and sensitivity that belie his youth; there are emotions here of a man who has lived long, hard years. Notwithstanding the focus on expression, Deepak isn’t shy of experimentation. For all the even, folk-rock of most of this EP, it ends with an edgy, unhinged last minute on “Patient Man” that quite in contrast seems to indicate a man who has lost that particular quality. Without going overboard or sacrificing emotive expression, each of the five songs on “Dreams…” has a variant voice. The words in every song have a rare evocative power which his voice draws on to weave experiences of muted pain and despair, of doubt and desire. Each is an outstanding piece but even in that a personal favourite is “Indestructible” which, in my opinion, captures almost all that I have written and felt about this deeply satisfying work of music. Contrary to its title, there is a vulnerability, a brittleness on this song that reminds me of Johnny Cash’s incredible version of the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt”.

It seems every day that I wake up
I find a new dent in my armour
Plot holes – a few stories untold
I’m indestructible – that much she knows

It seems every day that I wake up
Try as I might I’m not much of a fight
Like that guy in the faces of debt
I blew up before I reached my target

This is one of my favourite EPs/albums not just for this year, but one of the better ones that I have heard ever. And that, I think, says a lot.