Every time I write about Old Earth I open by declaring an undying love for Todd Umhoefer’s experimental weirdo-folk-rock project. I wont bore you with all that again, but if you have never heard Old Earth before then PLEASE browse this tag and check out his back catalogue. You won’t regret it.
I prefer the ladder is Umhoefer’s latest release. It follows his usual MO of containing few, longer than common, tracks which themselves contain multiple “songs” that meld and segue into one another. It that sounds odd then don’t worry, it works in ways that defy simple description.
‘1.’ may sound familiar if you’ve listened to our recent compilation album, Quiet, Constant Friends, as the first segment “Pretty Steep” featured as a track. And even if you haven’t (why not?!) the first two seconds should be enough to say “welcome to an Old Earth song”, so unique is Umhoefer’s brand of music. It’s all needly and direct guitars and clattered percussion and the trademark Old Earth lyrics, like cryptic incantations or possessed mutterings.
“And O! This one is elevated!
as it’s moving from the mattress to the floor
And O! Ventilated!
as it’s moving from the window to the door”
The second segment of ‘1.’ (subtitled ‘what happens when we’re not’) kind of creeps up on you, with probing guitars and more of those smashing drums, before scratchy guitar and gong-like atmospherics open ‘2.’, soon joined by percussion and faraway mumbled vocals. Eventually the vocals kick in properly “Have passed around, half past the wake, that kingdom’s come to stay/ and I couldn’t reach the ground now / and oh the weight”. The transition between segments around the four minute mark has a jarring dream logic, and soon we find ourselves in a completely different song, one with the repeated and vaguely defiant lyric,
“Same fight all day”
Nobody else even tries to make music like this. Its music like an out-of-body experience, like losing your mind in a secluded house full dust and cobwebs and ghosts. One thing I have a real hard time describing in words is the directness of it, the paradoxical sense of rushing headlong at some vague notion. The closest I can come is to use dream-like analogies a lot and hope people know what I mean. But if nothing else I’ve ever written about Old Earth makes sense then know one thing, the project is one of my very favourites out there right now.
You can get I prefer the ladder now via the Old Earth Bandcamp page.