The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull (Southern Lord)

Earth

If indeed there existed a soundtrack for our mighty blue planet spinning powerfully and inexorably on its axis, it would probably come courtesy of the 17-year-old Seattle outfit Earth. Currently a four-piece, the group is better known for its influence on bands like Sunn 0))) and bandleader/guitarist Dylan Carlson's erstwhile association with Kurt Cobain than for its extensive catalog of diverse and well-regarded independent releases. Begun as a doomy Melvins-esque hard-rock outfit in the grey light of grunge's dawn, the band has cultivated a sound that today has more to do with drone and ambiance than drop-tuned thud.

On the all-instrumental The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull, Carlson and co.'s bag is repetition—of elegiac, slowly evolving jazz-rock-influenced motifs, thematic interpretations that take place in gradations so agonizingly minute that they can fairly be described as unfolding on a geologic scale, at least when considered in light of the quantum standards of pop music. Each of the disc's seven songs encompasses a cycle of introductory theme, incremental refiguring, and resolution, cast with a careful ear for orchestration.

Worthy of special mention are the contributions on three tracks of eclectic electric guitarist Bill Frisell, who opens his bag of lush tonal colorations and makes shimmering magic atop Carlson's fecund arrangements. Earth creates music of truly uncommon beauty and richness; it's rare that an outfit given over to such prog-ish ambition finds that its reach is so consistently in line with its grasp.