Earth Room is the self-titled debut album of a New-York-based trio by the same name that suggests cosmic-psychedelic-ambient-drone music that draws its inspiration from the electric-era Miles Davis, prog-space-rock of German bands like Popul Vuh, Can and Tangerine Dream, and the atmospheric Fourth World studio experiments of Jon Hassell. The trio features three experienced and adventurous improvisers – Robbie Lee, known from his collaborations with Mary Halvorson and Lea Bertucci, on woodwinds and electronics, John Thayer, a producer and sound engineer who collaborated with Daniel Carter and Zeena Perkins, on percussion and synthesizers, and Ezra Feinberg, a founding member of the San Francisco psychedelic rock collective Citay, on acoustic and electric guitars and bass. The album was recorded between 2019 and 2021.
Earth Room was conceived in 2019 when Feinberg was asked to play a two-hour set for a night called Planetarium at the Bushwick club Nowadays, where people came to lie on beanbags. Lacking material worth such a long solo set, he asked Thayer and Lee to join him. The three musicians improvised together, played deep and dark drones, juggled with instrumental freak-outs, and understood that a new band was born. Before the Covid-19 lockdowns, they kept recording themselves at the Thump Studios in Brooklyn where Thayer is the in-house engineer. After the pandemic hit they continued editing these sessions, finding the juicy bits and cutting the fat, until there were no more overdubs or edits needed. The title of the band and the album comes from The New York Earth Room, the famous 1977 experiment by the local conceptualist-minimalist artist Walter De Maria, in which soil was laid down in a loft gallery in Soho. It has been maintained there ever since.
Earth Room sounds as a timeless work. The six pieces explore the rich and layered sonic vision of this trio. The elegiac opener «Bridges of Waves» fuses vintage, folk meets new-age synthesizers with Lee and Thayer’s gentle yet ecstatic drums and flute. The following «Within the Field» is a study in minimalist but hypnotic percussive patterns, that cements the seminal influence of Can on Earth Room. «Sound on Sound (Bass Clarinet)» presents Lee’s improvising peacefully and sketching loose melodies on the bass clarinet while Thayerm adds subtle sound-on-sound tapes. «Empty Way / Full Way» is a cosmic, dream-like improvisation with an addictive rhythmic pattern. «Biophony» is an enigmatic but quite playful ritual in the spirit of Popul Vuh while the last piece “Owl Light” floats leisurely in Fourth World meets early Tangerine Dream’s sparse and stratospheric skies, far from Earth’s soil.
Robbie Lee (fl, bcl, as, EWI, synth), John Thayer (dr, perc, dr.machine, live sound processing, synth), Ezra Feinberg (g, el.b, synth)