Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe at a distance of 3.7 billion miles. In the photograph, Earth’s apparent size is less than a pixel; a tiny dot against the vastness of space. It is through a need for perspective, to take a step back and see the bigger picture, that Radiohead’s guitarist Ed O’Brien, under the moniker EOB, came to make 'Earth': his debut solo record that is a reassuring anchor in these chaotic times.
'Earth' has been eight years in the making: a slow gestation, rather than the ‘big bang’ you’ve come to expect. After moving with his family to the Brazilian countryside in 2012, O’Brien took to his home studio with the intention of making an electronic record. It was then that the proverbial apple hit his head – the apple taking the unusual form of Primal Scream’s landmark record, 'Screamadelica'. O’Brien has said: "I thought, this is it… I want my music to have that joy, that light, the depth and breadth of that album… elements of dance, soul, ambient… Uplifting in parts."
With its sweeping length, 'Earth' is a record that invites meditation. Its forerunner, named after the country, where the album was born, begins as a finely-spun foray into folk, before spiralling into a hypnotic floor-filler. 'Brazil' is the perfect illustrator for the project's dual nature, indulging in thought and trance; endings and beginnings.
O’Brien can also spin a brilliant yarn. 'Long Time Coming' is a simply told sigh of relief at finally finding the right person. The sunny, stripped-back acoustic track has an almost cinematic feel, and looks optimistically at the future. While this is all perfectly nice, it’s when EOB dares to experiment that 'Earth' really lifts off. The erratic, rumbling distortion of 'Mass' is as eerie as the thought of space itself, where his sounds tell a greater story than words ever could.
The fusion of paranoid guitar-meets-spacey dance music on 'Olympik' is one that EOB can execute without hesitation. It’s rare to find an artist who would even dare approach the five-minute mark, let alone jamming long enough to leave you in a trail of dust, languorously stretching towards ten minutes. It’s a considered record; an indulgence to listen to, as well as to create.
He deals incisive blows on 'Banksters', spitting, “Where did all the money go, you fuck?”. The on-edge instrumentation has distinct echoes of his Radiohead days, proving that unlike many bandmates that split from their main gig, O’Brien is in no rush to shake off their signature, and instead brings it forward into his own work: always evolving, always maturing.
Words: Sophie Walker
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