PLAYING DETROIT: Earth Engine’s Debut EP

Playing Detroit

What. The. Hell. Is. This? 

Rarely do I say this about music. Perhaps I’m a bit jaded, but while all of us lovers were kissing on Valentine’s Day, Detroit-based Earth Engine dropped their self-titled debut EP, a beautifully confused collection nearly five years in the making. Earth Engine’s EP is a spastic, satiated cluster of baroque rock that has wrangled a plethora of genres and in the process created their own. Although it sounds schizophrenic the first time around, it becomes progressively more coherent. If King Crimson collaborated with MUSE on some hyper-theatrical Jeff Buckley directed stage production of how the universe was created (and how it will subsequently be destroyed), you might be able to understand where Earth Engine is coming from. For an EP that carries a tangible weightiness and at times delves into disparity, there is an ethereal airiness to its structure and intricate layering that takes the album into cathartic flight (and the listener along with it).

“Red River” is a slinky Dead Weather-ish caffeinated jazz jam that shifts gears into “A Fever of Static,” which opens with classic piano that morphs into a jutting, metallic, percussion heavy nod to anthemic rock. And just when you thought you were getting the hang of Earth Engine’s aesthetically challenging vibe comes the closing track (and my personal favorite) “Year One” where the tension from the previous tracks finally breaks through the atmospheric barrier into masterful resolve. You hear the protagonist overcome defeatism or whatever earthly shackles were holding him to the ground. “I rather die than wait,” he repeats with whispered heroism, adding “I’ve never been one to yield to reason,” which, in context, is a beautifully understated summary of the entirety of the EP.

My dozen or so listens have not answered my original question. In fact, it has been replaced with “What. The. Hell. Was. That?” Earth Engine caught me off guard and off balance. I am completely enthralled by this unexpectedly powerful EP that carries with it a determination that I feel that rock music has been missing for the past decade. Excitedly, I am left scratching my head while making room for new feelings, genre-defying reference points, and redefined sensations of unconventional beauty. Earth Engine is on to something (and I’ll be the first to tell you as soon as I figure it out).

Listen to the entire EP below.

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