Live Review: Earth Tongue, Paris, France, May 15, 2024

Heavy-psych duo Earth Tongue is a juxtaposition of coherent contrasts.

As they set up their gear in Backstage By The Mill, a Parisian pub next to burlesque mecca Le Moulin Rouge, the two New Zealand musicians could not be more sartorially polarized: guitarist/singer Gussie Larkin in a bright orange flared jumpsuit, a frilly orange foulard and a canary yellow blazer; drummer/singer Ezra Simons in mid-thigh shorts, a dull gray tee and a nondescript ballcap.

But once the duo begins set opener “Out Of This Hell” from Great Haunting (out June 14 via In The Red), a musical mind meld takes hold. Their performance is tight and explosive. Larkin’s guitar lines bounce and buzz; Simons’ drumming smashes and shatters.

Throughout their recorded output, the group has drawn heavily on imagery from ’70s horror and sci-fi. “Portable Shrine” and “Microscopic God” (salient examples from 2019 debut album Floating Being) showcase percussive—and, at times, robotic—vocals from Larkin and Simons, playfully hinting at alien possession. “Hidden Entrance,” meanwhile, alternates Larkin’s cooing with Simons’ bellowing. Soft vocal melodies give way to blasts of fuzz metal riffing. The effect is delightfully goofy.

Their sound—garage yet smooth, doom yet groove—places them squarely at the confluence of Black Sabbath and Devo.

Toward the end of “Hallowing Those Caves, Pt. 2,” Larkin’s guitar farts out, bringing the song to an unceremonious end. “We’re at the mercy of one fuzz pedal,” explains Simons.

But the duo has many more tricks up its sleeve than that. Set closers “Bodies Dissolve Tonight!” and “Pentagram on the Moon” offer warmth and gaiety, terror and sorcery.

A contrast of sensations, Earth Tongue is a soothing nightmare.

Recommended drug pairing: a snort of Arrakis spice with a carafe of kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.  

Eric Bensel