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The San Diego-based power trio Earthless draw on elements from classic rock, psychedelia, electric jazz, and Krautrock. Their lineup includes guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton, and drummer Mario Rubalcaba. While 2005's Sonic Prayer was completely instrumental, 2007's Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky included a vocal cover of the Groundhogs' "Cherry Red." After 2008's Live at Roadburn, the band remained committed to live recording until 2013's From the Ages. 2018's Black Heaven became their first studio outing to include original songs with vocals and was followed by From the West, recorded in concert at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall. Earthless returned in 2021 with Live in the Mojave Desert, Vol. 1, consisting of three long instrumentals totaling nearly 80 minutes. Earthless was formed in 2001 by three busy musicians. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba (aka Ruby Mars) was a member of Rocket from the Crypt, and had previously played in Black Heart Procession, Hot Snakes, the Sultans, and Clikatat Ikatowi. Bassist Mike Eginton played with Electric Nazarene. The pair were longtime friends and co-owned the record store Thirsty Moon in San Diego when they met Isaiah Mitchell, a guitar instructor who had played with Nebula and Drunk Horse. The three men shared a deep love for the Krautrock of Amon Duul II, Can, and Faust, as well as vintage Japanese and American psychedelia, hard rock, and proto-metal. They jammed together whenever possible but it proved difficult to get together given Rubalcaba's other commitments. Their first gig -- released digitally as Earthless: Live at the Casbah 08/12/2004 -- showcased their organic communicative sound; it wed meaty hard rock, psych riffs, and vamps to flowing improvisation and a mercurial use of textured space. The following year they issued their studio debut, Sonic Prayer, for Matt Anderson's Gravity label. Earthless played regional shows up and down the West Coast, while the album drew rave reviews across the globe. They followed with 2007's Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky for Tee Pee. It was composed of a six-part suite, the sprawling title track, and a vocal cover of the Groundhogs' "Cherry Red" sung by Mitchell. The set drew positive notice from critics and music fans, and at home it was nominated for the Best Hard Rock Album award at the San Diego Music Awards. Interestingly, it ultimately lost to their debut, Sonic Prayer, which had also received a nomination. The band also took home the award for Best Hard Rock artist. In March they played the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. In the spring they began touring Europe. Earthless was originally scheduled to play a 200-person room at Tilburg, Holland's prestigious Roadburn Festival. While they were setting up, the festival organizer approached them and asked the trio to play the main stage -- headliners Isis had only played half of their contracted two-hour slot. Earthless agreed and proceeded to blow away the surprised, larger crowd; they left the stage to a ten-minute standing ovation. The band had no idea the show was taped until later. After hearing it, Tee Pee made a deal with the event promoters to release the gig as Live at Roadburn. Earthless toured for nearly three years following those releases. In 2009, they crossed North America with Witch before embarking on their own headline tour. In the spring and summer of 2010 they played the U.K. and Europe with Russian Circles, and in November and December they supported Baroness before touring Australia as a headliner. During their rare moments at home, changes occurred that made rehearsals difficult: Rubalcaba had joined Off! and Mitchell relocated to Northern California and joined Howlin' Rain. From the Ages, their third studio long-player, arrived in 2013 after precious little rehearsal; the band relied on its live chemistry in the studio. They toured primarily as a headliner over the next 18 months. Their 2014 Roadburn gig was an impromptu jam with Heavy Blanket, and released as In a Dutch Haze, then followed by a pair of 2015 concert albums, Live at Freak Valley and Live at Tym Guitars, Brisbane Australia. The following year saw the trio release a split EP with Harsh Toke, Acid Crusher/Mount Swan. In 2018, the band issued their fourth full-length outing, Black Heaven, for Nuclear Blast. Produced by David Catching, it was their first to feature Mitchell's vocals as a core part of their attack. They toured for much of 2019 and in November of that year, Mitchell joined the Black Crowes for their 30th anniversary reunion tour. In early 2021, Earthless live streamed, and ultimately filmed and recorded five multi-media concert experiences from the natural amphitheater of California's Mojave Desert; the band's performances were accompanied by the Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show. The Heavy Psych Sounds label issued Live in the Mojave Desert, Vol. 1 in April 2021.
© James Christopher Monger & Thom Jurek /TiVo
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