Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – What Happens When We Stop (Full Spectrum, 2013)

Andrew Weathers Ensemble - What Happens When We Stop Cover album cover
Andrew Weathers EnsembleO/OU (Ensemble) (Full Spectrum)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
Another incredible album from my favoritest fucking guy. What Happens When We Stop is a cross country album, started in North Carolina with Weathers’ buds, elaborated on the road headed out west, and finished up with his pals in California. This one’s just as wonderful as the last, Guilford County Songs, but still not quite as masterful as the debut, We’re Not Cautious. There’s a notable lack of prominent banjo, and I fucking love the banjo, but a big focus on the guitar, more so than before, which is awesome because the guitar work just gets better with each release. Everything is just as warm and incomparably serene as ever, old American folk perfectly melded with contemporary drone & neo-classical, subtle electronics peaking through the twinkling piano, harmoniums humming beneath hypnotic acoustic strumming, but Weathers’ voice has changed a bit, a lower tone and letting his drawl shine through, a little disorienting at first, but it still works beautifully, and honestly, the guitar, just so fucking sweet with those drones, I could listen to Weathers pick away all day with the strings & brass & reeds & everything else droning in the backseat, it’s the most heavenly sound you can get. This dude is unstoppably awesome and I will devour everything he throws at us. You should probably join me in my devouring and pick this up, it comes with a sexy photo book with the work of Aaron Canipe, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – Guilford County Songs (Full Spectrum, 2012)


Andrew Weathers EnsembleSkin Holding Atoms In (Full Spectrum)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
A new Andrew Weathers Ensemble album! For those that don’t recall, the record they put out last year, We’re Not Cautious, was number 2 on my Top 10 Drone Records, so a new one is obviously quite exciting. Here they’re stripped down to a quartet with just a banjo, and some harmonicas, strings, guitars, the occasional saxophone, and, of course, their wonderful voices. One of the best things about Cautious was how lush everything was, which is a little lost here, but not by necessity, rather by choice. There are some very thick and warm sounds, especially when all four players are going strong, but a lot of the times it’s just one or two of them, maybe just the two cellos, or a solo banjo (the best), or even just the harmonicas (also the best), and then it can get quite sparse, and I imagine the others setting their instruments down just to watch their pals do their thing, getting really into it, and watching with reverence & camaraderie, until they feel moved enough to pick up their musicmakers again and join in. There’s such a feeling of warmth and friendship on here, even when it gets dark and sounds like Constellation-style neo-chamber music, the intimacy still reigns, and you’re right there with them, part of the sound, and you want to sing out and join the chorus supporting Weathers’ richly dominant lead. Guilford County Songs doesn’t quite match the untouchable greatness of We’re Not Cautious, but what this Ensemble does is so captivating and life enriching, that anything they put out is a winner.

Top 10 Drone Records Of 2011

This year’s list was too damn hard. There was just so much awesomeness, it was almost impossible to keep it to 10. That’s just how lists are, I guess.

Since this is an AGB list and AGB = me, I allowed myself the freedom that an indie blogger should have. Namely, defining “drone” however I damn well please. However, I still had some criteria. If a record had some songs that were hardly drone at all, but still embodied the drone aesthetic as a whole, I kept it. There were plenty of records that I wanted to mold into the list but no matter which way I looked at it, they just couldn’t be considered “drone” (especially the new Ricardo Donoso and Colin Stetson albums).

If you’re new here, there are sound samples on all of the original reviews and I beseech you to listen to anything on this list you have yet to hear. I assure you it will be worth your time 100%. But…

On to the list! On to the heckling!


10. High Aura’dMooncusser (YDLMIER)
“Soaring Windy & Carl euphoria, brief Fahey picks, and a wall of absolute beauty.”

Boston’s killerest scene stomping dude on Boston’s raddest darned tape label.


9. Nicholas SzczepanikAnte Algo Azul (self released)
“There’s mournful Basinski textures, sci-fi tractor beams, static harmonies, Eliane Radigue homages, all wrapped in Szczepanik’s own meditative perspective.”

Technically 12 separate items but they’re all Ante Algo Azul. And the ID3 tags on the official downloads have each one as an individual track of the full 12 song “album.” So suck it. Plus, this shit is the greatest.


8. Mind Over MirrorsThe Voice Rolling (Digitalis)
“Stretched out gauze floating through pink/grey bliss, endless layers of reed textured harmonies, all of the fantastic things about harmoniums but given a new life through Fennelly.”

Harmoniums always do it for me and this is like the harmonium record to destroy all harmonium records.


7. MountainsAir Museum (Thrill Jockey)
“Mountains bounce back and forth between straight up drone and pulsing minimal space techno, keeping a nice balance, never cemented in their textured planar earthly past but not jumping ship for the OPN New Age.”

Always keepin me on my toes. Mountains took it to the next motherfuckin level on this one.


6. EmuulThe Drawing Of The line (Digitalis)
“Blurred & blown out drones that breathe heavy, swaying in the breeze, scorched at the edges.”

Sad n blissful. Zen x100.


5. RaleSome Kissed Charms That Would Not Protect Them (Isounderscore)
“…a heaving sweetheart, giving you massive swells of dense intimidation… conjuring images of watching a thunderstorm roll in on the beach… enjoying it without fear and wallowing in the glory of the lightening sky, the majesty of nature beautifully overwhelming.”

Rale fucking nailed it on this one. And no one knows about it! Only 300 copies made, came out in May, and it’s still available. What’s wrong with you people! This is truly original and has AMAZING packaging.


4. Lawrence EnglishThe Peregrine (Experimedia)
“Like the finest grade sandpaper, with a tooth so smooth, the grit almost disappears and you’re left with drone as glorious as humanly possible.”

Didn’t think Mr. English could make something more satisfying than Kiri No Oto but goddammit he sure did. Unreal.


3. Kyle Bobby DunnWays Of Meaning (Desire Path)
“This is the most delicate bliss I’ve ever experienced. 100% shining purity that doesn’t need to be cranked to 11 to get the job done. It swirls softly & effortlessly turns hearts into puddles of droney delight.”

First of all, KBD on vinyl? YES. Then, the best KBD record yet? Also, YES. It has one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard on it, too. It’s just math, you guys. Of course this is on the list.


2. Andrew Weathers EnsembleWe’re Not Cautious (Sleep On The Floor)
“It’s unbelievably warm, so rich & soft, tender & charming, absolutely beautiful in every way. It can be played at full volume and it won’t overpower, it’ll simply fill your home with the most delicately lush sounds you can imagine.”

Probably the least droney record on this list but it’s got enough to break into the official “Drone” category for me. Either way, this is literally one of the best records I’ve ever heard.


1. Nicholas SzczepanikPlease Stop Loving Me (Streamline)
“As wonderfully serene as it is, the whole time you’re wading waist deep in emotion, the sustained & intertwined tones heavy hearted, cascading heartache, longing, and hope. An elegiac softness matched with poignant massiveness that ends on the brightest, most uplifting note, fading into the horizon.”

This is the one. The best record of the year. Hands down. No contest. One of the best records of all time, in fact. I shit you not. As the kids say these days, unimpeachable. Or is it unfuckwithable? Lets just go with the universally understood: PERFECT.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – We’re Not Cautious (Sleep On The Floor, 2011)


Andrew Weathers EnsembleEcstatic, Unchanging

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
North Carolina’s Andrew Weathers might not be super prolific yet, but he’s still able to put out a damn fine drone record, last year’s A Great Southern City being a prime example. He also helps run the impeccably curated Full Spectrum label. But guys, get ready for this one. Seriously. We’re Not Cautious is gonna swoop down without warning and stun the shit out of you. This record is fucking GLORIOUS.

Weathers is joined by numerous pals in this Ensemble, each tackling their instrument of choice, be it wind or string or whatever. Together they form a multi-faceted electro-acoustic peacekeeper, spreading the warmest vibes possible. There’s lots of drone, although this isn’t really a drone record. There’s also plenty of percussion & singing, and mixed with violins, banjos, & guitars you’d think this might be headed into folk territory. It’s not. It’s something else entirely. It’s just… perfect. It takes everything that’s right with music and puts it on one album.

“Ecstatic, Unchanging” is the embodiment of this record. It seamlessly mixes violin & cello drone with slow paced banjo picking and processed vocals. It’s fucking INCREDIBLE. So so gorgeous. It’s like this was fucking made for me. Vocal glitchiness, heavenly drone, and banjos? In case you didn’t already know, I have a hardcore weakness for banjos & free reeds, which kind of explains why I love this album so much. Fucking banjos GALORE. Plus organs & harmonicas. I never stood a chance against We’re Not Cautious.

Some pieces focus on one sound more than others but most of them mash everything into a single song, like “Ecstatic, Unchanging” or “Go Lightning” which switches gears from static drone bliss to lone banjo & layered vocal harmonies. It would be pretty easy to fuck up something as complicated as this. Blending so many instruments and different styles into something that’s this cohesive, original, and enjoyable is a goddamn feat and a half.

There’s so much feeling evoked from this ensemble, you can just tell it was made by friends that love & care for sound. It’s unbelievably warm, so rich & soft, tender & charming, absolutely beautiful in every way. It can be played at full volume and it won’t overpower, it’ll simply fill your home with the most delicately lush sounds you can imagine. I’m pretty sure We’re Not Cautious is going to stay with me for a long time to come. And if there’s any justice in the world, it’ll be in heavy rotation for everyone forever. Do your life a favor and pick this up at Sleep On The Floor because it just dropped TODAY.