Album Review

Top 15 Solo Drone Records Of 2015

This is my final list this year, which saw 3 more than usual to make up for the lack of non-AGB Radio action for the past 6 months or so. As usual, I tried to keep the big names out (no Philip Jeck, no William Basinski, no Thomas Brinkmann), as if there’s anyone who would read a drone list and not know Basinski put out one of the best drone records of the year. There were so many records that were absolutely amazing but fell a bit too far from my fabricated & arbitrary definition of drone to make this list (Félicia Atkinson, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Eartheater, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma). Maybe next year I’ll have a list of Almost Drone records.

The “Solo” part of this list is only to differentiate it from the Collaborations list I already posted, otherwise it’s essentially the same as my usual Drone list. I put this list together and realized only one of the records was not a solo operation, so I axed it and made the list 100% individual work (that’s not to say other people didn’t help out here and there on the records, though).

In case you missed em, there’s also my Top 10 Collaborative Drone Records, Top 15 Metal Records, and Top 20 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records lists.

Things will probably be quiet here for a little while after this. I have two more AGB Radio episodes planned (counting down this list next week followed by a holiday episode), then in January I’ll be moving and I have a baby that’s due, so I’m not making any plans for AGB until I got that shit on lockdown. Might be doing a bunch of AGB Radio re-runs for a while. No idea. You’ll know when I know.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

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Album Review

Gareth Flowers & Josh Mason – Silent Period (Sunshine Ltd, 2015)

gareth flowers and josh mason - silent period album cover
Gareth Flowers & Josh MasonThe Resignation (Sunshine Ltd)

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Gareth Flowers is a new name to me, but that’s only because I haven’t been paying attention, he’s got a few releases under his belt, both solo and with Josh Frank as The Batteries Duo, so, short history lesson, Flowers is a classically trained trumpeter (trumpeteer?) gone rouge, and he’s teamed up with minimal master Josh Mason to unleash some hauntingly beautiful creep drone. Silent Period has a story to it, following a mystery dude after having gone through some mysterious circumstances and his overnight journey into self-exile, going from “The Awareness,” to “The Confusion,” to “The Fear,” to “The Resignation,” all four of which are the four songs on here, drifting in between states of fog & clarity, although there’s little in the way of dynamics, with the exception of some clicky rhythmic tapping and looped alarms on “The Confusion,” this is all slow-mo tonal & texture shifts, with Flowers’ trumpet taking lead most of the time, droning high & weird, the unsettled nerves that aim to drive you mad, and Mason’s subtle ambient that all but disappears into the early morning mist, acting as the tender voice of reason that balances the dramatic and emotional trumpet, I never would have paired these two guys, but the output here is just fucking astounding, a small slice of sound mixed together in unimaginable ways, the melancholic urgency into the hypnotic shimmer, the silk smooth high end alongside the finest, most delicate grit, I can’t recommend this one enough, and, disclaimer, I don’t even usually like the trumpet, so believe me when I say this one’s special, only 250 copies, available next week, definitely not to be slept on.

Album Review

Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Cody Yantis / Josh Mason – Line Drawings (Desire Path, 2014)

yantis mclaughlin mason houpert - line drawings album cover
Nathan McLaughlin3:59 (Desire Path)

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Oh fuck, this one’s a doozy. Some background: Houpert, McLaughlin, Yantis, & Mason have this huge project that has its own site called A Line In The Sand. In addition to this Line Drawings LP on Desire Path, there’s a ton of other related stuff. There’s an hour long tape called Alice Sketches on Digitalis consisting of “conversations” where they responded to challenges & questions they posed to each other while creating Line Drawings. There’s a 12 page newsprint tabloid with gorgeous artwork from Chris Koelle that includes portraits of all 10 artists. And there’s a series of 5 split 7″s called Studies (co-released by Desire Path and FET Press) where each of these guys (including Chris Koelle) picked another artist not involved in A Line In The Sand to contribute to the other side of their 7″, which brings in Anne Guthrie, Mary Lattimore, Brad Rose, Olli Aarni, and Norm Chambers. Holy jesus that’s a lot of stuff and I assure you every bit of it is 100% worthwhile. No filler. But this post is about the Desire Path LP…

Which is un-fucking-believably awesome. 2 tracks per artist, 1 for each side, and these 4 are perfectly suited for a split like this. I only knew of Josh Mason and Cody Yantis beforehand and I could easily name their records if I heard them randomly or out of context, but here everybody’s music blurs together so seamlessly it could just as well have been a collaboration. This is the most subtle, intimate, & delicate music, soft drones humming throughout, with processed & glitched guitars, intentional banjo plucking, satiny strings, mystical field recordings, the warble & crackle of ancient analog media, this is deep music that’s full of life & emotion, it gets dark, harrowing, dipping into the dreadful void, far enough down that the light above almost but not quite disappears, but mostly this is a tender ambient that effortlessly divulges truth & peace, an insane pleasure listening to this record, there is nothing better than a 4-way split that comes together so beautifully. And this just continues to confirm Desire Path’s streak of masterpieces, they’re currently 9 for 9 and I see no sign of them tripping up anytime soon.

Interviews

Questions For Josh Mason

josh mason interview pic
 
Droner extraordinaire Josh Mason is a pretty excellent dude. He put out my favorite drone record from last year, The Symbiont, recently released a fantastic collab with David Andree, and is involved in a massive upcoming project involving multiple artists (Cody Yantis, Nathan McLaughlin, Joe Houpert, and others) and will be released in multiple formats on Desire Path, FET Press, and Digitalis. The project is kind of collectively being called A Line In The Sand. Tons more info here. Anyway, Mr. Mason was very kind and took some time to answer a few questions for me.

 

What is the best way to die?
Is there really a best way? I suppose, for me anyway, there are preferred ways. As it stands, I think it would have to be quickly. It’s not so much the death that seems troublesome, but the dying.

How do you think you’ll die?
There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about this. My anxiety leads me to believe it will be slow, agonizing and most likely alone—but it’ll probably be something dumb like electrocuting myself trying to get a bagel out of a toaster.

What makes you happy?
The love, support and generosity of my wife makes me incredibly happy. The death of false pizza. A record that is top notch from start to finish. Steve Brooks’ ‘Z’ string. Sunshine. Metafiction. Hot showers. Playing music. Growing my hair long. Being in good health. Being given another shot every day.

How can you die happy?
When I left home, the parting wisdom my mother gave me was that “At the end of the day all you need to ask yourself is ‘have I loved well?’”—hopefully I can remember that all the way till the end.

How close have you come to death?
When I was maybe 6 or 7, I blew myself across the room when I jammed a bobby pin into an electric socket (see?). I was in a pretty serious car accident when I was in college during a storm where the car hydroplaned across I-10 in Florida, into and past oncoming traffic going the other way and into a tree. Got food poisoning in the Dominican Republic once. I probably wasn’t going to die, but I’ve never been so violently ill in my life. I thought for sure in that moment I wouldn’t make it.

What does kindness mean to you?
A gentleness in spirit and the ability to suspend one’s own agenda in order to extend compassion to those in need or want or who might otherwise never know it.

Where do you find love?
In my home. In quiet times. In the eyes of the generations of my family who have come before me. In the memory of youth. On the phone with my sister. In a community and network of friends who would drop everything for me if I needed them. At Timecode Beach.

When were you most afraid?
That is hard to gauge because I’m afraid, in general, pretty much around the clock.

Most recently though, it was on a flight to NYC. It was far and away the most turbulent flight I’ve ever had. Listening to Twigs & Yarn’s ‘Static Rowing’ on repeat for close to an hour was the only thing that helped calm me down. But before that it might have been the moments leading up to my engagement, the first show I played or possibly awaiting some medical diagnosis. Whatever it was, it would definitely have been something that I had time to brood over. Things like the car accident were too much of a blur for the fear to creep in.

How do you listen to music?
Mostly alone, but there are a lot of factors that play into that, such as genre and current state of mind.

I do listen to music much more objectively these days than when I was young. The older I have gotten, the more interested I have become in the technical aspects of what’s happening sonically. I have a hard time going to shows at clubs or venues these days because I am too easily distracted by everything going on around me. It kills me if I can’t see what the artist is doing or if someone is too busy taking video, talking or tweeting in front of me about their experience.

At home, I have a seat by the window where vinyl listening occurs. Cassettes in the car on the commute. Digitally at work to drown out the 9-5.

Album Review

David Andree & Josh Mason – Call, Response (Own, 2014)

david andree & josh mason - call response album cover
David Andree & Josh Mason – Winter To Spring, Further Than First Thought (Own)

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After Mason’s The Symbiont scored the number one spot in my Top Drone list last year, suffice it to say I was craving more of his delicate sound. This new record, a collaboration with David Andree, fills the void quite nicely. Andree & Mason worked long distance (from Minnesota & Florida, respectively), each recording a piece to tape in one take and sent to the other with the stipulation that they too must record their contributions in a single take, with the intent of closely simulating a live collaboration. The results are pure fucking magic. These two dudes work so perfectly together, it’s as if they’re the man with two heads, both individuals’ unique ideas being implemented by the same body. Call, Response is the calming restrained guitar drone that I loved so much on The Symbiont with the addition of Andree’s field recordings & tape manipulation which gives an already multi-faceted sound an even deeper quality, this is the most tender music you can think of, each tone & click acting as a breath of life, nothing existing but the natural silence found between floating specks of dust, the pluck of a guitar string as subtle & precise as the blink of an eye, textured rustling and elongated resonance doing everything it can to point the way towards enlightenment, spend an entire lifetime looking at every detail in this record and you’ll always discover more. I can’t imagine how much effort went in to making a record this understated and profound, but we reap the benefits, and the elegance of this masterful ambient is ours to enjoy. Only 300 pressed, so do not sleep on this.

Top 20 Drone Records Of 2013

TWENTY!! Goddamn right. The Top Drone list could no longer be contained by the traditional 10. I’m not doing 20 because there was just too much awesome drone this year. While that’s true, it’s also true every year. No, I’m doing it because there were so few standout albums. Everything was so fucking awesome it’s like everyone juiced their skills but were all stopped by a glass ceiling or something. I mean my Top 5 are almost interchangeable. Well, not really, but sort of.

So, as usual, this list is about my personal favorite droners. Nothing objective going on. And, like AGB in general, I tend to favor the under-represented. And I don’t usually allow reissues, but I had to bend the rules a bit for no other reason than that one reissue is so, so fucking good and I didn’t know it was a reissue until I started making this list.

And you know I only write about the highest quality shit. So anything that was posted this year and tagged as Drone is basically just as good as everything you’ll see on this list. So browse that genre if you’re still jonesing for some more drone.

Onto the list!
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Album Review

Josh Mason – The Symbiont (Sunshine Ltd, 2013)


Josh Mason – Dying In A Canoe (Sunshine Ltd)

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Josh Mason isn’t quite new to the game, but still fresh enough to perk your ears. As far as I can tell, this is Mason’s first full length vinyl, and it’s a fucking winner. Some of the humblest drone I’ve ever heard, electroacoustic meditations on life, anxiety, and death, bringing an incredible depth to what could have been a very flat sound, tape hiss clear as day with the distant warbles & clicks sounding as if they’re inside your head, immaculate dreams filled with soft n glitchy guitars and airplane cabin static, intimate & calming on so many levels, the silence is anything but, embedding the slightest shred of serenity into every moment, and going full on lush euphoria in the most delicate & restrained way, a heaven I never knew existed and never want to leave, this is masterful in its beauty, a perfect goddamn record. Crazy limited, only 100 copies pressed, clear vinyl, and guaranteed to not last much longer. Don’t be a fool.