Top 10 Drone Records Of 2012

A couple months ago I was lamenting that 2012 had shit for good drone records. The words of a madman, clearly. This year was chock full of goodness, although to be honest, nothing this year is quite as good as my favorite drone record from 2011, Nicholas Szczepanik’s Please Stop Loving Me, which will always be the best thing ever. Still, there’s tons of amazing drone this year and it was damn near impossible to keep it trimmed to a tidy 10.

I know genre-specific lists are already niche enough, but I decided to give myself a couple new rules to help narrow my focus. First was defining “Drone Record,” which I hadn’t really done before. If you know the site, then you’ll know my drone tag is liberal. I throw that fucker on everything. But to me, for a record to be on a list of drone records, its top-level genre has to be drone. If I was cataloging it by genre, it would have to go under “Drone.” Not “Noise,” not “Black Metal,” not “Doom,” not “Folk.” Those could be sub-genres, just not the main one. This cleared out a lot of records. It meant I couldn’t include Horseback’s Half Blood (probably my favorite non-drone record this year), Gates’ Eintraum, Sutekh Hexen’s Behind The Throne, etc.

Second, I decided no reissues or box sets. I’ve sorta followed this one in the past, but I didn’t want highly publicized massive tomes like William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops or Pauline Oliveros’ epic 12 disc Reverberations stealing the thunder here.

As you know, I only write about the most top notch shit that gets me super psyched. Every drone record that came out this year and I reviewed should be on this list. So go digging through the drone tag and find the rest that just barely missed the cut. They’re all #11.
 
 

10. Moonshine BluesThrough (Hidden Vibes)
“Floating in the grey and rapt in heartache, while sheets & swells of euphoria shimmer in the dark, dragged to the edge of oblivion and left alone…”

One of the best drone releases this year is free. So go download this bleak beast right now and you can feel totally guilt free doing so. And it came out of left field, too. Self released (on his own label), solo Ukrainian guy making some sad fuckin jams, usually as Endless Melancholy, but venturing out into more “ambient” territory as Moonshine Blues. He’s got this blues drone thing down pat and it was more or less an experiment. A+ dude.
 
 

9. WastelandersCosmic Despair (Calls & Correspondence / Basses Frequences / Space Idea / Hewhocorrupts Inc.)
“The first few tracks are as depressing as it gets, gloom thick enough to asphyxiate on, solid minimal melancholy that turns your heart into lead and brings gods to tears.”

Gloomy. As. Fuck. The kind of sadness reserved for royalty eulogies & the internal monologue leading to suicides. Long torturous tracks that take the cake for most depressing drones. And super fucking gorgeous.
 
 

8. ConcernMisfortune (Isounderscore)
“…nervous nondescript fumbling & fidgeting to keep busy while the drones flutter, then a huge blissful shimmering cloud of hand-wringing uncertainty, slightly transparent and hovering right in front of the sun.”

Edgy box harp drone that’s as jangling as it is soothing. When a drone record has a certain novelty (like an atypical instrument as the primary focus) I usually get sucked in regardless, but this one is outstanding in its own right. A bittersweet swansong from Concern, Misfortune being the last release under that moniker. One of two Isounderscore releases on this list because that label is 100% quality.
 
 

7. Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoWe Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum)
“…always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers.”

A unique book release with no physical music included. Marino did the photos for the book and Weathers’ tunes come via download. I honestly can’t get enough of Weathers. Everything he does is magic. The absolute perfect blend of folk & drone, he fucking nails it every time. His banjo can do no wrong and his voice is probably the only one that should be allowed to sing over drone.
 
 

6. PortraitsPortraits (Important)
“…an impossibly minimal drone that’s almost too beautiful to handle.”

The supergroup to end supergroups (this time it’s true I promise). Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Evan Caminiti, Jon Porras, Gregg Kowalsky, Marielle Jakobsons, and Maxwell August Croy to name about half of them, all working in perfect unison, somehow making harmonies that I still can’t wrap my head around. Long form drones that some work years to achieve, these guys kicked out while they all still have their regular bands & shit going on. Unreal.
 
 

5. Kyle Bobby DunnIn Miserum Stercus (Komino)
“…the soft subtleties & elegant dances are still the core, but instead of charming or uplifting, we’re given somber & melancholic, tones dipping into ethereal, haunted dreams…”

Nope, not Bring Me The Head Of…, this one is better because it’s darker and a more unique addition to KBD’s discography. Plus it’s just better. The most beautiful misery I’ve ever heard, overwrought but without tension, intimate & devastating, delicate & harrowing. This is Dunn at the top of his fucking game.
 
 

4. EUS, Postdrome, & SaåadSustained Layers (BLWBCK)
“Dense and soaring, black anvil clouds rolling over open plains, always on the edge, seeing the sun rays glow and the grey mass shift, an impending fury that always threatens, never breaks…”

This is beyond gloom. This is as dark as you get before you hit black ambient. It would be downright terrifying if it wasn’t so fucking majestic. And I’d never heard of any of these three guys or the label before. Totally opened my eyes to a new minimal darkness. Supremely awesome.
 
 

3. Nicholas SzczepanikThe Truth Of Transience (Isounderscore)
“…a wonderful long form rhythm, it starts out menacing, all horror movie suspense style, with percussive gong-like warnings and imitation bowed cymbals, turning into a loud and blissfully unnerving swirl that eventually fades to nothing…”

Szczepanik put out 3 records this year (this, We Make Life Sad, and Luz, a collab with Federico Durand as Every Hidden Color). And Szczepanik is probably my most favoritest droner right now so why & how the fuck did I chose just one? First, not only did he take the number one spot last year but he was on that list twice (his Ante Algo Azul series couldn’t be skipped). And while this is a totally biased & subjective list, I still feel the need to be a little fair to everyone who’s not Szczepanik. I mean, if he put out 10 records, chances are they’d comprise the whole list, so I tried to restrain myself and only picked one. While Luz is incredible, it didn’t hit me the way his other two did. And We Make Life Sad is one of the most personal and unique albums this year, truly amazing, but I thought I could exclude it due to it being less droney than The Truth Of Transience. Oh, and because Transience is fucking stunning. Out of the three, this one unquestionably wins the gold.
 
 

2. High Aura’dSanguine Futures (Bathetic)
“…a foggy midnight journey through the middle of the ocean, with distant muffled canons fighting off some ancient sea beast, mythical & literal sirens wailing, calling with sweetness & alarm, chimes and clatter rattling in the still darkness…”

How the hell did High Aura’d make a record this goddamn good? Seriously, this is amazing in so many ways. Dark & minimal rumblings that breathe soft and threaten your life. I literally can’t imagine him ever making a better record than Sanguine Futures and it’s only his third outing as High Aura’d. I’m pretty sure he will at some point, though, because this dude gets exponentially better with each release. But even if he doesn’t, this is a black star that’ll forever outshine so many other records.
 
 

1. SuperstormsSuperstorms (Experimedia)
“Crushed bits and burnt clouds, a blurred fury dipped in bliss, sunsets viewed through a grit lens, a trillion grey sky pixels fractured with the glow shining through, brittle static & warm drones blown out, scratched out, washed out…”

There’s a lot of dark & depressing shit on this list (tough times this past year) but the Number One sidesteps my masochism in favor of something that resonates so profoundly with me. Superstorms crafts the kind of drone that I feel is at my core, the kind of drone I crave more than any other: gritty, blissful, and fucking loud. I feel most at peace when records like this are so loud they obscure everything else in my brain. I can barely stand how fucking awesome Superstorms is. Serious next level drones. I’ve never heard anything else quite like it. I hope that you like this even half as much as I do because FUUUCK I love it too fucking much and the world would be a better place if everyone shared in this stupidly perfect love.

Forgotten Fifteen

This year has been like every other year, in which I don’t review a ton of shit that’s awesome because I’m busy reviewing a ton of other shit that’s awesome. That’s the name of the game. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, not a big fan of ‘em, but since that’s definitely the cool thing to do in 2012, and because I know some items on my year end list haven’t gotten any airtime over here, I thought it would be a grand idea to call out some records that I personally have been jamming like a motherfucker. So here’s 15 records I should have reviewed. They’re not ranked but feel free to speculate wildly if any of these might make the coveted number one spot on my Top 10 Drone list come the end of the year/life as we know it.
 

HorsebackHalf Blood (Relapse)
Probably the best record to come out this year (but best drone record? tough call). This has been my go to since it came out, blending black metal and drone with a dusty psych. Jenks Miller’s vocals are thick & gruff and tear right fucking through the lush guitars. Yeah, everyone & their little sister have been raving about this one but that should just tell you how fucking spectacular it is.
 


PortraitsPortraits (Important)
Portraits are a supergroup and a half, with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Evan Caminiti, Jon Porras, Lisa McGee, Gregg Kowalsky, Marielle Jakobsons, Maxwell August Croy, Steven Dye, Tony Cross, and Michael Elrod, all making an impossibly minimal drone that’s almost too beautiful to handle. How they were able to corral themselves into making an album so singular and so seamless is beyond me. It’s a shame knowing their output can never keep up with my hopes because after hearing this I want at least another record every year. Something tells me that’s never gonna happen.
 


PanopticonKentucky (Handmade Birds / Pagan Flames)
This one might be making Euronymous twitch in his grave. Kentucky is some truly bizarre black metal that’s sandwiched with some old banjos n bluegrass. Panopticon’s always been one for weirdness but this is a whole other level, some tracks could be taken out of context and your gramp would think it was from one of his old 78s. Gives Half Blood a run for its money for black metal ROTY.
 


Wreck & ReferenceNo Youth (The Flenser)
These Californian devastators seriously don’t give a fuck about genres. This is one that really defies categorization and does a damn good job at evading description. Black metal, doom, noise, sure, all of that, then a decent dose of wtf and leaning heavy on the post-everything. They’re doing their own thing and they’re fucking obliterating everything that stood before them.
 


Mario Diaz De Leon / ONEIROGENHypnos (Denovali / Shinkoyo)
De Leon put out Hypnos under his own name earlier this year with Shinkoyo taking care of the CD version. Then he decided the sound was different enough from his normal modern classical style music to put it under a different name, ONEIROGEN. All further releases in this style will be using that name. Now, Denovali is reissuing Hypnos on vinyl next month (using the ONEIROGEN moniker). You definitely need to keep an eye out for it because this is fucking stellar and might get snatched up quickly. Crazy thick synths (and guitars?) doing something dark & blissful, noisy & droney, like an industrial/power electronics dude taking cues from OPN and Goblin and scoring a film based on a Poe story. Super fucking awesome. One of the best albums this year.
 


Pauline OliverosReverberations: Tape And Electronic Music 1961-1970 (Important)
A truly epic collection, 12 discs of Oliveros’ legendary tape & electronics work, early avant garde shit that has mostly never seen the light of day for us commoners. She’s a legit master in her field and having something this comprehensive with detailed liner notes in a sweetly packaged box set is more than I could ever hope for. A thousand thanks to Important and the many contributors for putting this together.
 


Mount EerieClear Moon (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Clear Moon may not have the shredding black metal moments that Wind’s Poem had, but that just means this is a little more consistent, it’s no less bleak or dark, and it’s just as tender. It’s kinda hard not to fall head over heals for everything Elverum puts out but this may be my favorite thing he’s done, ever. Absolutely amazing.
 


Sutekh HexenBehind The Throne (Magic Bullet)
These dudes are set to take over today’s black metal scene and tear it to shreds. They’ve put out a handful of releases in the past year or two, but Behind The Throne is their latest and it’s the best fucking thing ever. Torrents of noise and vocal static, blistering atmospherics and destructive guitars, this is so insanely good it’s hard to wrap your brain around due to it being melted, etc. So much more than your usual black metal noise.
 


Man ForeverPansophical Cataract (Thrill Jockey)
Our generation’s Buddy Rich, Kid Millions is out to make sure people fully understand what it means to be a drummer. Man Forever is his drum project that sounds like a Niagara of octopuses playing a Niblockian cacophony. Smooth long form drumming that’s blissful and engaging with a thousand layers of drone to rub you all the right ways.
 


InfinitasJourney To Infinity (Self-Mutilation Services / Razed Soul)
Solo German black metal project with a debut to make you want to jump out of a plane without a parachute. This is some killer post rock stuff mashed with devastating DSBM, crazy soaring guitars and crushing crescendos with torturous wailing screeches that would be like nails on a chalkboard if if wasn’t so harmoniously complemented by the cloud surfing bleakness.
 


AufgehobenFragments Of The Marble Plan (Holy Mountain)
When are these guys gonna get theirs? They already have a doting cult of noiseheads that snag everything possible. Maybe we’re just stingy? Whatever, Aufgehoben’s newest slab of concrete chaos is in a sexy gatefold courtesy of Holy Mountain and is absolutely flooring. Honestly, this is some special speaker melting noise, astonishing even to the noise naysayers in its ability to knock the wind out of you. There’s nothing quite like an Aufgehoben record and this is some of their best work to date.
 


Fenn O’BergIn Hell (Editions MEGO)
You’re pretty much guaranteed something fantastic when Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke, and Peter Rehberg get together, but In Hell takes their killer collabs to another dimension. Namely, a dark and disturbing dimension. All of it was recorded at performances during their 2010 tour of Japan and while it’s generally just an amazing drone/dark ambient record, it takes some unexpected turns with strange samples and furious anger. It gets absolutely bombastic, thick & blissful, melodic static paving the way for sharp shimmer & delicate lullabies. It goes in a hundred different directions all at once, impossible to predict but infinitely awesome.
 


Duane PitreFeel Free (Important)
Duane’s a dude who’s been doing his minimal thing for years, under the radar and somehow missing his deserved notoriety, until Feel Free came out this year and everyone’s like “whoa this guy is fuckin rad.” Right you are, everyone. This is a group performance of his “Feel Free” composition, an electro-acoustic wonder bringing a much needed elegance to the table. Processed strings & guitars weave their drones through organic plucks & bows, softness & kindness found in every breath. A truly superb album that craves a wide-eyed audience.
 


Jon Mueller & James PlotkinTerminal Velocity (Taiga)
A match made in heaven, Mueller & Plotkin have taken their respective talents and bestowed upon us a grand work of art. Both enormous & subtle, it’s an album for deep focus, it stretches time like a meditation guru, taking a lifetime to dwell in one space and slowly crawling to a mass of heavy static drones and hypnotic drums. Listening to this will fundamentally change you.
 


Jute GyteIsolation (Jeshimoth Entertainment)
What the fucked up black metal for the twisted and depraved. One Missouri soul with a ridiculous amount of releases (10+ in less than 2 years), although not all of them hitting the black metal mark, Isolation is certainly a bizarre beast of hardened blackness. Screechy vocals, lurching rhythms coupled with machine gun blast beats, atonal & wonky guitars, tossing in a droning euphoric track in the middle to make sure you don’t go insane before the hour of demoralized noise is up. “Unique” doesn’t even come close.