Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Album Review

Jon Mueller – dHrAaNwDn (Rhythmplex, 2017)


 

Jon Mueller is forever one of my favorite musicians. He drums in ways other people can’t even imagine composing and conjures ecstatic trances of glossolalia like it’s nothing more than making his morning coffee. Every record is somehow a new journey into a different state of rapture while always using the same methods of creation. Recently released on his on Rhythmplex label, dHrAaNwDn (pronounced “hand drawn”) is a document of his fresh frenzied percussion and it’s unreal.

The 2xLP is an excerpt of his performance at the Shaker Historical Society’s Meeting House in Albany, NY where he played 4 drums for 6 hours. The location was central to Mueller’s performance: it was the home to many “spirit gifts,” visions, healings, and trance-like episodes during the Shakers’ Era Of Manifestations. Mueller channels this history directly into the music, becoming a path to spiritual enlightenment.

Each side of the vinyl is (or at least sounds like) a single uncut piece of the performance with Mueller pounding away at his kit, the reverb in the room making it difficult to tell exactly just how fast he’s playing, not that you’d ever actually be able to tell, he’s a macro embodiment of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, you know exactly where he is but his BPM is dynamic, not because he’s human, but because he’s a goddamn machine, Mueller is more reliable than a metronome so his rhythm fluctuations are perfectly executed.

This is a record unlike any other (even other Mueller records), this is him at his most euphoric and hypnotic, the bridge between two worlds manifested in a single human’s body. Hearing this is humbling, and I can hardly imagine what seeing the performance live was like. Luckily, if you’re willing to dish out some extra cash, there’s a deluxe edition of dHrAaNwDn (50 copies) that features the entire public performance on a cassette, so you can get the next best thing to being a direct witness. The standard edition (200 copies) is still super sweet though, with a die cut jacket (the bottom circle in the image up there is cut out) to show the printed inner sleeve. I know I typically have a stream for my reviews, but since Mueller is keeping this out of the digital world, I’m honoring his request by not ripping a track from the vinyl. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. But really, you should definitely trust me on this one.

Album Review

Top 20 Metal Records Of 2016

I did it! I made another list. I didn’t think it would happen, but it happened. No more lists, though. This is the last one for 2016.

Lots of black metal this year. And I mean lots. But it’s all A+ Amazing. I didn’t hear too much doom (or rather too much premium doom) this year, but, again the doom that was good was really fucking good. There’s tons of weird shit in here that pushes the limits of metal that you should come to expect from my metal lists. Also, I gotta say I’m surprised at the amount of color found on these album covers. 10 of them feature full multi-colored artwork and even more toss in some non-greyscale-but-still-monochromatic flair.

I did something that some of you may find treasonous. I have 2 records tied for first place. So, technically, this is a Top 21 list, but whatever. I spent way too long (like, weeks, maybe even months?) trying to decide which of the two I loved more and just couldn’t settle on one answer for more than a few days. And when I was putting this post together I realized “fuck it, there’s no reason I need to choose one over the other” and thus the Tied For Number 1 spot was born. I’m happy about it and you should be too.

As usual, I try to keep the big names/labels off the list because I’m definitely not a metal blog and I’m sure you all know that The Body, Ash Borer, SubRosa, Cough, ColdWorld, and Primitive Man put out truly outstanding records this year. You don’t need another site to tell you how good they are.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Album Review

Top 30 Drone Records Of 2016

I did it! I made a list. I didn’t think it would happen being a new dad and all, but it happened. I’m going to try to make a Top Metal list too, but no promises.

At 30 entries, this is the longest Top Drone list I’ve made. But I’ve been eschewing reviews lately and focusing on AGB Radio and A Thick Mist, so I figure 30 is acceptable if you count how many records I’ve directly recommended over the past year.

I seem to continually expand my definition of what a Drone Record is, which means there’s probably a few on here that are stretching the confines of that label, but I still did my best to try to keep it as Drone as possible.

There’s plenty of reoccurring themes in here. Namely, lots of voices/singing (11 have vocals present at least somewhere on the record) and lots of organs & harmoniums. Neither of those are all that surprising, though. But there’s two solo records from drummers, so that’s kinda cool. There’s also two heavily inspired by traditional Indian music, also kinda cool.

I had fun with this one. I changed a few things up this year. First, I decided to exclude any artist that’s been on any previous list. This meant no Saåad, Roly Porter, Andrew Weathers, Sarah Davachi, Mamiffer, Ian William Craig, Danny Paul Grody, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, etc. (Seriously though go listen to the new Saåad and Mamiffer records.) No one likes to see the same people on such a niche list over and over again, so this was a good way to keep things new and exciting.

The other thing I decided to do was not rank this in the traditional way. Instead, I put the records in positions 7-30 into four groups of six, and the records within each group aren’t ranked. So that means the records in group 7-12 aren’t ranked, aside from me liking them more than the previous 13-30 drone records. I did this except for the top 6, which are ranked traditionally. I hope it’s not too confusing.

As usual, I try to keep the Big Droners off this list because anyone who’s a fan of drone probably already knows that Eluvium and Tim Hecker put out records this year and while their music is A+ Amazing, they don’t really need a little DIY blog to help them out.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Album Review

STREAM PREMIERE: Shovels Beat The Sun – Sky Wires (Bitrot, 2016)

Shovels Beat The Sun - Sky Wires album cover
 

I’m so so fucking psyched about this. This record was going to be on my Top Drone list last year, but they had to delay the release date… UNTIL NOW.

Shovels Beat The Sun is the duo of two of my favorite droners: Björn Granzow (aka The End Of The World Championship) and Steve Fors (aka Aeronaut, The Golden Sores) and this monolithic slab-o-static Sky Wires is their debut of jaw-dropping, face-slapping, brain-smashing drone. This is The Shit. Heavy, heavy shit, that weighs on your soul as much as your eardrums, an angsty sadness that flips off climaxes and is just solid hypnobliss right from the start, sounding like amplifier worship that forgoes the amps and takes the distorted scorch to a whole new level, absolutely fucking gorgeous, impenetrable and otherworldly, this is every perfect drone record rolled together and tangled up in a masterful meditative mindmelt.

Shovels Beat The Sun get the honor of being the first physical release from Siavash Amini’s Bitrot label. Limited to 100 hand-numbered CDs, each with a generative unique machine-cut pattern, this is essential Drone in every sense. Officially released this upcoming Friday, September 9, you can knab a copy over at Bitrot and stream the whole thing below.

 

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

Top 20 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records Of 2015

Third list! One more to go. No genre theme this time, but I excluded drone & metal records because they have their own lists. Although there are a few that almost made it onto either of those other lists (see: 12, 10, 7, 6), I felt they weren’t quite droney or metal enough to make the cut, so now they’re here. I hope there’s some new jams in here that you haven’t heard yet and that it’s not too predictable.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the huge lack of some of my favorite records that were just too big for me to want to include. Namely, Carly Rae Jepsen, Chrvches, and Purity Ring (among others). Those definitely wouldn’t seen some Top 5 action.

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Album Review

Top 15 Metal Records Of 2015

I’ve reviewed a decent amount of metal records, I’ve made four Black (Metal) Mixmas mixes, and last year’s non-genre list had a few metal records in it, but I’ve never done a full metal-only list (except for the little thing in Black (Metal) Mixmas IV), so I hope this doesn’t seem too out of place, but honestly I listen to wayyyyy more metal than I ever write about on AGB, so this sort of makes up for that I guess. I’m not as deep into the metal scene as I am the drone one, so I’m sure there’s way more awesome obscure metal records that would’ve made it onto this list had I heard them, but whatever. If you’ve got any recs, let me know in the comments or email!

And in case you’re not a huge metal fan, know that there’s plenty of stuff on this list that A: is only debatably metal (see: numbers 15, 13, 12, 1) and B: has plenty of AGB friendly elements aka drone, noise, etc (see: numbers 9, 6, 5, 4, 1).

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

 
 

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Album Review

Top 10 Collaborative Drone Records Of 2015

There was so much amazing fucking music this year, I had to put together not one, not two, but FOUR lists, this is the first of em, and it’s a fuckin doozy, since there were wayyyy too many killer drone records, I split it up and made a more niche list of drone collaborations, and as usual, this isn’t even all of em. My main rule for this list was that the collaborations had to be people working together for the first time, so the new From The Mouth Of The Sun was out. And since I didn’t review any of these originally, I can’t link you to the review which has a streaming song, which is why I decided to include a song for each of these.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

 

UPDATE: I have no idea how I didn’t realize that EUS, Postdrome, & Saåad broke the only rule I had for this list. I didn’t even realize it when I was linking to my previous Top Drone list from 2012 that had their first record. So, oops. I’m an asshole and I’m sorry.

 
 

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Album Review

PREMIERE STREAM: Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Music For Snowdrifts (Ba Da Bing, 2015)

Jenks Miller - Music For Snowdrifts album cover
 

 
 
I’m not really the kind of site that does premieres or news or anything “breaking,” which should be pretty obvious to regular readers. But when Jenks Miller contacted me asking if I wanted to premiere the stream of his new project’s debut record, I fucking jumped at the chance. So, thanks x10000 for this, Jenks.

Jenks is the main dude behind Horseback, the drone turned black psych band that’s now on Relapse, and he’s done plenty of other shit too, like Mount Moriah and various solo things and collaborations. This new one, Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC, is “kind of a semi-solo project,” having performed live in his hometown North Carolina area with an assortment of helping hands. But on this debut, it’s just Jenks and his partner Elysse Thebner making a holy transcendent sound. Music For Snowdrifts is some megachill drone psych folk that’s hazy as fuck, sounding like the musical embodiment of a daydream, mostly just a wobbly guitar accompanied by some tender percussion, subtle synths, and soft vocals. Jenks is always upping his game, even when he’s shifting gears, and Snowdrifts is no different, it’s just absolutely fucking killer, zoning out into the shimmering golden sky, a sweet serene bliss obscured by gauze & fuzz, more or less a straightforward sound that’s executed perfectly, I can’t recommend this one enough, regardless of your familiarity with Jenks’ previous material or your fondness towards psych, this is fucking magnificent on every level.

So stream the whole thing here and then stop by Ba Da Bing because this is available as of today. Get on it.

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

Jordan De La Sierra – Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose (Numero Group, 2014)

jordan de la sierra - gymnosphere song of the rose album cover
Jordan De La SierraMusic For Gymnastics (Numero Group)
 

There’s kind of an unofficial rule that I don’t write about reissues on AGB (for too many reasons to go into here) but this record is a perfect example of why that’s not an official rule. Jordan De La Sierra should be spoken about in the same breath as Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Lubomyr Melnyk, but he only put out two records (in ’77 and ’88), so he was destined to fade into obscurity under the New Age revolution. I never heard of De La Sierra before this Numero reissue of the original 2xLP, and that’s just a fucking travesty. This music is absolutely stellar, 100 transformative minutes spread out over 4 soft piano pieces, looped melodies creating meditative rhythms, slow ambient keys soloed out and resonating in your soul, nothing but harmony and sober trances, the delicacies of hypnotic piano ambience laid out in the most masterful and endearing way, everything about this says “fucking classic” and hopefully Numero has been the catalyst for that. And since this is a bigger label, no song download from me, but that “Music For Gymnastics” link up there goes to a Soundcloud stream of the full 24 minute song, so dive in, then throw your money at Numero.

Album Review

William Cody Watson – Seafoam (self released / No Kings, 2014)

william cody watson - seafoam album cover
William Cody WatsonSeafoam (self released / No Kings)

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William Cody Watson is easily one of the most underrated and underrepresented bliss droners, and Seafoam is his final release, not as in he’s going on to make music using another moniker, he’s just done, no more music as WCW or Pink Priest or Gremlynz or Malibu Wands or any other name, but he’s going out on the fucking top with this one and he corralled thee High Aura’d to contribute some field recordings and piano, so this is a fuckin brilliant piece of sound, with gorgeous cascading harmonies and slow shifting tones that glow like angel choirs descending from a cracked open Cecil B. DeMille sky, the light of the world shining straight into your heart, and low sober minimalism, pulled out from your deep aching core and rapt in endless sorrows, melancholic & resigned, not admitting defeat but acknowledging reality, with long stretches of unsteadiness, the trembling anxiety before plunging into the unknown, and hoping it turns out ok, this is tender and glorious and just absolutely fucking magnificent, and you get your choice of digital, which Watson released back in January, or tape, which No Kings just dropped.

Album Review

Pascal Savy – Adrift (Eilean, 2014)

pascal savy - adrift album cover
Pascal SavyGhost Echoes (Eilean)

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While Pascal Savy has a few releases under his belt, this is the first I’ve heard of him, and holy shit am I glad I finally did, this record is fucking outstanding, a slab of dark drone “mythical seascapes,” using foreboding static swells and washes of minimal thrum to evoke images of desolate fog-cloaked seamen lost in the middle of an oceanic world (yeah that album artwork is fucking spot on for this one), super bleak, super beautiful, this is all about the taste of salty air and the serenity of calm waters while slowly suffocating under the impenetrable gloom above, slow & meditative with moments of overwhelming squalls, I feel myself drowning and it’s a welcome respite.

Album Review

Siavash Amini – What Wind Whispered To The Trees (Futuresequence, 2014)

siavash amini - what wind whispered to the trees album cover
Siavash AminiThe Wind (Futuresequence)

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This Iranian dude has only a handful of releases to his name (although he’s been making music for a while with other bands and such) but from the sound of What Wind Whispered To The Trees I’m pretty sure he’s already at the top of his game, this record is jaw droppingly beautiful, full of overwhelming moody drone accompanied by a tender & sincere violin by Nima Aghiani, from the moment the opening track starts swirling in a dark & stormy cloud of gorgeous melancholy, you know you’ve chosen the right path, and it just gets better & better, walls of hissing static and long stretches of gloom, this is full of heartache, the brooding drone and a crying violin bringing back all the grief you’ve experienced all at once, a slow rush of pain to the head, smooth but devastating, the kind of sounds that I live for, this is just absolutely fucking fantastic work, I can’t wait to see where Amini goes next.

Album Review

Skullflower – Draconis (Cold Spring, 2014)

skullflower - draconis album cover
SkullflowerSunset Dreams (Cold Spring)

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The masters of chaotic drone are back with their first solo full length since 2011’s Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses, and this time it’s a double CD overstuffed with a total fucking maelstrom of gloriously harsh drone, and some might balk at the drone label here but make no mistake, this has all the makings of the most perfect fucking drone, overwhelmingly loud with a thousand layers going at once, each seeming like they’re totally independent from each other, doing their own thing, but they work in a discordant unison and form a cohesive slab of destruction, at a distance, this sounds like an impenetrable waterfall of noise, but the closer you get, the clearer it becomes, patterns emerge and harmonies rise from the static, this is an unequaled transcendent experience, and I know I’ve been throwing around “transcendent” a lot lately, but it’s always been appropriate, and here even more so, Draconis takes drone to new heights, this is a spiritual rite, the majestic mess of sounds conjured are not only the conduit to a greater truth, but themselves are an element of the Holiness that Skullflower embrace, they’ve created an altar of tumultuous bliss and call you forth to take part in the worship, you can’t fucking deny this.