Blood Bright Star – Pale Sphere Apparition (King Of The Monsters / Ascetic House)
My first introduction to Reuben Sawyer’s music as Blood Bright Star was on the excellent split 7″ with High Aura’d on Anti-Matter, after that I couldn’t wait for a new full length and this thing fucking delivers, a mystifying blend of motorik psych and mellow doom, this is refreshingly original shit that’s absolutely fucking brilliant, with deep grooves conjuring dusty demons, wobbly buzzing guitars and even wobblier vocals, this is the sound of a desolate seance, a shaman who’s out of his mind in the middle of nowhere, jamming hard on the occult vibes and going to shadowy places I’ve never heard of, never escalating into anything transcendent or overwhelming but rather a slow burning fog that feels like it’s warping your brain with every passing moment, this is magick of the highest order, and The Silver Head being his second full length, Blood Bright Star is only getting started, I can’t fucking wait to see this project develop.
Taiga Remains – There’s Nothing (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
I’ve been holding on to this one for a while, spinning it on the regular at AGB HQ, digging deep into the subtle drone, this is to be Alex Cobb’s final release under the Taiga Remains moniker, although this isn’t new work, it’s a collection of two out-of-print tapes, the A side is Beneath The Weeping Beeches on Ekhein and the B side is Thereafter on Arbor, both originally released in 2008, but the great thing about this is that Taiga Remains has never had a vinyl release all to himself, it’s always been splits, so now you’ve got his wondrous smooth tones on what is essentially a full length, and the world is a better place, these are some dark & beautiful sounds, hunting through empty industrial plains in search of the glimmer of an epiphany, desperately hoping there’s something beyond the substance in front of you, absorbed in the delicate grit and shifting muffled majesty that soothes in a way harrowing music rarely does, this is mindful, meditative, and gloriously expansive, a vast open landscape speckled with the remnants of a once great civilization, the dust still settling and lit up by the sun shining through the breaking sky, this is a truly fantastic record, and what a great gift to have this remastered and repackaged on sweet sweet wax, all thanks to the impeccable HSA.
Peter J. Woods – Impure Gold (FTAM / Hewhocorrupts Inc)
Milwaukee DIY champ Peter J. Woods, self described maker of “Theatrical Harsh Noise,” part of Phoned Nil Trio, xALLxFORxTHISx, and FTAM head, drops his vinyl debut (7″s be damned) and the world is now a better place, this is high caliber shit, throwing down the dynamics gauntlet on here, going for long stretches of absolute silence (or so far out of my fucked up hearing range that it might as well be) to harsh walls of caustic blown out static and high end insect skree, this has so much range that if you’re not careful you’ll fry your speakers & eardrums from cranking it up during the quite parts because it’s fuckin tricky like that, rusty industrial clank & rattle alongside nonsensical vocal samples processed to sound like a glitching melted Speak & Spell, obliterated screaming and ghostly dungeon whispers over an acid bath wash, tinnitus buzzing drone vaguely reminiscent of Charlemagne Palestine or Birchville Cat Motel, but always, relentlessly, an unpredictable treachery, this isn’t noise for noise sake, nor for shock value, nor for machismo, it’s elaborate, beguiling, & filthy as fuck, and it’s fucking excellent.
Sublamp – Our Bodies Draped In Moss And Cloud (Eilean)
Sublamp, aka Ryan Connor, is primarily interested in “pre-language experience” and Lianas takes us on a trip to the cloud forests of Monteverde, evoking a strong jungle vibe without the jungle rhythm, this is a gorgeously lush drone that’s just pure fucking bliss, 4 tracks, 3 of them nice & long, slow burning thick minimalism, like huffing ether to the point just before passing out and seeing stars dancing everywhere, parts of it reminding me of the precise intimate guitar work of Josh Mason, other parts going full blown texture overload, tender, warm, & timeless, I feel like I’ve been listening to this forever, the hum & crackle acting as the foundation of my life, a majestic fog rolling through your memory, giving everything a euphoric glow, this is truly spectacular drone, easily one of my favorites from this year, and the CD looks beautiful with deluxe handmade packaging and strictly limited to 80 copies.
Telecult Powers – Never Ending Empires (Experimedia)
Crazy duo of Witchbeam & Mr. Matthews are back at it with a stellar freakshow on Experimedia that features guests like Rachel & Grant Evans (Motion Sickness of Time Travel & Nova Scotian Arms) and Lala Ryan (Excepter), so already this record is at peak awesomeness. Dark rhythmic weirdness banged out in an enchanted lodge that sounds just like what you’d hope a record called Black Meditations would sound like, unnerving noise waving in & out of focus, bleary drone making you woozy and filling every inch of the room, suffocating and hypnotic, conjuring an inter-dimensional knowledge of the Beyond, these guys capture the ritualistic séance of the 21st century with a creeped out occult vibe that permeates every moment, from the stuttering static and panning future electronics to the bizarre samples and mystical imagery, this record is way off the deep end, and I gotta say I’m both surprised and impressed Experimedia released this. Not their usual type of jam, but clearly Black Meditations transcends that bullshit, this will be right at home in any weirdo’s collection.
Dama/Libra – Stravinsky (Northern Spy)
Holy fuck this collab is immeeeense, Silkworm vet Joel Phelps and G. Stuart Dahlquist formerly from Sunn O))) and now Asva got together and made something way more than that math has any right to add up to, Phelps’ vocals that sound so much better with Asva style gloom than any of Asva’s previous collabs and any of Phelps’ previous stuff, including Silkworm, so yeah I’m saying this is maybe the best work either guys have been involved in (well not including Sunn O))) because come on), this is a droning brooding hulk of avant doomed orchestral majesty, the darkness offering an easy passage to the other side, soft, smooth, and easy to swallow, but still heavy and fuckin weird, the organs sounding like a dungeon’s lobby music, guitars, drums, pianos, and everything else within reach aching & bellowing from the deep, crazy samples of thunder cracks and cheering children, resonant, moaning vocals floating out from misty crypts and hallowed cathedrals, at once beautiful, powerful, & super emotional, then it ventures into catchy indie pop territory with steel drums and shit that manages to come off as anything but cheesy, an inexplicably enjoyable record that is seriously fucking bizarre in the best possible way, eerie and dark as fuck but something you could probably toss on while the normal friends visit and you wouldn’t get too many weird looks, I honestly have no idea how this record got made or what went through their minds when making it, this is the most original music I’ve heard in a long fucking time, and I’ll be pretty much devastated if these dudes don’t put out any more records together.
Mamaleek – Almost Done Toiling Here (Flenser)
This is Mamaleek’s fourth record. The first self released self titled album was absolutely insane experimental shoegazey black metal, then Fever Dream added some jazzy shit to the mix, then Kurdaitcha went Middle Eastern, but they always managed to fuck you up in different ways while still sounding like the same band. This new LP mixes everything they’ve done in the past and spits out a brilliantly unique and otherworldly black metal that should suite all fans of the fucked & twisted, sitting well with now label-mates Wreck & Reference and Botanist, sharing Botanist’s borderline poppy melodies that’ll get stuck in your head while the roaring gritty ferocity of W&R beats your bones to a pulp, along with mesmerizing mournful foreign sampled singing, blown out beat machines, obliterated vocals, and beastly buzzing guitars that favor distortion over tremolo, this is raw as hell and fuckin EPIC, lo-fi not in the shitty production way but like this was buried & baked in a desert for a hundred years and only just now unearthed, these guys are fuckin demons, thrashing in a new style of black metal that nobody else is doing or even can do, the best kind of blackness that you instantly fall in love with and makes you rethink all the other run of the mill shit you’ve been digging lately, this is what everyone else should hold as their standard, the fucking pinnacle of wretched heaviness.
Ian William Craig – TEAC Poem (Recital)
Since Craig’s A Forgetting Place snuck into last year’s Top Drone list at number 4, he’s already released an incredible digital release (Theia And The Archive) and now he’s prepping his debut vinyl for Recital and holy mother of god this record is going to tear everyone’s soul to shreds and sit itself upon the Throne of Drone, reigning all from here on out. Craig is trained as an opera singer, and he takes his incredible voice and fucks it up with some Basinski style tape madness, going over the top with an emotional rollercoaster, this dude sings so fucking sweetly if he collaborated with Julianna Barwick world peace would be inevitable, he sends it straight to the stratosphere, soaring euphoria, and then cracks it into a million pieces with decaying texture and warbled beauty, this is the sonic equivalent of a Turner painting, horror and melancholy in stormy waters amidst the sun shining bright with hope & purity on the fringe, crumbling crackling harmony turned inside out, bursting with life and on the edge of death, I feel absolutely fucking devastated listening to this, it’s the most heart-wrenching, overwhelming, fucked up, perfect, warm, somber, delicate, monster of a drone record, I know I tend to dramatize things when I get excited about a record but for real this is the best fucking thing you’ll hear all year, maybe for the next 5 years, I don’t know, it’s just a goddamn masterpiece. And you may remember me saying in my review of A Forgetting Place that there was one song, “On The Reach Of Explanations,” that could have comprised the whole record and I still would’ve been just as psyched because that song is just un-fucking-believable, well that song made it onto A Turn Of Breath which means I can spin that track until the grooves wear out and I’ve passed out from heavenly bliss overload. So yeah, this new one has a couple of “old” songs but Craig has never had a physical release so I’m totally game. Only 500 copies getting pressed up (including 125 deluxe editions) so seriously do not waste another minute in pre-ordering this. 100% necessary for everyone.
Lawrence English – The Liquid Casket (Room40)
Lawrence English is one of the artists that continuously/impossibly tops himself with each new release and Wilderness Of Mirrors is just fucking jaw dropping. Way more dynamic and aggressive that his recent efforts, this is the drone that smothers all competitors, it’s dark and audacious, intense sounds coming from midnight forest jaunts, swirling static that cuts deep alongside delicate chimes and melodious humming, balancing perfectly the reassuring soft tenderness & sky high soaring bliss with nightmarish gravitas & densely melancholic cacophony, English unleashes a visceral chaos peppered with the sweetest fucking drone, delicate minimalism, and moments of sheer triumph, all mixed together this is full blown euphoria that is unrivaled, dude is at the top of his game on this record and his game can’t be fucked with. This is all time Top Ten stuff. Immerse yourself.
D. Burke Mahoney – Tidal Currents (Cathedral Transmissions)
This underrated dude is quickly proving to be one of my favorites in the current drone world. His newest outing comes from the appropriately named Cathedral Transmissions, and it’s a fuckin grand slam of a record, with four long pieces (ranging from 11 to 18 minutes) of gorgeously minimal drone, that wavers between modern classical and flat out hypno-wave tones, tossing in some field recording-esque texture, this thing goes all the way to the depths of your soul and just chills, hovering inside you while the thick warm hum smothers your every fiber, and the last (longest) song is almost like Basinski doing an ambient techno track, with the beats stretched wayyyy out and super fuckin murky, it’s fucking incredible, Mahoney wields subtlety & patience with such perfection it’s like he’s been doing this forever, but he’s only got a handful of releases and a bunch of one-offs on various comps & podcasts & such. Hopefully that’ll change soon because he clearly deserves the attention. And Sonora is wonderfully packaged in a cardboard envelope with artwork by Jessica Bell on the front. Super sweet. Super limited (45 copies). Definitely worth adding to your collection.
UPDATE: Looks like this one’s already sold out. Sorry about that. But there’s always digital, and it’s a fuckin steal at £2.
Gog – The Lies, They Want To Give You Something (King Of The Monsters)
Muther. Fucken. GOG. This dude rules all. Everything he’s done has been the highest caliber black drone metal and his newest self titled release on the ever trustworthy KOTM takes shit to the next level. Things are way rowdier than before, less drone (but also more drone?), more songy songs, even pianos & vocals (with Francesca Marongiu of Agarttha & Architeuthis Rex lending her incredible voice to one track), the heavy doom is amped up, cranked to 11, and absolutely mono-fuckin-lithic, serious blown out darkness spewed from a core of pure fury & pain, the black metal blacker and metaller than it’s ever been, Gog transformed into a dynamic beast capable of droning silent voids of non-existence and unholy squalls roaring from the depths of despair, listen to this at maximum volume and be prepared for a true pummeling, this is a wholly unique record, and as a Gog fan, I can safely say it’s my favorite thing he’s ever released. Only 300 copies pressed, and if you’re unfamiliar with Gog or KOTM, know that this will not stick around long.
No need to rehash the stuff I’ve already written about with a mid-year best of list. Once a year is plenty. And sometimes (ok all the time) it’s hard to keep up with all the supremely excellent releases that come out. And sometimes it’s easier to just bang out a bunch of mini(ish) reviews all at once so I don’t feel like I’m trapped under a stack of promos that’s ready to cave in on me. So here’s the awesome shit that came out this year (one was originally released on CD last year but put out on vinyl this year so whatever) that I didn’t have time to get around to. Each and every one of these is fantastic enough to have deserved their own individual review but oh well, so it’s likely more than one of these will end up on my year end Top Drone list. And while some of these records have already gotten more than enough coverage elsewhere, they’re all just too good for me to ignore. But I’m sure you’ll be able to find some stuff in here you haven’t heard yet.
Also, if record on here was self released, chances are it’s available for pay what you can on Bandcamp, so get excited.
The technically unranked list of 20 is below the jump so as not to clog up the front page.
Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Vida – Part 8 (Shelter Press)
Shelter Press doin a fuckin number on 2014, this new Ben Vida record just adding to the awesomeness, and while anything by Mr. Vida should be on your radar regardless, Slipping Control gets extra points for including Tyondai Braxton and Sara Magenheimer on vocals. What started out as the book Tztztztzt Î Í Í…, which was “composed to act as a score, a sound piece and as raw data for electronic control source” turned into this record of brainwarping levels of insanity, full blown electronic scatter glitch that ping pongs in your skull like misfiring neural synapses, laser sharp and reverbed wire snap, and then Ty & Sara come in with their wordless stuttering, either solo or with electronic accompaniment, and it’s just fucking brilliant, with fleeting rhythms that pull you in for sweet moments of focused repetition before being twisted, layered, and chopped into its alien bio-mechanics, these are sounds that come from an intentional randomness that transforms the way you hear the world around you, the hums and scratches in your life being re-imagined and given new life. This is, unsurprisingly, supremely excellent work from Vida. Wholly worth your time.
Rvnes – Relief (Jehu & Chinaman)
Rvnes is new, but Malte Cornelius Jantzen has been around for a bit as S N DY P RL RS, whose LP on Umor Rex is fantastic. But S N DY P RL RS is no more and Rvnes has risen in its place. Glory be to Rvnes, this debut is easily one of my favorite drone records this year, two side-long pieces of deeeeep minimalism that sounds like it’s nearly motionless but feels like it has an entire universe of detail (which is proven by the waveform that’s way more dynamic than you’d expect), it’s the subtle pulsing, the delicate shifts in tone, the silence hovering between moments of resignation & peace that take what could be nothing more than a simple sleep to a beautifully perfect transcendence, this is full of a dense & delicate precision, a softness that almost diverts attention from the intense melancholic sobriety, but fully embracing this allows for all intricacies to be teased out, the borderline bliss alongside the bittersweet void, this is absolutely fucking awesome and deserves way more praise than it’s likely to get. Only 30 tapes were made, so seriously do not waste any time picking this up. Also it was mastered by the master himself Nicholas Szczepanik. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Equal Stones – Set Free (Hidden Vibes)
This is a truly magnificent record from Equal Stones, aka Amandus Schaap from the Netherlands. Hidden Vibes makes note that Transgression has more of a “drone theme” than previous Equal Stones stuff, which I haven’t heard, so I can’t say if this is his usual sound or not, but I’m gonna guess this drone is somewhat new to him. But who fuckin cares because this record is the fucking best. This is a softly textured drone that’s gritty and looped, making heavy use of analog creek & crackle alongside echoing guitar, subtle synth, and ethereal nondescript vocals, wonderful waves of static that rise nice & high without being overwhelming and sit just below the threshold of euphoria, mysterious & hypnotic, like staring at the horizon through a thin fog over the ocean, seeing the occasional whitecap and floating debris, all shrouded in a soothing bittersweet bliss, dissolving your problems to their true objective state and letting that obsessive anxiety fall away. 100% awesome and you get the best of both worlds with options for limited gatefold vinyl and/or free* digital. You know what to do.