Three dudes who hardly need an introduction, Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley, and Randall Dunn, have come together for what was originally supposed to be the score to the short Belgian film Kairos but evolved way beyond that into this 2xLP of harrowing dark ambient, a subtly menacing record that merges the already outstanding collaborative work between O’Malley’s guitar and Ambarchi’s electronics with Dunn’s perfect percussion, Shade Themes From Kairos walks the dark side of life, showing us all manner of occult & macabre, smoke & magik, ruins & rituals, truly penetrating music that ebbs & flows with soft skittering, bombastic nightmares, effortless drifts, enchanting vocals, devastating feedback, sonorous drone, and unholy freakouts, sights never before seen are laid in front of you, monolithic & unyielding, the sound of kingdoms fallen and souls forgotten, this is incredible fucking stuff, a truly magnificent record. I know these guys are pretty prolific but this one is not to be missed. And look at the fucking artwork by Denis Kostromitin I mean come on.
Chicago’s Cinchel (aka Jason Shanley) has been slowly but steadily releasing super solid guitar drone records for the past few years, flying a bit under the radar for reasons unknown because this dude consistently knocks it out of the park and his newest release is no different. A House Once Lived That Never Was is like an hour and a half or something (according to my quick & sloppy math) and it’s all killer no filler tender ambient that’s as organic as Mountains used to be and as heartfelt as Andrew Weathers, taking a guitar and a tape delay and coaxing out the softest most delicate sounds, looped & dusty, droned & drifty, like chilling in a creaky house during a summer rain and listening to the air come alive, hypnotic strumming lulling you to a dreamland of pure perfection, this is absolutely wonderful stuff, and it comes with a 25 page color zine of photos taken by Shanley and his wife Kirstie (she’s really good). The digital version is out now (which includes a PDF of the zine) and the physical version will be out late May/early June.
Yantis has been slowly digging his own niche in the weird ambient folk scene for a few years (see Box Elder, Cold Scholar), but this new one on Planted Tapes takes things to another level with the addition of warbly tape manipulation on top of his dusty reverbed guitars. Maybe the tape manipulation has always been there, but now it’s undeniable, and undeniably awesome. There’s a bit of a kitchen sink approach to instruments here, but the plucked strings (guitar and banjo), piano, tape work, & field recordings are the foundation, and he’s built a magnificent world of barely there ghosts and distant dreams, a room that you stumble through in the dark, grasping at shadows instead of the real thing, trying to confirm the existence of something concrete, and instead coming up empty, with the silence in between echoes warped until it’s only partially recognizable and the music you expect to hear is decayed, sharp & clear in one moment, falling apart at the next, delicate to begin with and turned to thread bare lace by the end, this is truly incredible heartfelt and emotional music that fills every fold of your headspace with a mysterious familiarity, an album that you won’t be able to shake and will obsess over until the tape itself degrades on its spools. I can’t recommend this enough. Only 100 made, $7 including postage, you can’t go wrong.
Just because I stopped writing for a bit doesn’t mean I stopped listening. Actually felt like I did way more listening than usual, or maybe it was just more quality listening without the review cloud storming up in my brain. Either way, here’s a quick rundown of some chill records I’ve been jamming these past few months. Part 2 will be the louder noisier scarier stuff.
Danny Paul Grody – Between Two Worlds (Three Lobed)
Omfg this is one of my favorites from this year, Grody (of the forever missed Tarentel) goes way beyond the experimental guitar soli stuff and turns solo guitarscapes into a lush & serene ocean spanning this life and every other, delicate drone, subtle piano, & obscured vocals breathing bliss into every moment of this record. For a guitar record, it goes places you never dreamed of.
Alessandro Cortini – Forse Volume 1 (Important)
This has been getting tonnnns of spins over here. Cortini is from Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, which automatically (shamefully) made me not care about this. But for some reason I listened to a sound sample and was instantly sold. This is some incredible minimal/maximal single-Buchla-synth drone stuff that’s got the occasional rhythm and is fucking out of this world awesome. Sadly you missed your chance with the 2xLP, it’s sold out. Luckily, Volumes 2 & 3 are forthcoming before the year’s end. This is gonna be a trilogy to write home about let me tell you.
Earn – Hell On Earth (Bathetic)
Why this guy isn’t at the top of the drone chain yet I don’t know. But lets hope Hell On Earth puts him there. I can hardly imagine a more beautifully dark record than this, channeling soft woozy bliss into a black mourning shroud, this is the ghostly stuff you see out of the corner of your eye on a sun-drenched foggy morning, supremely perfect, definitely one of the best drone records you’ll come across this year.
Henry Plotnick – Fields (Holy Mountain)
It’s hard to not call every embarrassingly talented kid that hasn’t even hit high school a genius, but here we have 11 year old Plotnick’s debut 2xLP of melodic loops in the vain of the early minimal masters and goddamn this guy is fuckin going places. Regardless of his age, Fields is a fucking triumph of transcendental zoning. Fingers crossed he keeps recording.
The Archivist – The Wooden Laser (self released)
I was maybe a bit biased from the get-go due to this guy’s name but objectively speaking this record is the fucking best. The Wooden Laser is a barely there minimalism, crank this fucker up and you can still hear you pet’s heartbeat 3 rooms over. An ambiance formed around dusty tapes and whispered electronics, you can give 100% of your ears to this and it’ll show you all the crevices in the fabric of reality.
Sarah Davachi – The Untuning Of The Sky (Full Spectrum)
A debut of this caliber shouldn’t be going as unnoticed as it is, Davachi has cuddled up next to a variety of electronics (ARP, Buchla, Serge, Mellotron) and coaxed tender long-form minimal drone dreams out of them, deeply saturated in warmth & finessed to a level of tonal perfection I don’t think many people ever achieve.
D. Burke Mahoney – LORAN-C (self released)
An homage to the 1350 foot transmitter LORAN-C in Greeland that collapsed in 1964, this is a beautiful drone record that’s overwhelmingly minimal, the kind of sounds you hear emerge from a silent room that has various quiet machines powered up, the sound of a room breathing, exceptional, precise, & absolutely perfect. Also, it’s free.
Lustmord – The Word As Power (Blackest Ever Black)
I was never too into Lustmord but when I heard this was a drone record based on various guest artists’ vocals (Jarboe! Soriah!), I had to check it out. Blew my expectations right out of the water. I love some quality black magic ritual drone like Phurpa and Zurvan and this fits right in, expansive & evocative detailed drones resonating through empty caverns, so fucking excellent.
Marisa Anderson – Mercury (Mississippi)
How I’ve yet to hear of Anderson before this record is a baffling travesty. She picks & strums her way on electric, acoustic, and lap-steel guitars playing 100% awesome experimental Americana, twanging & echoing under wide open skies and doing an assortment of styles, bluesy drags, lazy folk, dusty Appalachian ragas, and tying it all together with an old fashioned tenderness. Love this so much.
Big Blood – Radio Valkyrie 1905-1917 (Feeding Tube)
Insanely fantastic record from this Maine psych folk duo, only their second full length and somehow they’ve already honed a hazy dark sound that puts everything else to shame. Songs fit for midnight forest rituals and ghost stories by the fire, a seriously warped ethereal vibe that’s unshakeable after the first track’s vapors seep into your pores.
Molly Drake – Molly Drake (Squirrel Thing)
Unearthed recordings from the 50s by Nick Drake’s mom!! This woman has an undeniably charming & enchanting voice, singing sweet somber tunes & floating effortlessly on her piano, this is a record that’ll transport you to the drawing room you never got to hang in.
Agarttha – A Water Which Does Not Wet Hands (King Of The Monsters)
Agarttha is one Francesca Marongiu (of Architeuthis Rex) conjuring a doomy folk, or folksy doom, or some manner of subdued occult magik that pours out of your speakers like a fog, offering elements of psych & pop that are as inexplicable as they are welcome. One weird fuckin record, covers you in a thick layer of moss that you’ll never wash off.
Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe (Dead Oceans)
Been enthralled with Barwick ever since I saw her open for Eluvium years ago and her new record takes her layered vocal bliss to uncharted heights, sometimes venturing into pop territory, but pure fucking heaven through & through. Hands down one of the most beautiful records and completely deserving of all the praise that’s been heaped upon it lately.
Kwaidan is quite the trio, with Land Of Decay bro Neil Jendon, Locrian dude André Foisy, and Mike Weis from Zelienople, brought together to make a glorious racket. After kicking things off with a killer self titled tape on Accidental Guest last year, these dudes are back with a proper full length on Bathetic conjuring a magnificent dark drone that blends noise, doom, and Americana to make an unbelievably fucking awesome sound, mystical & transformative, synths & guitars sweeping through a pre-cathartic explosion with slowly plodding drums, a sprawling loose atmosphere that’s tight as fuck, dudes working together so seamlessly, breathing occult jams that praise the permanent solar eclipse, clear black haze settled in a field, fireflies mingling with ash in the dusk, a doom that sheds its metal crust and is perfectly at home in the company of dusty acoustics & buzzing static, a homeless midnight wanderer that couldn’t sound any fucking better, and with the most perfect album title, these guys hit it out of the fucking park.
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.
I’m a terrible person. I’ve loved this record from day one (and I mean love) which was almost 2 years ago. I got pumped for the video for “A Sleeping Heart” but never followed up with a full review. Plus, I walk past the site where Giles Corey got crushed on my way to work every day (REPRESENT). Anyway, here’s what I should have written long ago.
Giles Corey is Dan Barrett’s solo project, the dude behind Enemies List and half of the immortal Have A Nice Life, this is his Dust Bowl era spectral folk side where he takes on death, the occult, suicide, depression, and supreme heartache, turning terrible shit into the most powerful & amazing music ever. Depressing as fuck lyrics chanted & crooned & shouted like “I’m going to kill myself,” “I want to feel like I feel when I’m asleep,” and “I open up my heart and let it all in and it kills all my love and hope for everyone,” bleeding through everything, reaching soul wrenching depths, rooted in bittersweetness, even evoking some mid century pop/doo wop sounds, his voice the richest imaginable, so pure & raw, layered a hundred times over surrounding himself in a choir of his own nightmares, armed mostly with just an acoustic guitar and percussion that sounds like an oil drum being pounded in an empty warehouse, kicking the hushed intimacy into enormous bombastic anthems, sometimes bringing in some brass for an extra old timeyness, but always perfect, every fucking song is as good as it could possibly be, Barrett’s song writing is unmatched and inimitable. The original release came in a DVD style case bound by rope to a 150 book filled with a crazy fucking story and lyrics and photos and shit. That’s way sold out but for $5 you can still get the download and it includes digital versions of everything except the rope.
There’s a super weird noise/drone/wtf record he put out “designed to induce possession states” called Deconstructionist, a second full length set for this year (on vinyl!) and, awesome news for you New Englanders, there’s a GC mini-tour coming right up. Three shows, (NY, Boston, & Enemies List HQ), all with Planning For Burial on the lineup, and I’m hosting the Boston show. On Saturday, 2/23 at PA’s Lounge with High Aura’d and Ehnahre helping to usher in the new darkness.
It’s been at least a couple years since I’ve written about Book Of Sand (How Beautiful To Walk Free), or his previous doom project Light (A Million Dead Beneath The Ice and Life Is Meaningless & Goes On Forever, so I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember him. But only partially because this dude has always been the fucking best. Don’t forget it. His new one, Mourning Star, is packed up all sexy-like courtesy of MRL and might be his best one yet. Black metal doesn’t even begin to describe this beast. This dude is a master genre bender, using black metal as a melting pot to throw in everything from doom to neo-classical. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to get your brain situated, raw discordant riffs starting off mostly in synch until they devolve into a sloppy mess of noise, furiously relentless drums, tortured screams, drunken lurching doom, slow & massive, burnt & charred Americana guitars, caked in ancient dust and disintegrating before your eyes, atonal strings turning a blackened nightmare into a ghostly eulogy, xylophones plinking away in some distant room in the corner of a rotting mansion, at times atmospheric and ephemeral or in your face and undeniable, but always churning your stomach, brutal, tasteful, and wholly fucking original. Book Of Sand is at the top of his game, Mourning Star giving you everything you want from 21st century black metal. He’s fucking doing it and you fucking need it.
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.
The sort of sound that’s not usually my bag (saxophones, song-oriented, God-y) but when it’s powerful & memorable enough that one or two years later I’m able to recognize a song I only heard once, I would be a jackass if I didn’t pay attention. A brilliantly smooth blend of new Americana, old blues, soul, new wave clean garage rock, doo-wop, jazz, and anything else he’s inspired by. Poetic lyrics sung in the most passionate deep baritone that sounds maybe a little like the dude from Crash Test Dummies, except not annoying and totally sincere. I’d say his voice is what hooks you in the beginning but it’s probably just the most noticeably unique aspect. Songs break in cathartic crescendos with angry guitar destruction & dissonant horn skronking or blissful howling & lush dreams. Lonely acoustic guitars, deft electric Neil Young sounds, flushed out strings & brass, mourning heartbreak, uplifting youthful love, straight up the catchiest fucking tunes. Endlessly listenable and hands down one of the greatest records this year.
Easily Gabriel’s most well thought out and complete sounding record I’ve heard. It’s obvious this is what he’s wanted to sound like. More people are involved on this record, both in terms of instruments & vocals (including the addition of some fantastic boy/girl harmonies) and in terms of production & mastering. The physical disc is printed by Repeat Press, the same dude who did that slick as hell High Aura’d album.