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.

Album Review

Northumbria – Bring Down The Sky (Consouling Sounds, 2014)

northumbria - bring down the sky album cover
NorthumbriaThe Ocean Calls Us Home (Consouling Sounds)

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Mega doom drone from these two Toronto dudes, and on their second full length they make it seem like they’ve been doing this forever, a timeless maximal minimalism that carves new neural pathways in your mind and tears rifts in the fabric of the sky, shifting feedback & reverb as supreme as it gets, a wall of drone that demands only that you bask in its majesty, this is the call of gods, truly epic revelations with overwhelming buzz and toothy crackle, the kind of scorching bliss that turns amps white hot and parts oceans with its limitless power, this is absolutely fucking gorgeous, not black and occult like that other doom drone band you’re thinking of, more drone, less doom, Northumbria journey down their own righteous path of monolithic euphoria and leave us with tragically perfect records such as this. A fucking plus.

Album Review

Billy Gomberg – Certain Words Again And Again (Sunshine Ltd, 2014)

billy gomberg - certain words again and again album cover
Billy GombergThe Present Until It’s Tangible (Sunshine Ltd)

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This is one of those instances where I know the artist, I’ve listened to him before, I’ve even reviewed a record of his before (Waiting In Poor Lighting), and while the name has stuck with me, I was never really hooked or anything. So if you’re maybe in the same boat as me in regards to Mr. Billy Gomberg, do yourself a favor and put this one on the top of your listening pile. Certain Words Again And Again is 40 minutes (45 if you’re listening to the digital version) of brilliantly beautiful minimal tender drone that effortlessly floats in the air, light & delicate, yet substantial enough to completely wrap your senses in a cloud of bliss, glowing shades of warmth that shift oh so slowly in a gorgeous display of silent transcendence brought to life, a stunning presentation of restraint and precision perfectly balanced between overworked and underdeveloped that can be so hard to achieve in minimalism, Gomberg has made something truly fucking exquisite, I just want it to swallow me whole and not have to care about anything else. And back to that time difference thing I mentioned before, the track listing differs between physical & digital versions, the physical has 2 long and 2 short songs, the digital drops the 2 short songs and adds another long one, so you’re actually treated to almost an hour of music here, wholly worth the $7 price tag.

Album Review

Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead – Starving The Fires (Pt. 1) (Malignant, 2014)

teeth engraved with the names of the dead - starving the fires part 1 album cover
Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The DeadLacerate (Malignant)

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Total fucking depravity. These two dudes, who only have one other physical release to their name, the Kosmiche Deathworship tape on Sol Y Nieve (the first five copies came with deer teeth), put out this 70 minute long death drone monstrosity that delves deep into necro nihilism, full of slow churning bestial static, demonic hypnothrum vaporizing your bones, garbled samples spitting filth at humanity, this travels to some very dark places, a hideous doomed ambient that screams of abandoned hope, at times boiling up to a full on black industrial noise, reaching monolithic fucking heights of caustic horror that knock you on your ass and eat you alive, this is pure fucking evil and every painful, prolonged moment is worthwhile, and something tells me these guys are just getting started. Make sure to snag Cold Ashes, the free companion EP which clocks in around 35 minutes.

Album Review

Grasshopper – Dark Sabbath: Symbol Of Evil (Hausu Mountain, 2014)

grasshopper - dark sabbath symbol of evil album cover
GrasshopperInverted Cross Of Satanic Justice (Hausu Mountain)

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New York synth drone trumpet noise duo Grasshopper goes to new heights with Dark Sabbath and it’s a fuckin trip, a noise record wearing a doom cloak, worshiping the dark arts, and turning souls to stone, this is a totally twisted mess of demonic drone that buzzes & hums from the depths of the void, freakish spouts of squelching electronics, and constant pulsing from the unknown dimensions of horror, menacing as fuck and easily capable of driving you mad if you pay close enough attention, there’s a black beast hidden behind all the stretched out static and nauseating cosmic skree, ready to take you to the next level and flip you inside out, an unholy transcendence that is pushed upon you, full of fear, but infinitely grateful of the experience, these dudes have truly outdone themselves, and lucky for us Hausu Mountain gives them the vinyl treatment, which you can (and should) snag next week.

Album Review

Æther – Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring (Mandragoræ, 2014)

aether - tagzig olmo lung ring album cover
ÆtherStraddling Two Kingdoms (excerpt) (Mandragoræ)

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All your drone needs right here, two fucking hours worth, two songs acting as a “meditation on the ultimate realisation of the the end of flesh,” although not nearly as dark and bleak as that sounds, this is more like the music of life you’d hear while in the womb, slow warm tones shifting in and out of focus, a constant flow of minimalism, major dancing tones and throbbing low end, it’s a monument to the endless cycle of life & death, the mark of peace amidst chaos, this is the religion of Drone incarnate, the Holy Mother of Transcendence, that takes the bare minimum of sound and turns it into an eye-opening otherworldly experience, an absolutely divine record, and pretty much essential for all who worship at the altar of Drone.

Album Review

Isolator – Culture And Principal Of Anti-Human Exaltation (Black Plagve, 2014)

isolator - Culture and Principal of Anti-Human Exaltation album cover
IsolatorCast In Blood (Black Plagve)

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The most recent release on Black Plagve (a sub-label of Malignant) looks like it might be Isolator’s true debut, but both of the two dudes involved (Justin Stubbs and The Nothing) have years of experience making extreme sounds, and holy fuck does it show, this is a magnificent terror of hellish drone fueled by pure hatred & misanthropy (in case you couldn’t tell by the title), walls of dense static undulating with decay, unpenetrable slabs of death industrial chaos with the bombastic percussion traded for endless scraping feedback and haunted harmonics, vocals that range from unholy priests, to tortured howls, to grotesque chants, these are the sounds you’d hear months after a Hellmouth broke open and the horror died down to a constant dull roar, a 22nd century warzone close enough to perpetually fear for your life but far enough away so the shrieks of the dying are merely muffled background noise, but spend enough time with this and you’ll unearth some bittersweet angelic tones, a soft sad beauty lurking beneath the caustic devastation, this is absolutely fucking massive and nightmarish but undeniably a drone record, bleak as fuck and way more harsh than most of the other drone I review, but drone nonetheless, and it’s fucking fantastic.

Album Review

The End Of The World Championship – Balance Beam (Sacred Phrases, 2014)

the end of the world championship - balance beam album cover
The End Of The World Championship – Balance Beam I (Sacred Phrases)

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This dude put out one of my favorite drone records from last year, the In Slow Motion tape on Umor Rex, it was his debut and it was phenomenal, and Balance Beam is now his third release (I missed his second, oops) and it’s every bit as excellent as you’d hope for after hearing that debut, this is more of his mega monolith drone, hugely dense & blissfully minimal, this is the drone that others should aspire to, beyond what we have come to know as Drone, TEOTWC is working a transcendent magick that brings subtle tonal shifts and overwhelming walls of buzz & hum to new heights, slowly & discretely adding hidden layers of beauty, it feels like it builds up so much that it has to collapse in on itself creating a black hole of minimalism except it somehow stays afloat, offering moments of clarity & euphoria amid the crushing weight of maximum volume, but there is a darkness in these sounds, a deep bleakness that resonates in my core, struggling to see the other side and never quite making it, so yeah, this is blissful in it’s hypnosis but supremely melancholic, and absolutely fucking perfect, this is my favorite kind of drone and it’s done incredibly well. Now it’s time for TEOTWC to get some vinyl in the works.

Album Review

Smokey Emery – Soundtracks For Invisibility Vol. III: Qui Mal Y Pense (Holodeck, 2014)

smokey emery - soundtracks vol 3 album cover
Smokey Emery04 (Holodeck)

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Smokey Emery is one Daniel Hipólito who works primarily with reel-to-reel tape loops, he’s been working on this Soundtracks For Invisibility series for a while (as well as a series titled Lives), and while this one, Volume III: Qui Mal Y Pense, was originally released digitally in 2011, Holodeck gave it a proper physical debut on cassette this summer, so thanks a ton for that, because this is fucking awwwwesome, a wide open space jam of dark dank beautifully transcendent drone, an hour’s worth of material, half of which is from a single 30 minute piece, this thing goes all in for minimal weirdness, slow-mo fog horns and glacial swells, subdued industrial dread with possessed moaning and ethereal resonant guitars, the sound of an inter-dimensional séance that’s not meant to contact the deceased but rather alternate versions of yourself, and it goes horribly wrong leaving you deranged and with an abyss for a soul, this takes you on a harrowing journey to great & terrible places, a glorious black slab of ancient drone that will reach your innermost thoughts, this is unsafe music for those seeking the true phenomenons of life, an absolutely killer fucking record, love it ’til it’s dead.

Album Review

Howard Stelzer – Brayton Point (Dokuro, 2014)

howard stelzer - brayton point album cover
Howard StelzerUntitled (excerpt) (Dokuro)

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I remember first getting into weird music and having Howard Stelzer be one of my launchpads. All I knew was that he made the most awesome sounds essentially from messing around with tapes, and of his innumerable collaborations, the ones with Giuseppe Ielasi on Night Life and Jazzkammer on Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe were on constant repeat for a while. Then I went to a show he put on with Astronaut (early OPN group), Geoff Mullen, Fire In The Head, Skeletons Out (which unbeknownst to me at the time was a collab between Stelzer and Jay Sullivan), and Red Horse, and while talking to Howard at the merch table afterward, I realized that 1: the dude I was talking to was in fact the one & same Howard Stelzer who collaborated with anyone worth a damn, 2: this guy ran a super boss label Intransitive, and 3: he was from Boston! I was a kinda floored. He had his brand new solo CD Bond Inlets for sale, so I snatched that up and have been enamored ever since. According to Stelzer, Brayton Point is his first solo full length since 2008’s Bond Inlets (although Discogs begs to differ), but yeah, I’m pretty fucking psyched about this one, and yeah, it’s as good as I hoped it would be.

Brayton Point is comprised of sounds taken from the Brayton Point Generating Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, and it’s one big horror show of industrial chaos swirled together in a hulking drone storm, a dense and twisted hellmouth with fleeing screaming demons, the sort of music your parents thought you’d hear if you played a melted Black Sabbath record backwards, except way fucking cooler, with more high end skree, whirlwind static, and core shattering garble, but with plenty of moments of reprieve, a subtle mechanical hum with ancient technology creaking in the distance, the texture of tape making its way to the playing field, this is absolutely & ridiculously awesome, the whole 50 minute piece a welcome beast of Stelzer’s patented tape fuckery, so glad this dude is back in the game, and he’s back with a motherfuckin winner, really can’t wait to see what else he’s got on deck.

Album Review

Tecumseh – Violet (Anti-Matter, 2014)

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TecumsehSerenade For The Dead (Anti-Matter)

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This Portland trio (Ian Hawk, Jeremy Long, and John Krausbauer) has been pretty dormant of late (their last release was in 2011) and now all of a sudden they’ve got two new records out on Anti-Matter, this 30 minute LP Violet and the For The Night 10″, so yay! but regardless whether this is a sign of things to come or they’ll just hide out for another few years, this new stuff is the fucking besssst, Violet diving deep into the minimal drone via heavy dark doom vibes, this is like Sunn O))) minus the metal and laid up on downers, sorta like that Culver record on Fabrica from last year but way louder, funereal tonal shifting that’s absolutely fucking massive, a monolithic drone that roars in your head and rattles you to your core, but doing so without too much crunch or abrasive grit, so while this is evil as fuck, it’s also kinda soothing, like being inside a mausoleum reverberating from a constant rolling thunder, mega monstrous minimalism for those sleepless nights spent watching demons crawl up the wall, this is just fucking spectacular, and fyi For The Night is just as good, so do yourself a favor and scoop up both of these limited leviathans, if for no other reason than being able to see that beautiful eyefuck of an album cover (by Tauba Auerbach) in person.

Album Review

Foie Gras – Held (self released, 2014)

foie gras - held album cover
Foie GrasWants You In That Way (self released)

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Foie Gras is one strong, tender force hailing from San Francisco who makes music in the subtlest ways. She’s as yet released a physical record under this name, instead gifting us with free downloads on her Bandcamp (although I think there’s something tangible in the works), and you would do well to hit up each and every one of her albums (currently two available in addition to Held) as she is prone to taking them down whenever she fancies, and this is one is especially special, with a couple covers (Sparklehorse’s “Heart Of Darkness” and Heroin Party’s “Summoning Ritual”), and a slow-mo drifting drone, a welcome smothering of soft thick fog that moves effortlessly through you, blank of all emotion on the surface but digging deeper shows this is lined with an almost imperceptible but undeniable void, a bittersweet minimalism under a thin veil of devastation, frequently singing of death & suffering but always from the most delicate perspective, including the intimate Chelsea Wolfe-esque acoustic closer “Cliffs” where she croons “This is why we can’t have nice things, this is why I’ve destroyed my being, and this how you prolong the suffering,” this is the brightest dark music I’ve ever heard, and it’s just fucking outstanding, a painfully doomed record that floats above and rests in the ether bliss, truly excellent shit that makes me wonder how she’s not at the top of the drone chain, so maybe you can do you part and give this a listen, it’ll stay with you forever.