Faures – Asthenospheric Movement I (Home Normal)
Faures is a new project bringing together René Margraff (aka Pillowdiver), Samuel Landry (aka Le Berger), and Fuzz Lee (aka Elintseeker), all three of them being totally righteous droners on their own, each from a different continent, and together forming up like a motherfuckin Drone-tron, unstoppable with their perfect mellowtones. Continental Drift was inspired by this quote from Hans Cloos in regards to continents & tectonics, “It let them float and drift, break apart and converge. Where they broke away, cracks, rifts, trenches remain; where they collided, ranges of folded mountains appear.” And Faures spun the quote to instead reference sound, letting loose a massive & delicate record of shifting glacial air, breaking open vents to unleash monumental walls of bliss and then filtering out the overwhelming static to leave you with a subtle soft ambient that’s deeply intimate and full of emotion, inaudible clicks intertwined with layered minimalism, resonant piano, and mournful strings, this is some divine head-filling drone that soothes all forms of beast, Home Normal proving yet again to be one of the most reliable sources for drone records of the highest fucking quality.
Black Hat – Portrait In Fluorescent Light (Hausu Mountain)
With only a couple killer EPs to his name (on Debacle and Field Hymns), Black Hat drops this fucking ridiculous full length on the Hausu and people better start payin attention now. This dude jams some dark techno drone that drowns out the rest of the watered down stuff in the genre. Thought Of Two could easily have come out on Modern Love, it’s got the sprawling ambient vibe that drones with the best of em, soaring through deep space headed for the edge of the universe and glimpsing the other side of life, and beautifully textured foundations that set the scene for a mixed bag of rad rhythms, occasionally woozy & blissful, but mostly just alien industrial grooves that are murky as fuck and damn near perfect, this is the most premium shit, definitely a high point in the scene right now. Only 100 copies of this beast were pressed to white vinyl and they’re almost completely gone already, even though it was officially released yesterday, but if you miss out on the white vinyl, there’s plenty of CDs to go around. UPDATE: Plenty of black vinyl was pressed up too. My bad!
Claypipe – Shed Your Clothes And Feel The Sun (MIE)
Claypipe is not a new band (although new to me, thanks MIE!), it’s the output of renowned New Zealanders Antony Milton & Clayton Noone and this is their seventh record, so if you’ve heard either of their work or heard anything from Milton’s PseudoArcana label, then you might know what you’re getting yourself into here and have probably already started looking for a copy to cherish in your arms forever. This record is the most perfect blend of drone & pop you could imagine, à la Benoit Pioulard’s recent stuff, although A Daylight Blessing is much more warbled & fuzzy, stretched out drones & easy going chords wrapped up in gauze and soaking in the sun, everything is muffled under decayed hissing tape, turning the blissful & serene into something just a hair unsettling, the shimmer jangle propped up on a sobering melancholy, distant vocals echoing down canyons with a soft scattering of sounds teeming with life, an absolutely beautiful and enchanting record, only 300 copies pressed up by MIE and officially out as of yesterday, so get a move on.
Anne Guthrie – Strongly Leaning With Irregular Crown (Students Of Decay)
After a handful of excellent releases under her belt, Guthrie drops her first vinyl full length on Students Of Decay, and, surprise surprise, it’s fucking outstanding. Guthrie works in the realm of field recordings and processed instruments, most notably here with the French horn, violoncello, and contrabass. Brilliantly blurring the lines by twisting the natural world with the manmade one, I think I hear rushing air & squawking birds, but hardly confident enough to identify anything in particular. The mysterious origins are only the beginning though, while a spectral world floats between the bizarre sounds, fleeting moments of abstract turning concrete slip between your fingers, subtly blown out radio transmissions crackling & crumbling like an ancient stone wall, insects humming past your ears, decaying mournful horns looped to infinity, this is both sterile and full of life, a strange overlap of warmth & cold, Guthrie is adept at finding the perfect tone at the perfect moment and allows for both extended silence and lush minimal drone, absolutely wonderful stuff, definitely not to be missed, and SOD is only making 250 of these, so get while the gettin’s good.
Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed)
No streaming track because Horseback is big enough now to get an exclusive full album stream before the record is released. Awesome for Horseback, less awesome for you at the moment, but way awesome for you when the full stream goes up in a few weeks.
Oh my fucking god this is where it’s at you guys. It’s like everything Jenks Miller has done as Horseback and otherwise (solo, Mount Moriah, etc) up until this point was specifically just to culminate in the glorious Piedmont Apocrypha. The minimal drone, the blackened psych, the ominous country folk, all of it stirred together in a cocktail of perfect occultish meditations and the harmony among the styles is unbelievable. While quite distinct from his last record (Half Blood), taking the black down a few notches and with way more clean vocals, the darkness and theme of endless change are still in full effect and bleeding through the entire record, starting with the opening line “I was born to lose, I won’t have this form forever” and winding through to the end of the burning 17 minute finale “Chanting Out The Low Shadow,” which itself is like Half Blood boiled down to a single flawless track. This record is both bold and nonchalant, it has no fuckin problem letting a couple tones hang in the air indefinitely, watching them waver & fade, or laying down a free form calming jangle fest, or tossing some field recordings in with wobbly psych guitars & droning organs, and then getting rowdy as fuck with reverb, feedback, and propulsive ritualistic fire summoning magick. Apocrypha comes from another realm, lead by shaman prophets and where a deep understanding of reality comes only through tantric psych & dancing-induced hypnoses. This is the motherfucking jam. Can’t tell you how fucking psyched I am about this record. It’s masterfully cohesive while capturing the range of styles Miller works in. If you remember how crazy I was/am about Half Blood, and then I say this is every bit as good as Half Blood, you’ll know I’m not shitting you and that this is everything you could want in another Horseback record.
David Andree & Josh Mason – Winter To Spring, Further Than First Thought (Own)
After Mason’s The Symbiont scored the number one spot in my Top Drone list last year, suffice it to say I was craving more of his delicate sound. This new record, a collaboration with David Andree, fills the void quite nicely. Andree & Mason worked long distance (from Minnesota & Florida, respectively), each recording a piece to tape in one take and sent to the other with the stipulation that they too must record their contributions in a single take, with the intent of closely simulating a live collaboration. The results are pure fucking magic. These two dudes work so perfectly together, it’s as if they’re the man with two heads, both individuals’ unique ideas being implemented by the same body. Call, Response is the calming restrained guitar drone that I loved so much on The Symbiont with the addition of Andree’s field recordings & tape manipulation which gives an already multi-faceted sound an even deeper quality, this is the most tender music you can think of, each tone & click acting as a breath of life, nothing existing but the natural silence found between floating specks of dust, the pluck of a guitar string as subtle & precise as the blink of an eye, textured rustling and elongated resonance doing everything it can to point the way towards enlightenment, spend an entire lifetime looking at every detail in this record and you’ll always discover more. I can’t imagine how much effort went in to making a record this understated and profound, but we reap the benefits, and the elegance of this masterful ambient is ours to enjoy. Only 300 pressed, so do not sleep on this.
Cody Yantis – Brightness III (Planted Tapes)
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.
Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing (excerpt) (Desire Path)
A few years ago, Nicholas Szczepanik put out a subscription series of 12 mini-CDs called Ante Algo Azul where he “experimented” on different styles & sounds. The first release from that series was Not Knowing (For Eliane Radigue). This new release on Desire Path takes the original 18:00 piece and expands & elaborates on it creating a full 53 minute record of the most perfect drone you’ll ever hear. The first part of “Not Knowing” is the same as the original (as far as I can tell), which is to say it’s a super minimal pulsing that sounds like a comatose heartbeat. And then shit gets fucking glorious, softly, slowly shifting gears to an angelic harmony that could tear down the walls between warring nations with everyone embracing their newfound family, swirling cascading strings that fill your heart with the joys & pains of life, strongly reminding me of Szczepanik’s magnum opus Please Stop Loving Me. The contrast on Not Knowing, gracefully moving back & forth between long form minimalism and refined euphoria, is something I haven’t heard Szczepanik do yet, and he’s already proved himself a fucking master. The highs are incredibly high, tearful & magnificent, glowing & intricate, and the lows are delicately hypnotic, with a precision in tonality that’s breathtaking. This is absolute fucking perfection. This has everything I ask for in a drone record, and more. As much as I love Please Stop Loving Me (#1 drone record of 2011 yo), I can easily say Not Knowing is hands down a more mature, accomplished, and impressive fucking record. I have a hard time imagining Szczepanik ever topping this.
Also, you might be thinking that since Not Knowing is one long track, what the fuck is Desire Path, the label who’s literally 7 for 7 on their releases and exclusively works with vinyl, doing releasing this? They started the Tangents series, where they’ll release CDs of long form music that can’t (shouldn’t) be on vinyl. And this is the debut release in that series, strictly limited to 500, but given the deluxe treatment as Desire Path always does.
Glottalstop – Side A (Tartaruga)
Insanely awesome debut release from Glottalstop aka the Petrels dude, basking in an unsettling tape manipulated tension. Woodsmoke is fucking fantastic, two side long pieces that are dark as hell, the A side is super minimal and the B side cranks the horror volume to 11, the whole thing sounds like a haunted mansion coming to life to chill yer bones, it has deep low end tape wobble drone tying itself in knots with ghostly cello skree, scratchy looped hypnosis, scrambled white static, voices that you’re damn certain must be coming from inside your head, and who knows what kind of electronic wizardry that taps you on the shoulder and quickly disappears, this is nightmarish in the most perfect way, ethereal and nauseating, sounds rising from the silent mist and being whisked away before you can fully hear them, roaring demons passing in & out through a wall of noise, Woodsmoke is about as eerie as you can fuckin get. And like most things Tartaruga, this is dressed to the nines with a screenprinted inner sleeve that runs across the label, a sewn & screenprinted jacket, and all housed in a PVC sleeve, extremely limited to 200. No reason to skip this one.
Insect Ark – Lift Off (Geweih Ritual Documents)
So I’m a little late on the pickup with this one, but only a little, and if this is the first you’re hearing of Insect Ark, fear not! you’re not alone, it was flying below the radar for a bit. This is the solo efforts of Dana Schechter (of Bee And Flower, The Angels Of Light) and from what I can tell, Long Arms is her first release that’s not a 7″, although it’s only a 10″ EP so there’s still no proper full length yet. But goddamn this 10″ already has me craving more. Long Arms is made from just a lapsteel, bass, synth, and a sampler, it’s a dark doom drone that’s heavy on the psych, sprawling moon howling jams that that’ll raise the dead, a shuffling jangle perfectly at home in the Wild West running under eerie stretched guitar & humming feedback, this is snarling, desolate, and fuckin evil, with menacing badassery written all over it. Listening to this while walking anywhere gives you instant swagger. And the packaging on this is super sexy, hand numbered, screen printed, fold up envelope style cardboard, and limited to 500, you really can’t go wrong with this.
Twilight Of The Century – Hibernation II (Tape Drift)
A sort of northeastern supergroup if you will, comprised of Eric Hardiman (runs Tape Drift, records as Rambutan, in Century Plants, Burnt Hills, etc), Ray Hare (records as Fossils From The Sun, also in Century Plants, Burnt Hills, etc), Linda Aubry Bullock (solo strange sound creator, and A/V/multi/media experimenter extraordinaire as Orangecookie), and Mike Bullock (solo electroacoustic excellence, works with Linda together in music/video/performance as Rise Set Twilight, in video as Twin Stars, and the record label Shadowselves). I try not to do too much bio stuff in reviews but all these rad folks fuckin deserve it. Music wise, Hibernation is as weird as you’d expect from a lot like this, a sprawling post psych hallucination that gets the smeared heat haze treatment, stumbling in the scorched desert under the stars and being comforted by your inner demons, an echo mumbling something vague & disorienting as spacey droning electronics & muffled guitars twist together into a ghostly tranquility, swaying between beautiful dreams and fevered nightmares. Putting these 4 together is almost begging for disappointment, but they deliver the best fuckin debut you could ask for. A mere $7 is all it’ll take to get these fucked jams in your hands.
Howard Stezler & Frans De Waard – Pink Pearl (Exhaust) (Bocian)
I’ve always loved anything that Stelzer has worked on, and by way of his collaborations he frequently leads me to new and exciting artists that I’ve either never heard of or have never gotten around to sitting down with, Pink Pearl with Frans De Waard being an excellent example. The two had been casually trading and elaborating on each other’s sounds for a decade or two before their work culminated in this spectacular piece of creeped out droney weirdness. It has a strong field recording vibe, and while that might be an element to this, there’s nothing to specifically call out as a recognizable sound. Instead, it’s all looped murmurs, crusty electronics, bubbling tape fuckery, stuttering mechanics, hissing clicking breaths of the netherworld, beautifully spare broken dreams alongside bleak industrial bang clank lye vats, the echos of a derelict boiler room still alive with phantoms of the past, eliciting strong memories buzzing & wheezing from the back of your mind that are a hair too ethereal to grasp ahold of. This is absolutely fantastic work, and while I’m unable to distinguish between Stelzer’s & De Waar’ds individual sounds (one of the signs of a truly successful collab), I’ll be damn sure to keep an ear out for more of De Waard’s records.
Sunken Cathedral – Movements 1 & 2 (Black Horizons)
Ryan P. Jobes is quickly becoming a name that’s synonymous with killer records for me. So far I’ve heard this guy head up Night Worship and Cvbe Ov Falsehood, both of which are fucking excellent. Seems like everything this dude touches turns to brooding occult magick. This new project involves him playing everything you can imagine (guitar, harmonium, tape machine, violin, percussion, piano, harpsichord, etc) along with Kimberley Sutton on amplified cello/electronics and Evelyn Davis on a motherfucking pipe organ. Honestly, I was sold right there, but it’s way better than I even hoped. Two side long pieces of perfect drone broken into four movements, this thing is overwhelming, dark, and fucking huge. The drone of the Gods, this is straight up incredible, the pipe organ fuckin dominating your headspace, sucking out the breath of your soul, while the rest of the instruments join forces to create an atmosphere of runic tension, the feeling of being caught & sacrificed while spying on robed shamans worshipping unknown deities, their very presence sending you into a fit of terror while Sunken Cathedral rises up in your ears, droning black & beautiful, a monolith of otherworldly transcendence that you can’t help but hail as your one true master.
K’an – The Tree In The Garden Of Limbs (self released)
One truly fucking astounding record from out of nowhere. This Roman dude takes digital drone to another level, already playing in the same court as Tim Hecker, this thing is bursting at the seams with organic life & deep emotion and it’s only his first goddamn record. Entire solar systems of detail blossom out of each song and as a whole, Anima is a universe teaming with a rare dark beauty. K’an gifts us with a gritty textured drone that sounds fresh & familiar all at once, taking an already glorious sound and infusing it with an original brilliance. Thick sheets of stuttering static cover everything, competing for your attention with bleak hypnotic drones, weaving a bittersweet tapestry peppered with glitchy smoke, ethereal distorted vocals, and buzzing heart ache, it heaves with hidden rhythms and builds to staggering & overwhelming epiphanies, leaving you drenched in a pool of your own blood, sweat, & tears. This is not a record to be fucking trifled with. Maximum awesomeness that’ll leave your jaw on the floor. I honestly can’t get enough of this. It’s easy to say now that my Top Drone list of 2013 is done and over with, but I 100% guarantee Anima would’ve been on the list had I heard it in time. And I forgot to mention, this is currently digital only and you can pay what you want for it right here.
TWENTY!! Goddamn right. The Top Drone list could no longer be contained by the traditional 10. I’m not doing 20 because there was just too much awesome drone this year. While that’s true, it’s also true every year. No, I’m doing it because there were so few standout albums. Everything was so fucking awesome it’s like everyone juiced their skills but were all stopped by a glass ceiling or something. I mean my Top 5 are almost interchangeable. Well, not really, but sort of.
So, as usual, this list is about my personal favorite droners. Nothing objective going on. And, like AGB in general, I tend to favor the under-represented. And I don’t usually allow reissues, but I had to bend the rules a bit for no other reason than that one reissue is so, so fucking good and I didn’t know it was a reissue until I started making this list.
And you know I only write about the highest quality shit. So anything that was posted this year and tagged as Drone is basically just as good as everything you’ll see on this list. So browse that genre if you’re still jonesing for some more drone.
Onto the list!
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