Before the folks in Book Of Sand were doing that avant black metal thing, they were doing this avant doom thing as Light. They put out three releases, and A Million Dead Beneath The Ice was the first, it came packaged in white folded paper with a bit of menstrual blood smeared on it, and the music was just fucking ridiculous, menacing faux organ, wall of static distortion, glacial hollow percussion, and tortured howling from the depths of hell, this is a slow droning slab of noisy old school doom with a tinge of Americana thrown in on the last song, absolutely horrific stuff, it’s perfect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second part (of a two parter, this is it. ICYMI: part 1) of what I’ve been blasting the fuck out of for the past few months. Here lie the black, doomed, & loud as hell records that are front to back awesome.
Hope Drone – Hope Drone (OSCL)
100% killer post black metal out of Australia, blistering & furious with raspy roaring vocals and a grim outlook set to annihilate you that’s not very often seen in the Cascadian stuff, it’s low on the shimmer (though it’s there a bit) and heavy on the heavy.
Sadhaka – Terma (Pest / Sick Man Getting Sick)
Super fucking awesome USBM band that sadly only got their record released overseas. This is some insane post everything shit, a little post metalcore here, a little post black metal there, but monstrous through & through, thick atmospheres, major dark riffs that are admittedly a bit catchy, but when this thing explodes, it’s so beastly, vocals sounding like they’re being echoed out of a bottomless abyss and spot on heart attack beats. Been playing this one almost nonstop since I found it.
Quttinirpaaq – No Visitors (Rural Isolation Project)
Hands down the weirdest record in this list, these guys have churned out some gruesome industrial sludge that sounds like it was scraped from the bottom of an evaporated acid bath and splattered up against bass heavy grooves & rusted iron drum beats, gritty & heavy as fuck with a Bachelor’s degree in bombastic noise punk and a minor in scorched psych, something a freakish cult would dance to as they burn you alive in your fevered hallucinations.
Old Witch – Come Mourning Come (self released)
Holy fuck this is one huge goddamn record, the most perfect blending of doom, black metal, & drone I’ve heard in a long time, monstrous drums & earth rattling guitars that will tear the fucking world apart as we all fall into the pits of hell, and definitely a Carpenter/horror score vibe with backing synths that turn this into a brutally tense nightmare. Hands down of of my favorites this year.
Surachai – Embraced (self released)
This one came out of nowhere and it fuckin rules, just one dude who enlisted a bunch of pals to flesh things out and give this a truly overwhelming sound, Embraced is some next level shit, complex wall of sound black metal that’s super fuckin precise, tight tremolo shredding on top of a controlled chaos of percussion a la Zach Hill or Greg Fox, this is nonstop amazing.
Peste Noire – Peste Noire (La Mesnie Herlequin)
Forget all those shoegazey French black metal bands, Peste Noire is the Frenchest black metal there is and they’re the fucking best. Their newest record eschews a lot of the black metal norms and takes on a heavy dose of punk & cabaret styles, both of which I normally hate, but for some reason the accordion, xylophone, classical acoustic guitar, spit in your face vocals, and all the other non-BM sounds on here get folded in with the blast beats & buzzing guitars and end up making the craziest, noisiest, coolest fucking (mostly) black metal record.
When Woods Make Graves – Whispers From The Black Lake (self released)
Solo British dude who’s pretty prolific, cites my favorite classics (Burzum, Paysage D’Hiver, Weakling, etc) as influences, and makes his shit free* for the taking, there’s no reason not to love him already. But his records are incredible and his most recent one is no different, with 6 tracks (4 of which break the 14 minute mark) churning out guitar squalls & murky atmospheres, overwhelming in every way, he’s just as good at making lengthy devastating epics as he is switching out his guitar for some synths and laying down massive bleak drones.
Hivelords – Cavern Apothecary (Anthropic)
Some fearsome shit right here, these Philly dudes spill fresh blood in the blackened doom arena, frenzied blast beats & killer fucking riffs b/w a slow plodding death march & clean majestic vocals, at once black, heavy, doomed, & pure fucking evil, these guys have a path to the Dark Throne laid out right in front of them.
Charnel House – Black Blood (Sygil)
A record unlike any other, this is some sort of beautifully dark atmospheric black metal, but not the kind you’re thinking of, this is a record straight out of a haunted house, eerie guitars & bass jamming a fucked up atmosphere while some ghost lady seduces you to the Underworld, lurching drums that rise up from the basement to burst out in flaming blast beats. I don’t know what depths this came from but I both hope I never find it and am pissed I’m not there already.
Cultes Des Ghouls – Henbane (Hells Headbangers)
A truly twisted black metal record, equal parts thrashy, heavy, and fucked, this is grizzly necro show with dual vocals that howl & groan, debased buzzing riffs, start & stop drums, crazy samples, a candlelit graveyard stomp, the kind of shit that Satan himself rocks to.
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.
Fantastic stuff from Canadian Lindsay Dobbin, this is the quietest weirdest lo-fi folk you’ll ever hear. Dobbin has cobbled together a record that sounds like it was recorded on a wax cylinder, buried for a century or two at the bottom of a well, and excavated when the current land owners found out the well was haunted. Straightforward sounds, a piano, a guitar, her ethereal childlike voice, and all the life of the Yukon wilderness, howling wolves, the cold wind, bird calls, occasionally warped & twisted into a drugged dream but always caked in a murky tape hiss, soft & simple, a record deeply in touch with the self, connected to every fiber of the world, but still seeking an obscured transcendent understanding. Truly incredible work. The sadly sold out tape was wrapped in birch bark and moose sinew, so maybe if all of you ask nicely she’ll re-release it. If not, trust me that the digital version will certainly suffice.
For a variety of terrible reasons, I have a hard time writing about records that didn’t get submitted to me for review. That means I come across tons of incredible shit that I don’t make time for on AGB. A lot of the records in this mid-year roundup fall into that category. Regardless of how I found out about them, all of these are 100% awesome and I’ve been playing the fuck out of each and every one of them.
Also, I have a totally bullshit & ever-shifting line that I try not to cross when writing about records that wobbles between how popular the album/band/label is and how much I love the record. This list is made up of stuff I probably would’ve reviewed if I had the time, but there’s a lot I’ve been jamming hard that was “too big” in my eyes for AGB, lots of high profile metal like Deafheaven, Altar Of Plagues, Inter Arma, The Body, etc, and then there’s stuff like William Tyler’s super bitchin Impossible Truth, which, if it didn’t come out on Merge, I most likely would’ve written it up, but then there’s some that regardless of how much press they get, I can’t help but praise the shit out of them. So those are my half-assed rules and what went through my head when making this list.
There’s a few records on here that might make it onto my year end drone list, so if you’re the gamblin type, start up a pool with your pals and maybe you can strike it rich.
Since this is a pretty big list (28 and unranked) I’ve put everything after the jump so it doesn’t clog up the front page. Here’s hoping you find some in here that you haven’t heard of yet.
Read the rest of this entry »
A short but devastating debut EP from these new Boston dudes, checking in at a little under 14 minutes, with two songs of mega-doom, monolithic & heavy as fuck, a chunky, lumbering beast dredging up graves, the real action coming in on the 9+ minute “Dasein” where the noise gets pumped up and shit gets slowed down to a funereal dirge of growling fury, huge walls of horror sounding like these dudes summoned open the mouth of hell and recorded the unholy descent as they got swallowed up, then it breaks into a sludgy stomper once they hit fire bottom, the rock of pure fucking death, gruesome & grim metal that’ll bring out the brutal bastard in everyone, this is the best kind of debut, a tease of the excellence to come with killer artwork by Bryan Proteau of Natvres Mortes Illvstration, don’t miss out on this, these guys are definitely goin places.
Tennessee’s Joseph Davenport is back with a new Millipede record, this first since 2011′s Realms (although he did have a new piece on my free comp You’re All The Fucking Best) and it’s a fucking winner. This dude belts out the noisiest harsh bliss I’ve ever heard, sounding like he’s tossed a hundred guitars into a raging bonfire, caked in scorched & burnt feedback, with gauzy melodies climbing out from a pit of red hot embers, some blown out mixture of shoegaze, psych, drone folk, & space rock, taking all of those sounds and leaving them out to crust up in the desert sun, the core still peaking through the shell, and in fact the “lead” guitar is more noticeable than ever in The Lower World, nuzzling up to your ear drums while the caustic distortion bores through your skull, this is a masochistic record of pain & pleasure, the beauty buried deep in grit and wholly worth excavating, one of Millipede’s best, and exciting as hell because this the second part of a trilogy (Realms being the first), so we know there’s more destructive brilliance on the horizon.
Solo project of K. Arthur Miller, making some somber tunes out of drone, folk, and doom. Exceptional stuff, using all weapons at his disposal, quietly screaming Godspeed guitars, layered, processed, & rewound, delicate picking inside on a rainy day, lush washes of bliss, hushed echoes in haunted halls, a few moments of doomed & distorted crunch, all wrapped up in a dark, melancholic shroud, bright enough not to push you over the edge but gloomy in all the right ways, a melodramatic dance through fog with Death waiting for you on the other side, beautiful & depressing, the best kind of drone. Free if you want it to be so there’s no reason to pass over this, and seeing as this is his first proper full length, you might want to keep an eye on him.
Two ladies from Washington that bring some serious fucking heaviness. Not sure if there’s a scene over there where this type of insanity is the norm and I just haven’t heard it yet, but All’s Lost is impossible to peg. They’re doing something totally original and it’s the fucking best. Some sort of black sludgy screamo garage that just melts my heart. Sweet hooks & melodies run through a fuzz filter, blistering screams, massive riffs next to atmospheric tremolo, blast beats forgone for everything but, depressing lyrics and a permeating darkness to knock it out of the park. Not really weird on a song by song basis but put together this is a wholly twisted beast. Best of all it’s cheap as shit. Digital is PWYW, tapes or CDs a mere $5, and they have some killer shirts for the same amount. I fuckin love these guys. Now just gimme some vinyl.