Posts Tagged ‘Top 10’

Top 20 Drone Records Of 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I fucking love making my Top Drone Records list. Not only do I get to listen to all of my favorite drone records from the past 12 months basically non-stop for a month, I also get to re-share all these fucking amazing records that you may have overlooked or never even known about.

This year’s list is a bit stricter on what I considered “drone.” Except that was entirely unintentional. It just so happens there weren’t a lot of “sorta kinda mostly drone” records that were as outstanding as these 20. And while this list does cap out at 20, know that every other drone record I reviewed is tied for the 21 spot. I love each and every one of them for their own unique qualities. (Here would be some terrible joke about how all drone records sound the same which I hear all. the fucking. time.)

And for those of you new to my Top Drone list, know this is a list based on emotion and how these records affected me. I don’t try to make any objective statements of “best record” or anything like that, and when I do, it’s purely subjective and hyperbolic. These records are my personal favorites because they resonate with me in ways that are frequently indescribable.

So as not to clog the front page, the 20 jaw dropping drone records are after the jump.

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Top 20 Drone Records Of 2013

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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Top 10 Drone Records Of 2012

A couple months ago I was lamenting that 2012 had shit for good drone records. The words of a madman, clearly. This year was chock full of goodness, although to be honest, nothing this year is quite as good as my favorite drone record from 2011, Nicholas Szczepanik’s Please Stop Loving Me, which will always be the best thing ever. Still, there’s tons of amazing drone this year and it was damn near impossible to keep it trimmed to a tidy 10.

I know genre-specific lists are already niche enough, but I decided to give myself a couple new rules to help narrow my focus. First was defining “Drone Record,” which I hadn’t really done before. If you know the site, then you’ll know my drone tag is liberal. I throw that fucker on everything. But to me, for a record to be on a list of drone records, its top-level genre has to be drone. If I was cataloging it by genre, it would have to go under “Drone.” Not “Noise,” not “Black Metal,” not “Doom,” not “Folk.” Those could be sub-genres, just not the main one. This cleared out a lot of records. It meant I couldn’t include Horseback’s Half Blood (probably my favorite non-drone record this year), Gates’ Eintraum, Sutekh Hexen’s Behind The Throne, etc.

Second, I decided no reissues or box sets. I’ve sorta followed this one in the past, but I didn’t want highly publicized massive tomes like William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops or Pauline Oliveros’ epic 12 disc Reverberations stealing the thunder here.

As you know, I only write about the most top notch shit that gets me super psyched. Every drone record that came out this year and I reviewed should be on this list. So go digging through the drone tag and find the rest that just barely missed the cut. They’re all #11.
 
 

10. Moonshine BluesThrough (Hidden Vibes)
“Floating in the grey and rapt in heartache, while sheets & swells of euphoria shimmer in the dark, dragged to the edge of oblivion and left alone…”

One of the best drone releases this year is free. So go download this bleak beast right now and you can feel totally guilt free doing so. And it came out of left field, too. Self released (on his own label), solo Ukrainian guy making some sad fuckin jams, usually as Endless Melancholy, but venturing out into more “ambient” territory as Moonshine Blues. He’s got this blues drone thing down pat and it was more or less an experiment. A+ dude.
 
 

9. WastelandersCosmic Despair (Calls & Correspondence / Basses Frequences / Space Idea / Hewhocorrupts Inc.)
“The first few tracks are as depressing as it gets, gloom thick enough to asphyxiate on, solid minimal melancholy that turns your heart into lead and brings gods to tears.”

Gloomy. As. Fuck. The kind of sadness reserved for royalty eulogies & the internal monologue leading to suicides. Long torturous tracks that take the cake for most depressing drones. And super fucking gorgeous.
 
 

8. ConcernMisfortune (Isounderscore)
“…nervous nondescript fumbling & fidgeting to keep busy while the drones flutter, then a huge blissful shimmering cloud of hand-wringing uncertainty, slightly transparent and hovering right in front of the sun.”

Edgy box harp drone that’s as jangling as it is soothing. When a drone record has a certain novelty (like an atypical instrument as the primary focus) I usually get sucked in regardless, but this one is outstanding in its own right. A bittersweet swansong from Concern, Misfortune being the last release under that moniker. One of two Isounderscore releases on this list because that label is 100% quality.
 
 

7. Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoWe Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum)
“…always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers.”

A unique book release with no physical music included. Marino did the photos for the book and Weathers’ tunes come via download. I honestly can’t get enough of Weathers. Everything he does is magic. The absolute perfect blend of folk & drone, he fucking nails it every time. His banjo can do no wrong and his voice is probably the only one that should be allowed to sing over drone.
 
 

6. PortraitsPortraits (Important)
“…an impossibly minimal drone that’s almost too beautiful to handle.”

The supergroup to end supergroups (this time it’s true I promise). Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Evan Caminiti, Jon Porras, Gregg Kowalsky, Marielle Jakobsons, and Maxwell August Croy to name about half of them, all working in perfect unison, somehow making harmonies that I still can’t wrap my head around. Long form drones that some work years to achieve, these guys kicked out while they all still have their regular bands & shit going on. Unreal.
 
 

5. Kyle Bobby DunnIn Miserum Stercus (Komino)
“…the soft subtleties & elegant dances are still the core, but instead of charming or uplifting, we’re given somber & melancholic, tones dipping into ethereal, haunted dreams…”

Nope, not Bring Me The Head Of…, this one is better because it’s darker and a more unique addition to KBD’s discography. Plus it’s just better. The most beautiful misery I’ve ever heard, overwrought but without tension, intimate & devastating, delicate & harrowing. This is Dunn at the top of his fucking game.
 
 

4. EUS, Postdrome, & SaåadSustained Layers (BLWBCK)
“Dense and soaring, black anvil clouds rolling over open plains, always on the edge, seeing the sun rays glow and the grey mass shift, an impending fury that always threatens, never breaks…”

This is beyond gloom. This is as dark as you get before you hit black ambient. It would be downright terrifying if it wasn’t so fucking majestic. And I’d never heard of any of these three guys or the label before. Totally opened my eyes to a new minimal darkness. Supremely awesome.
 
 

3. Nicholas SzczepanikThe Truth Of Transience (Isounderscore)
“…a wonderful long form rhythm, it starts out menacing, all horror movie suspense style, with percussive gong-like warnings and imitation bowed cymbals, turning into a loud and blissfully unnerving swirl that eventually fades to nothing…”

Szczepanik put out 3 records this year (this, We Make Life Sad, and Luz, a collab with Federico Durand as Every Hidden Color). And Szczepanik is probably my most favoritest droner right now so why & how the fuck did I chose just one? First, not only did he take the number one spot last year but he was on that list twice (his Ante Algo Azul series couldn’t be skipped). And while this is a totally biased & subjective list, I still feel the need to be a little fair to everyone who’s not Szczepanik. I mean, if he put out 10 records, chances are they’d comprise the whole list, so I tried to restrain myself and only picked one. While Luz is incredible, it didn’t hit me the way his other two did. And We Make Life Sad is one of the most personal and unique albums this year, truly amazing, but I thought I could exclude it due to it being less droney than The Truth Of Transience. Oh, and because Transience is fucking stunning. Out of the three, this one unquestionably wins the gold.
 
 

2. High Aura’dSanguine Futures (Bathetic)
“…a foggy midnight journey through the middle of the ocean, with distant muffled canons fighting off some ancient sea beast, mythical & literal sirens wailing, calling with sweetness & alarm, chimes and clatter rattling in the still darkness…”

How the hell did High Aura’d make a record this goddamn good? Seriously, this is amazing in so many ways. Dark & minimal rumblings that breathe soft and threaten your life. I literally can’t imagine him ever making a better record than Sanguine Futures and it’s only his third outing as High Aura’d. I’m pretty sure he will at some point, though, because this dude gets exponentially better with each release. But even if he doesn’t, this is a black star that’ll forever outshine so many other records.
 
 

1. SuperstormsSuperstorms (Experimedia)
“Crushed bits and burnt clouds, a blurred fury dipped in bliss, sunsets viewed through a grit lens, a trillion grey sky pixels fractured with the glow shining through, brittle static & warm drones blown out, scratched out, washed out…”

There’s a lot of dark & depressing shit on this list (tough times this past year) but the Number One sidesteps my masochism in favor of something that resonates so profoundly with me. Superstorms crafts the kind of drone that I feel is at my core, the kind of drone I crave more than any other: gritty, blissful, and fucking loud. I feel most at peace when records like this are so loud they obscure everything else in my brain. I can barely stand how fucking awesome Superstorms is. Serious next level drones. I’ve never heard anything else quite like it. I hope that you like this even half as much as I do because FUUUCK I love it too fucking much and the world would be a better place if everyone shared in this stupidly perfect love.

Top 10 Drone Records Of 2011

This year’s list was too damn hard. There was just so much awesomeness, it was almost impossible to keep it to 10. That’s just how lists are, I guess.

Since this is an AGB list and AGB = me, I allowed myself the freedom that an indie blogger should have. Namely, defining “drone” however I damn well please. However, I still had some criteria. If a record had some songs that were hardly drone at all, but still embodied the drone aesthetic as a whole, I kept it. There were plenty of records that I wanted to mold into the list but no matter which way I looked at it, they just couldn’t be considered “drone” (especially the new Ricardo Donoso and Colin Stetson albums).

If you’re new here, there are sound samples on all of the original reviews and I beseech you to listen to anything on this list you have yet to hear. I assure you it will be worth your time 100%. But…

On to the list! On to the heckling!


10. High Aura’dMooncusser (YDLMIER)
“Soaring Windy & Carl euphoria, brief Fahey picks, and a wall of absolute beauty.”

Boston’s killerest scene stomping dude on Boston’s raddest darned tape label.


9. Nicholas SzczepanikAnte Algo Azul (self released)
“There’s mournful Basinski textures, sci-fi tractor beams, static harmonies, Eliane Radigue homages, all wrapped in Szczepanik’s own meditative perspective.”

Technically 12 separate items but they’re all Ante Algo Azul. And the ID3 tags on the official downloads have each one as an individual track of the full 12 song “album.” So suck it. Plus, this shit is the greatest.


8. Mind Over MirrorsThe Voice Rolling (Digitalis)
“Stretched out gauze floating through pink/grey bliss, endless layers of reed textured harmonies, all of the fantastic things about harmoniums but given a new life through Fennelly.”

Harmoniums always do it for me and this is like the harmonium record to destroy all harmonium records.


7. MountainsAir Museum (Thrill Jockey)
“Mountains bounce back and forth between straight up drone and pulsing minimal space techno, keeping a nice balance, never cemented in their textured planar earthly past but not jumping ship for the OPN New Age.”

Always keepin me on my toes. Mountains took it to the next motherfuckin level on this one.


6. EmuulThe Drawing Of The line (Digitalis)
“Blurred & blown out drones that breathe heavy, swaying in the breeze, scorched at the edges.”

Sad n blissful. Zen x100.


5. RaleSome Kissed Charms That Would Not Protect Them (Isounderscore)
“…a heaving sweetheart, giving you massive swells of dense intimidation… conjuring images of watching a thunderstorm roll in on the beach… enjoying it without fear and wallowing in the glory of the lightening sky, the majesty of nature beautifully overwhelming.”

Rale fucking nailed it on this one. And no one knows about it! Only 300 copies made, came out in May, and it’s still available. What’s wrong with you people! This is truly original and has AMAZING packaging.


4. Lawrence EnglishThe Peregrine (Experimedia)
“Like the finest grade sandpaper, with a tooth so smooth, the grit almost disappears and you’re left with drone as glorious as humanly possible.”

Didn’t think Mr. English could make something more satisfying than Kiri No Oto but goddammit he sure did. Unreal.


3. Kyle Bobby DunnWays Of Meaning (Desire Path)
“This is the most delicate bliss I’ve ever experienced. 100% shining purity that doesn’t need to be cranked to 11 to get the job done. It swirls softly & effortlessly turns hearts into puddles of droney delight.”

First of all, KBD on vinyl? YES. Then, the best KBD record yet? Also, YES. It has one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard on it, too. It’s just math, you guys. Of course this is on the list.


2. Andrew Weathers EnsembleWe’re Not Cautious (Sleep On The Floor)
“It’s unbelievably warm, so rich & soft, tender & charming, absolutely beautiful in every way. It can be played at full volume and it won’t overpower, it’ll simply fill your home with the most delicately lush sounds you can imagine.”

Probably the least droney record on this list but it’s got enough to break into the official “Drone” category for me. Either way, this is literally one of the best records I’ve ever heard.


1. Nicholas SzczepanikPlease Stop Loving Me (Streamline)
“As wonderfully serene as it is, the whole time you’re wading waist deep in emotion, the sustained & intertwined tones heavy hearted, cascading heartache, longing, and hope. An elegiac softness matched with poignant massiveness that ends on the brightest, most uplifting note, fading into the horizon.”

This is the one. The best record of the year. Hands down. No contest. One of the best records of all time, in fact. I shit you not. As the kids say these days, unimpeachable. Or is it unfuckwithable? Lets just go with the universally understood: PERFECT.

AGB Top 2010

So here’s the deal. Just like last year, I wasn’t going to do a Top 10 list. But last year Angela at Weirdo specifically asked me to make one, so I kinda had to. I made a Top 10 Drone list and it turned out awesome. This year, I took an informal poll to see if anyone cared if I made a list. Surprisingly (?), most people wanted to know what my favorite records are.

The only problem was, I wasn’t terribly impressed with a whole lot this year. So I tried to think of some topic or angle for the list, like last year, but kept coming up short. Nothing seemed pertinent or relevant. Then I thought since most of you probably read this blog (right?), why bother re-hashing a bunch of shit I’ve already told you I loved this year, like NHK, Tomo, Tristan Perich, etc. I should make a Top 10 list of records that didn’t get any mention on AGB.

So that’s what this is. A list of records that were especially awesome for me this year that for whatever reason didn’t get reviewed. No matter how good it was, I did my best to stay away from really high profile shit like the new Gorillaz, Tobacco, The Knife, and Sleigh Bells, but there was one exception (if you follow me on Twitter, you can probably guess).

ONTO THE LIST HECKLE AWAYYY
 


10. Brendan Murray / Perispirit split & collaboration
Boston drone noise heroes put out some hot shit earlier this year. A split LP and a collaborative tape both jointly released on Semata and Razors & Medicine. Murray’s sidelong piece on the vinyl featured Noell Dorsey doing her unsettling/beautifying ghostly squeak singing. Truly awesome.
 
 

9. Max RichterInfra
I’ve heard some rag on Richter’s new one this year but honestly, it’s one of my favorites of his. It’s a little different, a little more electronics than usual, but I seriously couldn’t get enough of this.
 
 

8. Fennesz Daniell BuckKnoxville
Collab of the year for sure. These three dudes brought everything they had to the table and made pure magic. You can really hear everyone’s individual styling while they craft a perfect cohesion of intense & relaxing drone jams.
 
 

7. Yellow SwansGoing Places
Last official Yellow Swans. Good thing they went out with a fucking BANG. Going Places is one of their best records ever, crazy gorgeous guitar noise hidden beneath the harsh crackle. Too bad my copy of the vinyl arrived in the mail with a giant fucking puncture wound in the jacket. Irreplaceable because it’s totally OOP. :(
 
 

6. Demdike Stare’s Trilogy (Forest Of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing, Voices Of Dust)
Yes, 3 records are coming in at #6. That’s just the way I roll. Demdike Stare put out a sweet triptych of LPs this year, and while they all have their own sound, they definitely team up like the fucking Voltron of dark textured minimal ambient techno drone.
Update: Hardformat got the scoop on the CD release of all 3 LPs coming out soon on Modern Love.
 
 

5. The Fun YearsGod Was Like, No
Everyone and their mom was been talking about this one, and with good reason. It’s fucking awesome. Seriously. Gritty blissful guitar electronics like some dreamteam supergroup of Hecker, Fennesz, Basinski, and Jeck.
 
 

4. The Besnard Lakes…Are The Roaring Night
Every once in a while a rock band comes along and pushes all the right buttons for me. That’s The Besnard Lakes. They do a strange hybrid of psych Americana folk shoegaze with a guy who’s falsetto is unbelievable. Super lush and epic songs that are beautifully crushing. I loved their last one …Are The Dark Horse like it was my job and had a hard time believing this new album would be even half as good. Well, it’s even better. So there.
 
 

3. Have A Nice LifeTime Of Land
This gets placing for three reasons. 1: It’s HANL so anything new by them automatically makes it win. 2: I picked this tape up when I saw them play their first show ever at The Stone in New York. So, good memories. 3: It’s the fucking shit. Single sided with only four tracks, two of them a bit more on the ambient drone side of things, the other two hard hitting industrial shoegaze metal that makes HANL so great. And it finishes with “The Icon And The Axe” which is honestly one of their best songs ever.
 
 

2. EluviumStatic Nocturne
Last year Eluvium made #1 on my list with his Life Through Bombardment 7xLP book set and since he had four new releases this year (plus two as part of Concert Silence), it was pretty fucking obvious that at least one of them would make the list. Why Static Nocturne instead of Similes? Well, it’s his homage to white noise and static, which means it might be my favorite Eluvium release ever. Also, it showed up at a time in my life when it seemed like everyone I cared about was dead or dying, so Static Nocturne really helped take my mind off things with its euphoric washes of orgasmic noise.
 
 

1. RobynBody Talk Pt. 1
Dancing On My Own

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This is the one guys. The first Body Talk EP from the super famous Robyn who even my sister & coworkers know. But it was just downright impossible for me to not put Body Talk Pt. 1 at the top of this list. At 30+ spins, it has literally been the single most played album all year. I can, and have, listened to this pretty much constantly. Every song is the goddamn best. “Dancing On My Own” is easily my favorite pop song of all time. Pt. 2 wasn’t quite as good, there were a few tracks I wasn’t 100% into, and I haven’t heard the full length yet because I’m still trying to find it on vinyl, so that might have been #1, but I highly doubt it. Nothing can top this. Pure pop perfection.