Album Review

Top 20 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records Of 2015

Third list! One more to go. No genre theme this time, but I excluded drone & metal records because they have their own lists. Although there are a few that almost made it onto either of those other lists (see: 12, 10, 7, 6), I felt they weren’t quite droney or metal enough to make the cut, so now they’re here. I hope there’s some new jams in here that you haven’t heard yet and that it’s not too predictable.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the huge lack of some of my favorite records that were just too big for me to want to include. Namely, Carly Rae Jepsen, Chrvches, and Purity Ring (among others). Those definitely wouldn’t seen some Top 5 action.

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Questions For Andrew Weathers

andrew weathers interview

Photo credit: Andrew Marino

Americana droner/guitar whisperer Andrew Weathers, who’s made some truly killer fucking records (some of which have made it to my Top 10 Drone list) and co-runs Full Spectrum Records with Andrew Marino, took some time and answered these questions for me. Super kind of him. He’s got a couple upcoming records, One Day We’ll Find The Valley on Lifelike Family and a split tape with Wes Tirey coming on Scissor Tail Editions, so definitely keep an eye out for those. And if this dude is new to you, start here and try not to fall too far down the hole.


What is the best way to die?
Probably of Natural Causes, surrounded by loved ones.

How do you think you’ll die?
Recently I was driving around the mountains in Humboldt County with my partner & I said
“I have a feeling that this is how I’m going to die, driving over one of these ledges.” But
I’m just very afraid of heights.

What makes you happy?
Work, hanging out with my friends and family, being in transit, a good anecdote, eating,
coffee in the AM

How can you die happy?
At the end of my life, if I tried to be good to be people, did as much good work as
possible, & maintained a certain level of integrity while doing it, I’ll be happy.

How close have you come to death?
I’ve been pretty lucky so far, I’ve not come all that close to death. Not counting the very
real every day dangers of being a pedestrian or driving a car, the closest I’ve felt was one
night in Oakland. I was waiting in line at the grocery store with my friend Hannah to buy
some beer & a frozen pizza; three men with masks & guns came in & demanded the
money from the tellers. Hannah & I ducked & walked towards the back of the store.
Everyone in the shop hid in the loading dock until they left, I was on hold with the Oakland
PD for about ten minutes before I talked to anyone. Nobody was hurt, but we were a little
fried after that.

What does kindness mean to you?
Being welcoming & helpful without expectation. Always working on this one.

Where do you find love?
There’s infinite love in finite existence.

When were you most afraid?
I either don’t remember a lot of fear in my life, or there just hasn’t been much. I felt intense
fear most recently on the cusp of mounting a pretty large production for my day job. There
was a lot of people’s time & money put into it & it’s my job to make sure that it went well. That is fucking heavy.

One summer I was in Chicago eating lunch next to the water with my friends during one
of the Andrew Weathers Ensemble tours. All of a sudden there was a massive explosion
followed by gunfire. I thought for sure this was some sort of attack & we were through. I
reached for my phone to call my folks, we were all kind of losing it. Turns out they were
filming the third Transformers movie. The entire city of Chicago was in on it but we

How do you listen to music?
In my car, from my laptop in the mornings, sometimes while cooking or at work. After a
particularly difficult day, I’ll listen to pop punk in headphones on the train. I often feel like
I’m not a devoted enough music listener.

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.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers & Andrew Marino – We Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum, 2012)

Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoSingle Girl, Married Girl (Full Spectrum)

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Alright, so technically this record doesn’t feature Andrew Marino. At all. But that’s because it’s not just a record. It’s music & a book, with Weathers making the sounds and Marino taking photos. Every song Weathers wrote is tied to a pair of photographs Marino shot, and the music kinda takes the back seat, getting just a digital release that accompanies the physical book (of which there’s no digital counterpart as far as I know, but you can check out Marino’s Flickr for some examples). And since I don’t have the book, this review focuses solely on Weathers’ contributions.

If there’s any dude who knows how to incorporate melty drones with vocals and acoustic plucking, it’s this guy. And if there’s anyone you can count on having their next release being just as good, if not better than their last, it’s this guy. Andrew Weathers records are like my favorite thing right now. And probably forever. He just pushes all the right buttons, but he also pushes them so perfectly. His drones are fucking top notch, elegant & soft, can i buy cialis at walmart warm & sunny, and totally blissful. Then he mixes in acoustic guitars and banjos, sometimes accompanying the electronic minimals, sometimes just by their bare self, founded in Appalachian tradition and tweaked with a keen eye for the discerning 21st centurian, always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers. And his singing is just what takes it to the next fucking level, vocals like an ironed sheet of satin, rich and friendly, implicitly welcoming you to join in. And all of it has a hint of melancholy that’s beautifully subtle, giving everything that perfect amount of bittersweetness. Clearly his work with the Andrew Weathers Ensemble has found its way back home in his solo work and I’m all for it. Speaking of which, this is every bit as amazing as AWE’s We’re Not Cautious, which made my Top 10 list a couple years ago. This is seriously incredible work and every release Weathers puts out just makes me more shocked that he’s not being praised as Drone Folk Hero. What’s wrong with you people. This is where your ears should be.