Album Review

Top 10 Collaborative Drone Records Of 2015

There was so much amazing fucking music this year, I had to put together not one, not two, but FOUR lists, this is the first of em, and it’s a fuckin doozy, since there were wayyyy too many killer drone records, I split it up and made a more niche list of drone collaborations, and as usual, this isn’t even all of em. My main rule for this list was that the collaborations had to be people working together for the first time, so the new From The Mouth Of The Sun was out. And since I didn’t review any of these originally, I can’t link you to the review which has a streaming song, which is why I decided to include a song for each of these.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.


UPDATE: I have no idea how I didn’t realize that EUS, Postdrome, & Saåad broke the only rule I had for this list. I didn’t even realize it when I was linking to my previous Top Drone list from 2012 that had their first record. So, oops. I’m an asshole and I’m sorry.


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Questions For Saåad

saaad interview photo

Saåad is the French drone duo comprised of Romain Barbot & Grégory Buffier. They’ve been making some of my favorite sounds for the past couple years and the Deep/Float LP released on Hands In The Dark this past April is easily one of the best drone records this year. I have no idea what they have planned as for future releases, but in the meantime, they were kind enough to take some time to answer these questions for me.

What is the best way to die?
Romain: Painlessly, during my sleep while dreaming. It could be a good option…

Grégory: While sleeping or on stage, the later the better I hope. I’d like to compose my own requiem, play it and pass away, draped in a melody shroud.

How do you think you’ll die?
Romain: Probably of a heart attack or cancer. I’m not scared of death, but I’m scared of being sick.

Grégory: I’ll die of a heart attack or I’ll just fade away…

What makes you happy?
Romain: The love of my fiancée, my family & my friends, making music, creating & building things, freedom, coffee, Toulouse’s sun, Italian vanilla ice cream, jams with friends, my cat, weed, listening to music, duck breasts, homemade burgers…

Grégory: The feeling that each day is a rebirth, being wide awake, simple things of life, contrasts and shades, the scent of flowers, harmony and euphony, the ineffable in music, composing, listening to baroque music, tears and regrets that make me feel alive, the sweet intoxication of alcohol and weed, the love of my family and friends, my sweet girlfriend, eating good cheese and delicatessen, and freedom of course.

How can you die happy?
Romain: By accepting it and making peace with yourself and surrounded by your loved ones. I will survive through them, and I guess that I will be happy if I leave them happy. Mortality is a beautiful & natural thing when it comes in its time. Eternity is one of the most frightening concepts invented by humanity. Maybe that’s why I’m not interested in religion.

Grégory: By accepting it smiling, listening to my favorite pieces of baroque music if I have enough time, after having reached wisdom and knowing that death is just an illusion.

How close have you come to death?
Romain: In New York, I was with my brother & my best friend, we saw the girl next to us falling from the sixth floor. We saw her disappearing into the darkness without a scream. It was really dark, we didn’t see her crash, we just heard it… and it was a terrible noise. By a miracle, she survived with only a broken shoulder! But we thought she was dead.

Grégory: I’d say the day when I climbed up the basilica on Pillar Square in Saragossa, Spain with a friend of mine. The towers were being renovated, the scaffolding was quite narrow and it was windy but we climbed up all the same. Then the wind got stronger and stronger, we crawled and clung to the wall. I felt a bit dizzy but I wasn’t scared. We waited for 10 minutes until the wind stopped and we went on. We managed to get to the top. The view was great. It was risky but it was worth it.

What does kindness mean to you?
Romain: Listening to people, giving and sharing without expecting anything in return. A softer version of sacrifice.

Grégory: Sharing, giving, listening to people, empathy, altruism…

Where do you find love?
Romain: I think love can’t be found. Love is a rent, it is never acquired. It builds up and has to be cultivated.

Grégory: Close to a soul that wraps my body with true love, next to my close friends and in music which makes me exist.

When were you most afraid?
Romain: I’ve been harassed for a few weeks, it was so fucked up & scary…

Grégory: I have no idea. I don’t know if I have ever been afraid.

How do you listen to music?
Romain: I’m lucky to work at home so I listen to music all day long from my computer. When I don’t work I prefer listening to my old records or cassettes in my living-room, comfortably seated and ready for music. When I don’t listen to music I make music. I have made more music than I have listened to recently.

Grégory: It all depends on the music I’m listening to. If it’s classical music, which is most of the time, I can’t do anything else. I just listen, attentive to what’s going on. I like being comfortably seated in my living-room and alone. I can talk to myself sometimes… I also like music while driving.

Album Review

Saåad – Deep/Float (Hands In The Dark, 2014)

saaad - deep-float album cover
SaåadNew Helicon (Hands In The Dark)

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Pure fucking magic right here. Ever since that 3-way collab with Saåad, EUS, and Postdrome from a few years back, I’ve been keeping an eye on all of those guys, and everything they’ve done has been stellar, and Deep/Float, Saåad’s vinyl debut, is no different. Truly magnificent dark drone that soars and heaves, bittersweet & melancholic doesn’t even crack the surface here, this penetrates deep in the core of your soul and shows you things you didn’t know you could feel, steady and slow moving but it feels like every passing moment is a climax, the point just before you can’t take it anymore and the world collapses under the weight of life, both minimal and overwhelming, this is utterly fucking gorgeous and will bring even the strongest to tears. These two Toulouse dudes are at the top of the drone chain with this one. Out next month, only 300 copies, you can do this.

Album Review

Saåad – Orbs & Channels (Hands In The Dark, 2013)

SaåadHieronimus (Hands In The Dark)

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Top of the fucking line right here you guys. This French duo, who took part in Sustained Layers, that three way intercontinental collaboration with EUS and Postdrome last year that made my Top Drone list, are back with tape of pure melancholic bliss. Huge drones on this, majestic and perfect in every way, like a dense fog rolling on from the shore in the middle of the night, foreboding as fuck, like everything’s about the go down the drain, the breath of Lucifer almighty on the back of your neck, dank walls echoing dejected howls, waves of depressing drones inducing hypnosis, horrifically satisfying with harmonies peaking through the darkness, sounds with no origin that just hover in the air, bittersweet & overwhelmingly gorgeous, a massive heartache of a record that’ll make you weep, Orbs & Channels sweeps me up with my favorite sounds, I can’t love this any more. Limited tapes on HITD are almost gone, so grab one while you still can, or if you miss out, Saåad have put it up for name-your-price style download on Bandcamp.

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

EUS, Postdrome, & Saåad – Sustained Layers (BLWBCK, 2012)

EUS, Postdrome, & Saåad3AM (BLWBCK)

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A collab of crazy proportions! And quite worldly, a Costa Rican, a dude from the UK, and a French duo, making absolutely breathtaking drones of the highest order. This is some dark blissful stuff, which is the best kind of stuff right now. 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, trapped in the undertow but wholly welcoming it, sheets of euphoria masked by the haunt of life, embrace the truth, let the stars rain down, pre-apocalypse enlightenment created by layers of heavenly darkness. It doesn’t get much better than this. This is what you see when you get to the top. A fluorescent green beast of a tape, only 66 copies and it drops in a few days. Preorder this hunk stat.