Album Review

Top 30 Drone Records Of 2016

I did it! I made a list. I didn’t think it would happen being a new dad and all, but it happened. I’m going to try to make a Top Metal list too, but no promises.

At 30 entries, this is the longest Top Drone list I’ve made. But I’ve been eschewing reviews lately and focusing on AGB Radio and A Thick Mist, so I figure 30 is acceptable if you count how many records I’ve directly recommended over the past year.

I seem to continually expand my definition of what a Drone Record is, which means there’s probably a few on here that are stretching the confines of that label, but I still did my best to try to keep it as Drone as possible.

There’s plenty of reoccurring themes in here. Namely, lots of voices/singing (11 have vocals present at least somewhere on the record) and lots of organs & harmoniums. Neither of those are all that surprising, though. But there’s two solo records from drummers, so that’s kinda cool. There’s also two heavily inspired by traditional Indian music, also kinda cool.

I had fun with this one. I changed a few things up this year. First, I decided to exclude any artist that’s been on any previous list. This meant no Saåad, Roly Porter, Andrew Weathers, Sarah Davachi, Mamiffer, Ian William Craig, Danny Paul Grody, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, etc. (Seriously though go listen to the new Saåad and Mamiffer records.) No one likes to see the same people on such a niche list over and over again, so this was a good way to keep things new and exciting.

The other thing I decided to do was not rank this in the traditional way. Instead, I put the records in positions 7-30 into four groups of six, and the records within each group aren’t ranked. So that means the records in group 7-12 aren’t ranked, aside from me liking them more than the previous 13-30 drone records. I did this except for the top 6, which are ranked traditionally. I hope it’s not too confusing.

As usual, I try to keep the Big Droners off this list because anyone who’s a fan of drone probably already knows that Eluvium and Tim Hecker put out records this year and while their music is A+ Amazing, they don’t really need a little DIY blog to help them out.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Out of Print

October OOPs: Tony Schwartz On How To Record The Sound Of Children (Capitol Custom, 1967)

sound of children album cover

Download Tony Schwartz On How To Record The Sound Of Children

So this might not immediately seem like an appropriate record for my spooky October OOPs series, but when you hear the B side that’s filled with children reciting prayers and talking about God, you’ll probably change your mind because that shit is just too weird. The A side has some actual educational stuff from Tony, but he’s completely absent from the B side. This is especially creepy if you already have an aversion to children but should still freak you out even if you’re a fan of kids. Also, I can’t help but note how cute/pervy that dog is.

Out of Print

October OOPs: The Language And Music Of The Wolves narrated by Robert Redford (Tonsil, 1971)


Download The Language And Music Of The Wolves

A whole record of wolves howling, barking, talking, and growling, this is perfect October OOPs material. The A side has wolf sounds mixed with some educational narration courtesy of Robert Redford talking about wolves and shit, then the B side is completely uninterrupted wolf field recordings.

Out of Print

October OOPs: Voices Of The Loon (National Audubon Society, 1980)

voices of the loon album cover

I’ve decided to use the month of October to share a bunch of spooky scary creepy crawly records. I’ve got tons. Some of them are maybe a bit subjective (like this one) and some of them I’ve posted before (also like this one) but I think it’ll be nice nice to collect them all under the October OOPs tag while also offering some new-to-AGB records.

Download Voices Of The Loon

Loons are fucking awesome because they sound like terrifyingly beautiful ghosts. If you’ve ever sat out by a lake in the middle of nowhere late at night, you know just how creepy loons can sound. This record does a great job capturing that. The first side includes some narration describing what’s going on, but the B side is untainted by humans, just loons doing their creepy fuckin thing alongside thunderstorms and coyote howls, so this is perfect Halloween material. Dig in.

Also, the back of the jacket has an “Important Note” that warns you not to play this record “near waters occupied by breeding pairs” because horny loons apparently can’t handle any competition.

Album Review

Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Cody Yantis / Josh Mason – Line Drawings (Desire Path, 2014)

yantis mclaughlin mason houpert - line drawings album cover
Nathan McLaughlin3:59 (Desire Path)

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Oh fuck, this one’s a doozy. Some background: Houpert, McLaughlin, Yantis, & Mason have this huge project that has its own site called A Line In The Sand. In addition to this Line Drawings LP on Desire Path, there’s a ton of other related stuff. There’s an hour long tape called Alice Sketches on Digitalis consisting of “conversations” where they responded to challenges & questions they posed to each other while creating Line Drawings. There’s a 12 page newsprint tabloid with gorgeous artwork from Chris Koelle that includes portraits of all 10 artists. And there’s a series of 5 split 7″s called Studies (co-released by Desire Path and FET Press) where each of these guys (including Chris Koelle) picked another artist not involved in A Line In The Sand to contribute to the other side of their 7″, which brings in Anne Guthrie, Mary Lattimore, Brad Rose, Olli Aarni, and Norm Chambers. Holy jesus that’s a lot of stuff and I assure you every bit of it is 100% worthwhile. No filler. But this post is about the Desire Path LP…

Which is un-fucking-believably awesome. 2 tracks per artist, 1 for each side, and these 4 are perfectly suited for a split like this. I only knew of Josh Mason and Cody Yantis beforehand and I could easily name their records if I heard them randomly or out of context, but here everybody’s music blurs together so seamlessly it could just as well have been a collaboration. This is the most subtle, intimate, & delicate music, soft drones humming throughout, with processed & glitched guitars, intentional banjo plucking, satiny strings, mystical field recordings, the warble & crackle of ancient analog media, this is deep music that’s full of life & emotion, it gets dark, harrowing, dipping into the dreadful void, far enough down that the light above almost but not quite disappears, but mostly this is a tender ambient that effortlessly divulges truth & peace, an insane pleasure listening to this record, there is nothing better than a 4-way split that comes together so beautifully. And this just continues to confirm Desire Path’s streak of masterpieces, they’re currently 9 for 9 and I see no sign of them tripping up anytime soon.

Album Review

Jeremy Bible – Collisions (False, 2014)

jeremy bible - collisions album cover
Jeremy Bibleco_7 (False)

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All hail Jeremy Bible, this dude knows what’s fuckin up. Most of yall probably know he runs the flawless Experimedia label/distro, but he’s also got some insane music makin chops as well, and Collisions is easily my favorite work of his. This is a total head fucker, melding sharp musique concrète, abstract field recordings, glitchy rhythms, and bizarro noise into something wholly cohesive & unique, this takes all of your attention while twisting synapses and making new neural pathways in your brain, making you question every fucking moment. Is there anything actually happening right now or is it actually silent? Are those frogs or synths? Is this doing permanent damage to my ears? Did I just shit myself? There are truly incredible moments on this record that feel like you’re staring a starving pack of dire wolves right in the eyes, unsettling organic gurgling & chirping, panning & pointed blasts of almost danceable static shred, high end drone like the hum of a distant generator. You’re never at ease, even when the music is peaceful, because early on you discover there’s an ever present sense of danger. This is just the fucking best. It was originally a live recording from June 2013 at the RCN Cave in Akron, Ohio that was released digitally shortly thereafter, but it’s been expanded & remastered for CD and tape release on False so now you can hold & cherish this sexy beast. The artwork above is for the digital version, the tapes & CDs come in silver stamped black boxes with cotton & card inserts and they look super fuckin slick.

Album Review

Joshua Bonnetta – Strange Lines And Distances (Experimedia Films, 2014)

Joshua Bonnetta - Strange Lines and Distances album cover

Joshua BonnettaStrange Lines And Distances trailer (Experimedia Films)

Yes, you read that right. Experimedia Films! And yeah, that’s why there’s a trailer instead of a streaming song. But there’s an album cover too? Yep. Stay with me here for a moment. Get this, Strange Lines And Distances is a record… AND a movie. 2 in 1! It’s what the art world calls “audio/visual.” Joshua Bonnetta created an a/v installation that’s been shown around the world and Experimedia started a film off-shoot to bring this beautiful beast to the public. There’s a DVD (with optional Blu-Ray add-on) of the 16mm film and an LP with an extended version of the score (as well as digital downloads for both audio & video), and it includes an in-depth write up by Jeffrey Sconce that starts out “There will never be a digital ghost.” The whole thing is fucking amazing, and I haven’t even gotten to the content yet.

Story time! Guglielmo Marconi was the first dude to broadcast a radio transmission across the Atlantic (between Cornwall and Newfoundland). Also, he believed that sound waves never completely disappear but rather fade out over time, and if technology was advanced enough, with the right tools you could pick up sound waves from centuries past. Strange Lines And Distances is directly inspired by this belief and Marconi’s transmissions.

Bonnetta’s work here is both thematically fascinating and aesthetically gorgeous. The video has 2 channels, it’s split down the middle with footage from both of the original transmission sites in Cornwall and Newfoundland, it’s a half hour of perfectly paired complementary images of snails & reeds, webs & leaves, clouds & trees. The visuals stand on their own as truly captivating, capturing the micro & macro magic of our planet. The sound part dives even deeper into the mystery of Marconi’s world, finding the most subtle interplay between field recordings, radio transmissions, and electronic sonics, moving through a world of delicate precision and deafening static, getting rolled over by waves of heaven, overwhelming & majestic, next to the silence of being the only person around, hearing your heart beat in tandem with the natural drone of the world, slow & resigned. This is easily one of the most incredible releases so far this year. The record alone is some of the best drone around, and the video is downright masterful, but together, and so exquisitely packaged by Experimedia Films, the whole thing is just absolutely fucking perfect.

Album Review

Gordon Ashworth – S.T.L.A. (Orindal, 2014)

gordon ashworth - stla album cover
Gordon AshworthDesperate And Indebted (Orindal)

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You might not recognize the name Gordon Ashworth because this is his first record under his own name but I can almost guarantee you already know him. He’s recorded as Concern, Oscillating Innards, CAEN, etc, he’s also in the band Knelt Rote, and a bunch of others. So yeah, busy dude, he ain’t new to the scene, and S.T.L.A. makes that readily apparent because HOLY SHIT this record is fucking amazing. He takes a wholly unique approach to folk drone, bringing together his arsenal of talent to blend lush digitalism with tender acoustic keys & strings, in just under 40 minutes he’s able to conjure an entire world of sound teeming with life, mini portraits via field recordings, transcendence out of emotional piano, soft Tesla static and minimal tonal drift, a beautiful banjo singing with heartache, the boundaries are non-existent and Ashworth reins everything together with precision, old Americana & musique concrète alongside blurred drone & modern classical, everything all at once and pared down to the barest intimate impression of reality. Not gonna lie, I was pretty fuckin bummed when Ashworth drew the shades on Concern a couple years ago, but S.T.L.A. heals that wound and goes way beyond what I had hoped for, this record is utterly fantastic, gorgeous in every way. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for banjos, especially banjo drone, I mean forget about it I’m a fuckin goner, but trying to get past that, this is easily one of the best goddamn records I’ve heard in a long time. For real. Only 300 copies pressed up, so stream some samples then get your pre-order on now and lock it in.

Album Review

Aires – Aires (Enough, 2014)

aires album cover
AiresOrgânico II – Monolítico (Enough)

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I’m usually pretty out of the loop with netlabel releases and the seemingly endless amount of stuff on, but this one snuck by & stuck out and goddamn we’re all the better for it. Aires is a dude out of Lisbon and this is his debut, or at least the debut as Aires. Truly magnificent work here, blending field recordings, shoegaze, and the almighty drone to send you soaring above the storm clouds and into the heart of the sun, this is a slow burning blissful beast, taking its time unraveling the many layers of din & clamor, light airy shimmer capped with dark melancholic tension, an imminent evil that never shows its face, heavy on the digital FX, panning, bursting, & scratching, tons of texture that eventually explodes on the last track, overwhelming with waves of euphoric static washing over, dense & absolutely fucking gorgeous, a heavy fabric billowing under mighty winds, pure emotions run rampant, and it’s over before you can catch your breath. Excellent fucking sounds on this record, definitely a dude to keep an eye on. And don’t forget, this is free and you can take your pick of where to download it.

Album Review

Anne Guthrie – Codiaeum Variegatum (Students Of Decay, 2014)

anne guthrie - Codiaeum Variegatum album cover
Anne GuthrieStrongly Leaning With Irregular Crown (Students Of Decay)

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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.

Album Review

Federico Durand – El Idioma De Las Luciérnagas (Desire Path, 2013)

Federico Durand - el idioma album cover
Federico DurandEl Espejo De Mil Años (Desire Path)

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I first heard about Argentina’s finest Federico Durand through his superb collaboration with Nicholas Szczepanik under the guise of Every Hidden Color. This debut LP of Durand’s (translated to The Language Of The Fireflies) takes that pristine sound from Luz and amplifies it to a level of pure magic. This is a record of subtle complex sounds, finding wonder in the smallest audio spaces and turning a regular peaceful morning into a world of bright white bliss. Intimate field recordings of wildlife chatter and drifting chimes are in perfect company amidst minimal tonal shimmer, delicate softness, humble piano twinkling, and emotional dreams. This is a damn near perfect drone record, kicking introverted euphoria into uncharted territory. As is all things with Desire Path, El Idioma is limited, so don’t sleep on this.

Album Review

Benjamin Finger – Listen To My Nerves Hum (Time Released Sound, 2013)

benjamin finger - listen to my nerves hum album cover
Benjamin FingerConsonance Of Fear (Time Released Sound)

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Incredible new somber piano out of Norway from Benjamin Finger, this is a truly special record, carving a nook in the solo piano realm with field recordings of half forgotten memories, a familiar stranger who walked by, birds chirping outside your window last spring while you fluttered around the house, the voices of childhood friends, smothered fireworks acting as vinyl crackle, all hidden in the background of Finger’s eulogistic meditative piano, twinkling a bright & eerie melody, looped into your consciousness, finding a perfect balance between serene & melancholic, not straying too far into euphoric or depressive but still evoking both, this is a beautifully intimate record that will score your noir past and your peaceful tea time, this dude couldn’t have made a better record, and you have the option of copping the ultra deluxe version of this which comes with a skeletal bird mobile made from antique piano parts that lives in a huge collaged chocolate box adorned with more piano parts and contains even more piano pieces inside. So fucking over the top, so fucking cool. Only 70 of those are available, so if that’s your thing, ya best get on it.

Album Review

Betacicadae – Mouna (Elegua, 2013)

betacicadae album cover
BetacicadaePahoa (Elegua)

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One Kevin Scott Davis making an astounding debut with Betacicadae. A wholly unique record, taking every instrument he’s got, a bunch of guitars, a wood flute, vibraphone, harp, violin, drums, synths, and runs some of it through some effects pedals, does some post-processing, and mixes it all up with field recordings from farms, rainforests, and cities, making the most incredible electro-acoustic ambient record that is its own separate planet of sound, there’s nothing else quite like this, it’s a microcosm of personality but the breadth is endless, breathing warmth into electronics and twisting organics beyond their limits, life is everywhere & at every moment, this covers the entire range of emotion with calm oddities, frightened fauna, chaos & control, washed out & dazzlingly brilliant, the dark night of the unknown & the slow morning peace, and the opening track “Pahoa” is the most beautiful fucking thing I’ve ever heard, it’s a masterpiece of wonder, a place of perfection, and I just want to live inside it forever. This is as good as debuts get, my friends. The best on every level. The whole thing is streaming and there’s only 100 copies each of vinyl and CD, so don’t do anything dumb like not pick one of these up immediately.

Album Review

Be Honest – Tea, Sugar, Soda, Soap (Fallow Field, 2013)

Be Honest – Tea, Sugar (Fallow Field)

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Goddamn this is a special fucking record. Ian Maleney’s first under the Be Honest name and it’s inspired by/has field recordings from the rural Irish bogland making some truly exceptional drone. The only recognizable samples I hear are bird chirps (done quite tastefully) and maybe some rain (not too sure about that though), the rest is impeccable guitar drones and subliminal synths, the two side long tracks acting as polar opposites, the first starting out with a soft & bright drone that quickly turns into an overwhelming dense dark static, buy cheap cialis in canada snarling & growling but never actually biting, subtly beautiful with melodies buried in the noise, briefly breaking off into a calmer haunted dream, then bursting through again with the gorgeous abrasion. The B side takes a lighter approach, very playful & soothing, a couple layers of processed picking laid on top of vague nature, an organic warmth that feels sun drenched & slightly melancholic, undeniably beautiful, and just fucking perfect. Not too many of the bad boys were made, only 50 on Maleney’s newly minted Fallow Field label, so get white the gettin’s good.

Out of Print

Nat Freedland – The Occult Explosion (United Artists, 1973)

Anton LeVeySatanism

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Download The Occult Explosion

This is kind of the companion record to Nat Freedland’s book of the same name. An amazing 2xLP of interviews with leaders in various occult fields, from witchcraft to magic to ESP to Satanism. Rosemary Brown channels dead composers and Anton LeVey talks about how Satanism is more about life than death. Tons of awesome material, hearing these people speak about their experiences is pretty fucking cool. There’s also a couple of killer tracks at the end by Black Widow, the British cult rockers that never made it as big as Sabbath. It comes with a full size attached booklet (that was too difficult to scan, sorry) so definitely pick this up if you ever find a copy. Plus that artwork by Wilfried Satty is fucking incredible.

There’s a rip of this record on the Internet Archive (that has more details on this if you’re interested). Normally I’d just leave it at that but the copy that was ripped for IA was in rough shape. Mine sounds great, very clean, so if you’ve already downloaded it from there, I recommend replacing it with my version.