If ambience is what we play when we seek peace, drone is what we play when we need catharsis. The dark, often unrelenting tones can produce agitation, disquiet, turbulence and tenseness. But when we feel helpless about racism, politics and the pandemic, there’s nothing like noise to drown out the voices in our heads.
Drone’s sibling is closely related. Dark Ambient is the sound of haunted houses, rattling chains and the approach of fall. She doesn’t care about your pumpkin latte, but it’s a sure bet she’ll steal your candy. If you’re lucky, you’ll live to tell the tale.
Our cover image is of Kassel Jaeger’s Meith, previewed below.
Rich’s Pick: Kate Carr ~ Splinters (September 3)
We’re big fans of Kate Carr at A Closer Listen, and Louise Mason’s vinyl design caught our attention immediately. The record is a tribute to TACO! night, but it’s not what you think; TACO! is a London artist space, and the vinyl is a sonic souvenir of the artists who have played there. They haunt these grooves like aural ghosts. Carr continues on a quiet tear with Cycling, a collaboration with Sheryl Cheung that capitalizes on the popularity of the sport during the pandemic. The artists sampled sounds in London and Taipei to create this inter-continental soundscape (Flaming Pines, September 3).
Richard Skelton takes a left turn on These Charms May Be Sung Over a Wound, abandoning the acoustic in favor of the electronic. While two tracks, including lead single “For the Application of Fire,” are tempo-driven, his heart of drone remains intact (Phantom Limb, September 25). Karlrecords has two releases scheduled for October 23. Summer of Seventeen is a supergroup including Aaron Turner, Faith Coloccia, William Fowler Collins, Daniel Menche and Monika Khot, whose self-titled album is an ode to fiery destruction: extremely topical in light of the recent California wildfires. Mesias Maiguashca‘s Oeldorf 8 is an electro-acoustic work, much more abstract but no less appealing.
Moving Furniture is preparing for an active autumn. Cinema Perdu‘s Vlakverdeling is a single, 45-minute piece that builds gently from ambient to drone before falling back again. The album reflects the physical and atmospheric permutations of the Dutch landscape. Orphax‘s En De Stilstaande Tijd is infused with organ tones and a sense of nostalgia, inspired by the gentile nature of rural Spanish villages. Both are released on September 11. The output of Eliane Tapes (a branch of Moving Furniture) is dedicated to Elaine Radigue. The label’s second and third releases are out on October 16. Jeremy Young‘s Filaments tackles sine tones and ring modulation, while Philip White w/Nic Jenkins‘ Off the Air delves into microtonal drone.
It’s never easy to make sense of a family member’s death, but on Misunderstanding With Total Certainty, Ontario’s Spoke and Mirror uses composition as therapy. The EP is laden with empathy as well as emotion (September 20). Grief and mortality are the themes of God Body Disconnect‘s The Depths of Finality, which includes a healthy amount of field recordings. It’s interesting to see how the works of the Cryo Chamber label have taken on new meaning during the pandemic (September 8).
We love this description from lo fi spiritual records: “To honor the concept of balance, September 13 sees the release of a dark experimental drone EP and a a light ambient drone EP.” The former is Contact 7b‘s Shadow Work, while the latter is Ambient Lights‘ Rainbows. Let’s call them fraternal twins; listeners will have no difficulty telling them apart.
Gregorian choirs, recorded at Christmastime, permeate Milad Bagheri‘s Galoba; the result is an album of “healing sounds for wounded souls,” that pairs well with Basinski, offering some hope to counter the despair (Flag Day Recordings, September). Fancy a trip to the carnival? Jason Herrboldt investigates The Inventor’s Dilemma through mechanics, mirrors and a stopover at the World’s Fair (September 1).
Dreamwalk with Solo Voice isn’t what one expects from the title; it’s a soundwalk through an installation, anchored by the sounds of a ventilation system. Stephan Moore‘s album makes us wonder if we should be fixing our ventilation systems in the age of COVID-19 or allowing them to make as much noise as possible so we can record their surprisingly harmonic tones (Dead Definition, September 18). ebass, eguitar and e harp (similar to eBooks, we presume) combine to produce nuanced drone on Bestia IRE, from the super-team of Phill Niblock, Franck Vigroux and Kasper T. Toeplitz (Matière Mémoire, September 24).
The ambitious double album Coronal Mass Ejection offers a generous amount of dark, undulating drone. As the members of strom|morts were once part of post-metal bands, this is a natural progression (Midira, September 11). The group will be competing with itself, as their own Clock Resistance will be released just seven days earlier on The Tapeworm, along with live body music from Gaby Strong (My Body Did This To Me), vintage demos and live recordings from Os Senhores (The One-Legged Cyclist), Korg recordings from Richard Francis and Frans de Waard (Retired Dilettantes) and 1-second snippets of BJNilsen‘s tape archive (Release the DATs).
Babe, Terror reflects his moniker with haunted piano, sluggish choral samples, occasional beats and an overall sense of doom. Horizogon is a tribute to the “apocalyptic” pandemic lockdown of São Paulo, and sounds like deserted streets occupied by restless ghosts (Glue Moon, September 15). Mute Branches offers dark ambient with beats on The Detective Is Dead, a forlorn set with spookily buried dialogue (Disintegration State, September 11). Also on Disintegration State: Adventsong‘s foreboding Before the Storm, which addresses the emotional trauma of the COVID-19 crisis (September 4), and the bouncier Butterflies from FLVZ, a brighter departure for the label (October 2).
Kassel Jaeger‘s lugubrious Meith may be the composer’s thickest work to date: two side-long works of claustrophobic organ drone and field recordings (Black Truffle, October 16). Doom metal drone inhabits Beneath the Earth There Are Machines. Dane Johnson and Álvaro Domene offer up a perfect reflection of the title (Iluso, September 4). Tristan Welch gets political on the uncompromising Capitalist Teeth, whose side-long tracks are titled “A Wealthy Smile” and “Financed Chewing.” We’re guessing he’s not part of the 1% (September 25).
Hiroshimabend & Zoe DeWitt team up for The Earthenware Virgin, whose cover art depicts Sabbath witches; spoken word makes the tone seem even darker (Opium Den Pluto, September 15). Ambience, drone and spoken word combine on Broshuda‘s curious and percussive Contemplative Figuration, which seems to wink at its audience (Soda Gong, September 25). INRA draws even closer to electronic music via beats, creating an aura of mystery through poetry and spoken word. I Super Liked You By Mistake is released on September 28. But the widest dynamic range of the season is found on John Robin-Bold‘s Demonstrations, which starts with pop and sacred music and churns it into a vat of unrelenting noise (Quanta, October 9).
The Italian label Entangled Visions makes its debut with a compilation featuring the likes of Giulio Aldinucci, Coeden and Lessons in Hate. The set’s sonic explorations range from ambient and drone to electronic and experimental (September 7). The Swedish label Flora & Fauna offers Nattmusik, a compilation with a similar across-the-spectrum appeal, courtesy of Andreas Tilliander, Javerling and more (September 10). The 90-minute Ural Cult showcases ritualistic and dark ambient music from a host of regional artists, presented by the Russian label ФАКТУРА (September 7). A hodgepodge of styles are represented on Gritty, Odd & Good, compiled by Francisco López. Expect the unexpected (Discrepant, November 27).