2023 Spring Music Preview ~ Drone

Our definition of drone has continued to expand, and now includes everything from steady hum to walls of sound, from cello drone to factory noise.  Sustain and decay are typical elements, as emphasized in Owen Coggins’ book of the same name. Psychedelica and mysticism may be present, as visited by Harry Sword in Monolithic Undertow.  Even thunderstorms and electrical wires can produce their own brand of drone, as illustrated by SELVEDGE‘s cover image.  Drone labels have also broadened their horizons, releasing works that inhabit the porous borders between drone, ambient, metal and more.

Our cover image is taken from the album CAPACITY by SELVEDGE, described at the bottom of this article.

One such label is Room40, whose works are always experimental, yet topple into other categories.  Their first release of spring comes from Phill Niblock, and is an investigation of movement, specifically that of dancer-choreographer Muna Tseng.  Muna Torso is the score to the film of the same name, included with the purchase (March 24).  We’re Not Afraid of the Dark (Matt Warren and Gail Priest) follow in April with Glossolalia, which collects a series of installation works and delves into “alternative sonic languages,” including folk, field recordings and improvisation (April 14).  Manuel Mota‘s XIX is a decidedly lo-fi affair, with improvisational guitar echoing around seemingly deserted chapels, meditative and unhurried (April 21, pictured right).  Ken Ikeda calls Sparse Memory “an evolving mythology,” inspired by Claude Levi-Strauss’ “Strange Mind,” the layers and loops serving as sonic texts and subtexts (April 21).  Push for Night + Jon Mueller resurrected tapes from a box to compose Lapsed Gasps, which delves into “distortion and dread,” like a cellar whose light has blown (April 21).  France Jobin‘s classic 10-33CM is remastered and rereleased with two new tracks (May 5), and David Toop & Lawrence English top off the season with The Shell That Makes the Sea, whose special guest, an oscillating frog, steals the show (June 2).


Tim Hecker‘s music mingles drone with other elements, so it’s important to highlight that No Highs‘ pulsing lead single “Lotus Light” is not representative of the set as a whole.  The album contains ambient segments, thick, ponderous portions, and saxophone by Colin Stetson.  Within tracks, the genres shift from rhythm to abstraction and vice versa; we’d expect no less from this leader in the industry (kranky, April 7).  Contrary to expectations, drone can often be bright.  Richard Skelton continues to evolve, as evidenced by selenodesy, a return to Phantom Limb.  Skelton puts his insomnia to good use, Inspired by the stars in the “dark sky” region of the U.K.  The music swirls like the recent visit of the Northern Lights, a rare, welcome sight (March 31).


While Skelton gazes up, Sleep Research Facility / Llyn Y Cwn peers down to the depths of the sea.  Sargo / Posidonia travels from a Dorset Beach to the ocean floor, dredging for buried resonances (Cold Spring, April 7). The video teaser for Damāvand‘s As long as you come to my garden provides an electronic impression, while the album itself is a blend of dark ambient, drone and experimental flavors.  The six-part suite is “a tribute to Sayat Nova, inspired by The Color of Pomegranates” (Die Schachtel, April 30). The human capacity for good and evil is highlighted in industrial timbres on Serenity / Rage, with dialogue samples that provide the impression of a film score.  DESIDERII MARGINIS throws in a Brighter Death Now cover for good measure.  This is one of four albums being released by Cyclic Law on April 21.  The others are PASCAL SAVY‘s Simulacra, which includes a surprising use of rhythms, many of which are subsequently erased; Conjecture‘s Nostalgia Futura, which visits a little-known psychological phenomenon; and the first vinyl version of Troum & raison d’être‘s De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu, which we reviewed back in 2015.  400 Lonely Things returns on Cold Spring with a “sample-based seance” born of visits to the haunted Banning Mill.  The art of Richard Scott Hill works its way into Mother Moon as well, in a 44-page book of unpublished art and interviews, adding tendrils of unease (March 24).


Penelope Trappes launches her new imprint Nite Hive with Heavenly Spheres, a dark excursion into piano, tape loop and voice.  The label will focus on releases by women and gender non-conforming artists, accompanied by podcast interviews.  The upcoming slate includes works by Patricia Wolf, Pefkin, Karen Vogt, and Madeliene Cocolas (April 14).  In half-hour pieces, Ensemble Daedalus / Ryoko Akama pay tribute to ELAINE RADIGUE, one piece maximalist, the other minimalist (Montagne Noire, April 22).  Sine waves and just intonation are at the core of FEAR OF THE OBJECT, an experimental and extensive physical release from Kjell Bjørgeengen & Chris Cogburn stretched across a four-disc box set (Sofa Music, May 5).

The war in Ukraine has motivated many musicians, the latest being John the Silent, who (I’m sure I won’t be the only person to write this) could no longer stay silent and recorded War Variations, incorporating “tonal themes” from the nation to create a mini-opera (Somewherecold, May 26).  After tracing the forced resettlements of the artist’s Ruthenian and Ukrainian ancestors, Zosia Hołubowska offers a dark electronic fable in the form of Singing Warmia.  Voice and synthesizer relate an unnerving history (March 21).  Setting Fire to These Dark Times continues in this vein, combining the skills of Chaz Knapp and Mariel Roberts on Yamaha organ, cello and electronics.  With titles like “We Were Waiting for Something Better” and “Flat Earth Drune for Non-Believers,” the duo comments on the current climate with an emotional and enthralling score (figureight, April 21). Left Hand Cuts Off the Right uses Free Time/Dead Time to comment on work/life balance, concentrating on capitalist victims who are unable to find balance.  Field recordings, zither and more slither their way into the drone (Brachliegen Tapes, April 14).  The sounds of Descent “delight in what they are and gain their meaning only in what they are and their relation to one another,” according to composer David Prior.  There’s a lot of activity beneath, as hinted in the cover image (SN Variations, April 28).


Kyle Bates (drowse) and Lula Asplund join forces for the two-track A Matinee, recorded live in a former church.  The music reverberates, creating its own sense of holiness, but when the bells arrive on Side B, the association is cemented (Whited Sepulchre, May 19).  Turkish musician Elif Yalvaç teams with multiple international collaborators on My Heart of Noise, creating an album that begins in isolation but ends in connection (Möller Records, March 23).  Time and duration are the subjects of The Inoperative Suspension of a Stoppage, from Radboud Mens and Fernando José Pereira.  The “de-anaesthetic record” addresses the accelerated pace of society while nodding to the disconnection of pandemic time, inviting listeners to listen without watches and phones (ERS, April 7).  KMRU, Felicia Atkinson and more contribute to Random and emblematic: The sound of space, which translates architecture into sound.  While most pieces are terrestrial-grounded, some are imaginary, lending the album a sci-fi tinge (Modern Obscure, April 14).  


Fabrizio Mondenese Palumbo‘s ELP approaches noise, so it’s interesting to note that the music was composed to accompany choreography, addressing hierarchies of power (Dissipatio, March 24).  Guitar drone is the core of CAPACITY, from the upper-case SELVEDGE.  The music crackles and hums, inspired by the thunder and electricity of a Kansas summer (March 24, pictured at the top of this article).  Furnace is even hotter, described as “a field recording from the sixth level of hell.”  Lucaslavia presents the thickest, loudest side of drone, a metal onslaught that threatens to fill every space with sound until all that remains is noise (Macro, April 21).

Richard Allen


  1. Pingback: Lucaslavia ‘Furnace’ – Vector Rituals

  2. Pingback: A Closer Listen’s 2023 Spring Music Preview ~ Drone – Avant Music News

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