Crate digging for drone music: 11 sublime records
From Tim Hecker to Thomas Köner, there’s nothing quite like a good drone music album. With hazy, dark, distorted chords and glacial soundscapes, these records are pure gold.
When most people ask me what kind of music I'm into and I reply "electronic music", I can see the look on their faces. I instantly get that they think I'm talking about stuff like this or this. And I instantly think "hell no! This human probably thinks I like Steve Aoki", so I say: "and by electronic music... I mean drone music, ambient, techno, house and more experimental stuff". The common reaction is "drone what?". Then I explain that drone music essentially is all about creating melodic patterns over a single sustained or repeated note stretches, and I recommend checking out artists like Tim Hecker. For many people, a drone wouldn't even be called music, just an irritating or a boring repetitive noise. Some people also don't see any difference between drone and ambient music. Personally, I like Robert Henke's take on the difference between drone and ambient music:
I tend to find myself comfortable in the middle; ambient might be too nice while drone might be too dark. But these definitions are only important for search engines and not for the listener.
For the drone-adverse, the sound of an unchanging drawn out tone might sound pretty damn boring, for others like me the answer is simple. A drone can be dark but beautiful. And more than just beautiful, it can be music to get lost in, it can be music that under the right conditions can elicit spiritual experiences (no drugs required). So, maybe you recently met a dude like me who recommended you a drone music record and you REALLY liked it, but now feel like you're pretty clueless about this genre, but would like to explore more. Well, no problemo. That was why I wrote this piece. Because That Special Record is a record club specialised in outsider electronic music, these albums are basically all vinyl releases. Here are 11 drone music albums you should hear.
Tim Hecker - The Ravedeath 1972
Tim Hecker's music speaks for itself. It might be not easy for the ordinary listener to get into the heavy ambient drone sounds of this Canadian composing wizard, but if you are willing to give him a chance, you will experience soundscapes that will challenge your imagination like no other artist will. Distorted, dark, intense, haunting, soul crushingly beautiful, there is so much emotion, detail and drama hidden beneath the soundscapes of this album, it will feed your soul like...a never-ending poem full of hope, heartbreak and nostalgia. Probably best listened to on a clear cold night when you can look out your window and see the stars.
Infinite Body - Carve Out The Face Of My God
Not your typical drone album. I could describe this album as "a bunch of chords that sound beautiful with distortion", but Carve Out The Face Of My God is so much more complex and wonderful than that. The best advice I can give you is to just listen to it patiently and let yourself immerse into its heavily spaced out synth soundscapes. This is really lovely stuff!
Hakobune– Vitex Negundo
Takahiro Yorifuji AKA Hakobune is one of those super underrated japanese ambient/drone composers who produces music more for his own artistic satisfaction than for expressing his political/social/whatever messages through music. This lovely human basically just wants to focus on making music by building harmonic layers of guitar reverb. Vitex Negundo is a wonderful collage of "Three gentle guitar improvisations… meditations, enriched with Ambient loopsets and delicate sound layers from tape". This is music that sounds like ice melting, or wind moving through green grass on a hillside. This is music to escape. Music to just... drift away.
Lawrence English - KIRI NO OTO
Lawrence English has been responsible for some of the best drone compositions in the past decade, but there's something quite special about Kiri No Oto. At times glitchy and heavy, at times smooth and serene, it's a truly sublime album on every level. English combines field recordings from his travels to Poland, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan with church-organ sounds, saturated chords, analog filtering, and unique harmonic drone soundscapes.
Savvas Ysatis + Taylor Deupree – Origin
This album is a terrific collaboration between Taylor Deupree - one of the main creative forces behind the 90's cult label Instinct Records- and Greek-born electronic composer Savvas Ysatis. Melancholic, noisy but warm in tone, Origin combines deep layers of drones with a sense of precision and restraint. Highly recommended for sleepy Autumn afternoons, with open windows and ginger tea or whisky (or whatever floats your boat).
Emeralds - Solar Bridge
Released on Aaron Dilloway's excellent Hanson imprint, Solar Bridge is a half hour of soothing droney soundscapes growing in a dreamily druggy and sleepily spaced out way. It doesn't really try anything fancy, or pretentious. Sometimes simple is better, and the simplicity here is what makes Solar Bridge truly special.
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Shining Skull Breath
I once read this description about Jefre Cantu–Ledesma as "A master of romantic abstraction". I like that description. Ledesma has been releasing wonderful music for decades now - I love his solo projects but he as also released notable collaborations with lovely people like Liz Harris (aka Grouper) as Raum, or with Alexis Georgopoulos in his Arp project, just to name a few of his collabs - and he also co-founded the influential label, Root Strata, a record label you should follow if you're interested in exploring more experimentalish ambient/electronic stuff. If you're looking for more cinematic drone soundscapes, I'll warn you right now: you might fall in love with Ledesma's Shining Skull Breath's LP. Ledesma's minimal, delicate, but intense sound can be quite hypnotic and addictive. Imagine this album as the soundtrack to an unreleased Alejandro González Iñárritu movie.
Thomas Köner - Teimo
Thomas Köner's experimental take on drone music is beautifully exemplified on Teimo. Teimo was originally released on CD in 1992 via the excellent Barooni label, and reissued on vinyl in 2010, and what a treat this is! The sonic world created by Köner is one of glacial beauty, his immersive drones will haunt you down slowly and make you feel like you are an Arctic explorer in the beginning of a long journey into the unknown.
Komodo Haunts - Suijin
Komodo Haunts is the psychedelic drone solo project of Ollie Tutty (aka Mt. Tjhris), from Lincolnshire, UK. Inspired by new age wanderers like Terry Riley and by drone masters, Suijin is all about about cinematic, weird, meditative and kinda psychedelic sonic textures. This could be the soundtrack to an unreleased Andrei Tarkovsky movie.
Robert Henke - Layering Buddha
Robert Henke is a legendary sound art producer better known for his groundbreaking techno productions under his Monolake moniker. But let's forget about that for a second. As soon as you put the needle on Layering Buddha, you completely immerse yourself into a new world. And the more you listen to Layering Buddha, the deeper you immerse into its hypnotic, moody, gorgeous sonic layers...and it all feels weird but wonderful. As if you are being taken on an aural journey to the unknown, with the music evoking the cold atmospheres of forests, lakes and underground caves.
En - Already Gone
Why drink coffee in the morning when you could just listen to En (Maxwell August Croy and James Devane) instead? Even better, why not drink coffee and listen to EN's sublime "Already Gone" album? Sorry if this sounds a bit kumbaya, but mornings are always a little bit better when soundtracked with relaxing ambient drone atmospheres, and trust me your espresso coffee will taste even better. Already Gone is a slow and steady listen, but consistently reliable and rewarding.
Blog post written by Miguel Ferreira
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