Search results for: droning

Boa / Cold: a mesmeric fusion of droning desert Western doom and cold heavy industrial techno dub

Earth / The Bug, Boa / Cold, Ninja Tune, ZEN12394 12″ vinyl (2014)

I sure did not see this collaboration coming at all and I was surprised to discover this release by Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Kevin Martin AKA The Bug from way back in 2014 … but on further reflection I really shouldn’t have been astonished. Both Carlson and Martin have been exploring, pushing and redefining the limits of their respective genres over the past 25 years, and among many other things Martin is known for his work with Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh / Jesu fame) in Techno Animal, so it was really a matter of when, not if, Carlson and Martin’s paths in out-there extreme underground and experimental music would cross. “Boa / Cold” grew out of The Bug’s recording sessions for his album “Angels & Devils”, in one of which Carlson was originally one of several collaborators.

This recording is unlike anything most of us will ever hear. “Boa” stands somewhere in a futuristic industrial sci-fi shadow zone between Desert Western Country Doom Guitar Melody Wander and Arctic Cold Heavy Hiphop Dub. The two genres sit side by side rather than try to blend into one fusion style. The contrast / tension between the two and the comment each style of music makes on the other make for a daunting and very sinister listening experience. The sound wash, the rhythms and beats (with occasional break-beats) are massive and the feeling can be overwhelming and hellish, as has often been my experience in dunking my head in Techno Animal’s sonic worlds. For all that, “Boa” is a short track and the actual playing by the musicians is as gentle, slow and relaxed as can be.

“Cold” is more of a fusion between Carlson’s guitar rambling and The Bug’s beats and rhythms that writhe around the guitar melody and the drone echo wash that follows in its wake. This seems a more structured piece than “Boa” if much colder, industrial and inhuman, with a shambling tribal feel. I have always had the impression that in their own ways Carlson and Martin have always been interested in music of a hypnotic shamanistic nature for the trance effects it can have, and this track certainly has a mesmeric, consciousness-altering effect on this listener.

If only both “Boa” and “Cold” were longer – at least 20 minutes each longer and more! – such an album of continuous serpentine droning doom / industrial techno dub would hold me spellbound forever.

Brittle: hypnotic droning noise adventures, rich in texture and emotional associations

Grant Evans Brittle

Grant Evans, Brittle, The Helen Scarsdale Agency, cassette HMS034 (2015)

In all my years of listening to out-there sounds and music, I can’t recall having had anything from The Helen Scarsdale Agency. (Though I’m sure Aquarius Records may gently remind me that I indeed ordered something from them … five, ten years ago? …) This tape will be a welcome introduction for others to the label and to the artist Grant Evans who together with his wife Rachel used to run the tape label Hooker Vision, and who himself has made many noise and ambient recordings either solo or with Rachel as the duo Quiet Evenings and released these works through Hooker Vision or other labels.

Each side of the cassette consists of a single track that is as much droning ambience as it is industrial / noise fuzz and stumbling in the dark bumping into nearly every unseen source of sound. The chainsaw must be the drone sound du jour of late, it being a constant presence on first track “Pills in the Reptile House”. Field recordings initially suggest the movements of frogs in a shallow pond. While the shrill metallic squeal matures and turns out to be quite a richly jewelled and cultivated sound, the things that go bump behind the eardrum-destroying treble grinder opt for being sinister though no less complex in sound and possible meanings. Something cold and seeming rather remote and abstract is growing slowly and steadily and crowding out everything else until it dominates the soundscape completely – and even then it continues non-stop with its inexorable expansion until it reaches far beyond the heavens and deep below Sheol.

“Lineage” has the ambience of a sentient alien sea slithering up and down a beach while prehistoric flying creatures cry overhead. A silvery metallic presence spreads itself over the oily waves. Trudging noises suggestive of someone walking in grass plod all over the track while the liquid sea rolls along, as if following. This is not quite so single-minded as the previous track is and the parallel sets of sounds rarely intersect but follow their own pre-set courses. Eventually the track finds its own way into space and sets off floating among the stars to a vaguely known destination.

These are both hypnotic soundscape pieces, rich and deep in their layers of noise / drone textures and the emotions these sounds stir up. Listeners may either feel at peace with them or find the music a little chilling and uncomfortable, depending on previous music listening experience. For such long, floaty and unstructured works, the two tracks are self-contained with the music following a consistent path of development all the way from start to finish.

Inversum: a dark droning sludge doom trip into a downward spiral

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum, Neurot Recordings, NR094CD (2015)

As surely as the sun rises in the east and the fishes swim in the sea, so a Dark Buddha Rising album will feature extended trips into dark and expansive doom metal trance space. This latest heavy psychedelic venture contains two tracks, “Eso” and “Exo”, each clocking in over 20 minutes of sprawling hypnotic music. The tracks usually develop quite slowly, with atmosphere prominent in its evolution upfront while the music gradually assumes more definite forms through repetition of riffs and the drumming takes on a ritualistic role to encourage full immersion and profound changes in consciousness. Chanting voices coalesce into definite forms in the background.

The first few times you listen to the two tracks, you may not find much to distinguish between them – they’re both minimal in their presentation, the instruments being limited to guitars, background ambient effects and drums, and the structures of both tracks rely on repetitions of series of riff and rhythm loops. It’s with repeating hearings that you realise the two tracks contrast and complement each other in music and mood. “Eso” has a definite mood, one of dread and even of pain and bleakness at some points during its journey, and the track feels claustrophobic and suffocating. The music is very brooding and inward-looking. It is very monotonous and it only picks up speed, energy and force quite late in the piece. Then it takes on a relentless machine-like aspect as it climbs higher and higher towards its kismet, with demon voices shrieking in the background and guitar riffs grinding endlessly.

Passing from one level of existence and reality to the next, the music of “Exo” starts cautiously and hesitantly, like a newly born creature finding its legs in a new unforgiving world of harsh and stinging light. The murmuring riffs give the track its uneasy brooding quality but there is a new feeling of urgency in parts as well. This track tends to stress drone – and lots of it, all very over-stretched – and listeners may think of droney doom bands like Sunn0))) and Spain’s Orthodox during their early periods. There are fewer vocals and what you do hear of them isn’t always easy to detect. The sense of dark and malevolent ritual is strong in this track and parts of it are downright spooky. Guitars are deep and rumbly in their sound, almost to the extent where you can imagine them standing sentinel over the track to shepherd listeners into an entranced state that demands their total absorption. The track becomes interesting halfway through when it slows right down and becomes very fragmented with only drone stretched thin holding the music together. Suddenly it explodes into a mighty monster, with looping, surging riffs, anguished voices crying and howling at the point of point, and a feeling of rapidly growing tension that can only resolve itself in an abrupt climax. Beyond this, where enlightenment might be expected to exist, there is the realisation that the soul’s journey has but completed one circle and there are more circles to be traced …

Both tracks can be understood as mirror reflections of one another, and each links to the other in a never-ending cycle of repetition that might lack purpose or meaning. Of the two tracks, I think most listeners will find “Exo” to be more interesting and varied but the variety is in the latter half of the track rather than spread out evenly across the entire piece. To get value out of DBR recordings, listeners need to be very patient!

The music is good but my feeling is that it’s a bit too controlled or restrained, and needs to be more deranged than it is. For this kind of dark droning sludge doom whose message might be that life might be meaningless and that seeking enlightenment or meaning may spell danger, the music needs some hysteria, some feeling that life is close to chaos, to succeed.

Dakhmandal: a solid slab of droning sludge doom occult psychedelia

dark-buddha-rising-dakhmandal-2cd

Dark Buddha Rising, Dakhmandal, Svart Records, SVR206CD (2 x CD) (2013)

Dark Buddha Rising: it’s an excellent name for a band that performs long doomy occult-themed sludge trance ritual music and the sinister logo with the thick lava-like letters matches the band’s intent, style and preference for staying in the shadows. These publicity-shy guys shun Facebook and other social networks and I consider myself lucky for stumbling across an earlier album of theirs on Youtube. “Dakhmandal” is the latest of DBR’s massive missives of darkly ominous and unsettling doom.

For this album, the band expanded to a quintet and five guest musicians also appear on various tracks. Disc 1, featuring three tracks labelled D, K and H, ranges from fairly soft and mellow music on D to hard-hitting repetitive loops of thick raw guitar slab, deep bass roar, shrill lead guitar drone solos and some rather strange gabbly gravel-toned Popeye vocals on K. Tension accumulates slowly, inexorably and unbearably on this long piece as the musicians conjure up the strange mystery ritual through the rhythms, the momentous pauses and the incantations. Release when it comes turns out to be no relief. Track H seems superfluous at this point but by itself is an imposing if sometimes relentlessly monotonous blunt-edged piece.

On Disc 2, also featuring just three tracks (this time labelled M, N and L), M is a mellow and quite trippy journey in inner space with woozy whirl-about space effects and less sludgey though still lumbering rhythms and melodies. The vocals can be more robotic than must have been intended originally and the music could be a bit softer and more subtle; at this point the repetition is quite hard to bear. Track N is heavy-going in its first half but explodes into a chaotic jam session later on. Final track L has a jazzy approach in combining irregular drumming, a repetitive rhythm and multi-tracked vocals shrouded in echo.

On the whole this double set is solid and consistent: some songs can be too repetitive and monotonous and in a couple of tracks the best part is saved for the second half or the last third of the piece after never-ending loops of head-bashing guitars-n-drums chunk. The general tone is very orderly, perhaps too much so for this kind of music which is supposed to promise release beyond the physical limitations of this world. There is plenty of space in the music which allows all individual instruments to be heard.

I’d have liked to hear more experimentation and improvisation throughout the album; a slightly more chaotic approach, teetering on delirium, would have suited the ritualistic nature of the music and added a transcendental element. As it is, DBR’s approach puts it in the same camp of psychedelic doom drone music as bands like Bong, Bongripper and early Electric Wizard.

Contact: Svart Records, info@svartrecords.com

Hive: a peek into five droning sound universes


Hive, self-titled, Debacle Records, CD DBL059 (2011)

I’m guessing this album is the first for the duo of Chris Phillips and Jeremy Long and the name is appropriate for the music and the album: the emphasis is on droning guitar dirges. Phillips has previously released electronic droning and soundscape music under the name Squim and has scored movies and video games; he’s also an artist and created the artwork covering the front, back and inside of the debut album cover.

The music on offer is calm and methodical, often quite stately and promising to do something spectacular but withholding that surprise. The musicians concentrate on creating and developing texture which can be very rich and quite atmospheric. There is always a strong sense of anticipation, of a constant build-up to something, but that something fades away when you most want it to happen … very frustrating but intriguing all the same! The major highlight of the album is track III which is a grand piece on the Maryanne Amacher scale: rich and lush, epic and majestic, annoyingly insistent and hard on the ears.

The duo may not be keen on fireworks and insist that you be patient and adopt a meditative attitude. There is enough though in the mood of tracks like III and IV to make you pause, drop whatever you’re doing and let yourself be spellbound. Track V is a powerful beast that must be heard really loudly – at Sunn0))) level is the recommended level (that would mean 120 decibels, I think) – to be fully appreciated for its distortion, needling textures and pulsing quality.

The only criticism I have is that all tracks are much too short for the music in each and every one of them to fully develop and turn into a real bristling sound sculpture universe. I feel as though I’ve just had peeks through short and narrow wormholes into five different planes of sonic existence and Hive are withholding a great deal. Aw, come on, please let us hear some more!

Contact: Debacle Records, Jeremy C Long, Chris Phillips / Squim

The Droning Ones III (TSP radio 01/05/09)

  1. Organum, ‘Lamentations’
    From Veil of Tears, UK MATCHLESS RECORDINGS MRCD24 CD (1994)
  2. Neil Campbell, ‘Monument Irvine’
    From These Premises Are No Longer Bugged, USA FUSETRON FUSE 021 / GIARDIA GRD 018 LP (1997)
  3. Rapoon, ‘Particle Dome’
    From Dark Rivers, USA LENS RECORDS LENS0102 CD (2009)
  4. Black To Comm, ‘Pill Drop Geisha’
    From Wir Können Leider Nicht Etwas Mehr Zu Tun…, GERMANY DEKORDER 019 2 x LP (2006)
  5. Angus Maclise, ‘Dreamweapon Benefit part 2’
    From Brain Damage in Oklahoma City, USA QUAKEBASKET / SILTBREEZE SB-81 CD (2000)
  6. Ian Middleton, ‘2.7.99’
    From 5 Pieces 1998-1999, USA ECLIPSE RECORDS 002 LP (2000)
  7. Reynols / Pauline Oliveros, ‘We Are Still Thinking About the Title?’
    From Pauline Oliveros in the Arms of Reynols, NETHERLANDS CREAM GARDENS CGR04 CD (2000)
  8. John Clyde-Evans, ‘Candlelight’
    From [For: ht/rp/j&s], UK FISHEYE OPTIC 1 LP (1999)
  9. Organum, ‘Horii’
    From Volume Two, USA ROBOT RECORDS RR-18 CD (2000)
  10. Idea Fire Company, ‘Magnetic Fields’
    From Anti-Natural, USA SWILL RADIO 018 LP (1999)
  11. Ken Ikeda, ‘Hydantol’
    From tzuki [Moon], UK TOUCH T33.17 CD (2000)
  12. Simon Wickham-Smith / Richard Youngs, ‘Quagmire’
    From Knish, IGNIVOMOUS RECORDS IG 07 LP (1996)
  13. Bill Wood / Fredrik Ness Sevendal, ‘The View From Here’
    From Song of Degrees, NORWAY HUMBUG 016 LP (2003)

The Droning Ones II (TSP radio show 26/11/04)

  1. Maeror Tri, ‘Forazeihan’ / Crawl Unit, ‘Broken Books and Wings’
    From GERMANY DISASTER AREA DA007 7″ SINGLE (ND)
  2. Neil Campbell, ‘These Premises are No Longer Bugged’
    From These Premises are No Longer Bugged, USA FUSETRON FUSE 021 / GIARDIA GRD 018 LP (ND)
  3. Birchville Cat Motel, ‘She has cocoons in her hair hoodoo’
    From Jewelled Wings, USA FREEDOM FROM NO NUMBER LP (ND)
  4. Shifts, ‘Unequal’
    From Equal/Unequal, UNITED KINGDOM FOURTH DIMENSION RECORDS FDTEN59 10″ LP (2000)
  5. Birchville Cat Motel, ‘Jewelled Wings’
    From Jewelled Wings, op cit.
  6. Remora, ‘Evacuation’
    From Narcoma, USA FREEDOM FROM MEDIA NO NUMBER CD (ND)
  7. D Haines, ‘Peak Communism’
    From Emo, THE NETHERLANDS SIGMA EDITIONS 009 CD (2000)
  8. rhBand, ‘4.5.96’
    USA DRUNKEN FISH RECORDS DFR-26 7″ SINGLE (1996)
  9. Jonathan Coleclough (with Colin Potter), ‘Periodic’
    From Period, USA ANOMALOUS RECORDS NOM 4 LP (ND)
  10. Alan Lamb, ‘Primal Image’
    From Archival Recordings, AUSTRALIA DOROBO 008 CD (1995)
  11. Oren Ambarchi, extract from Stacte 2, AUSTRALIA JERKER PRODUCTIONS NO NUMBER LP (ND)
  12. Rapoon, ‘Variable 2’
    From Easterly 6 or 7, THE NETHERLANDS STAALPLAAT STCD 114 CD (1997)
  13. :zoviet-France:, ‘Host’
    From Gesture Signal Threat, UNITED KINGDOM CHARRMCD9 CD (1986)
  14. John Clyde-Evans, ‘For Love’
    From 528 Steps / For Love, USA GIARDIA 019 / UK BETLEY WELCOMES CAREFUL DRIVERS BWCD-JCE 7″ SINGLE (ND)
  15. If, Bwana, extract from Clara Nostra, USA POGUS PRODUCTIONS P21019-2 CD (1999)
  16. Reynols, ‘10,000 Chickens’ Symphony’
    GERMANY DRONE RECORDS DR-42 7″ SINGLE (1999)
  17. Reuber, ‘ruhig blut’
    From ruhig blut, GERMANY STAUBGOLD 18 CD (2001)

Simultaneous playback of 3 with 4, 4 with 5, 6 with 7, 9 with 10, and 15 with 16 then 17.

The Sound Projector radio show,
originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM

The Droning Ones (TSP radio show 20/02/04)

  1. SunnO))), ‘Death Becomes You’
    From 3: Flight of the Behemoth, USA SOUTHERN LORD SUNN 15 CD (2002)
  2. Organum, extract from Volume Two, USA ROBOT RECORDS RR-18 CD (ND)
  3. Frequency Curtain, ‘Vector Identity’
    From Frequency Curtain, USA ELEVATOR BATH EEAOA09 CD (2002)
  4. EA, ’11’00’
    GERMANY DRONE RECORDS DR-53 7″ VINYL SINGLE (2002)
  5. Nöel Akchoté, ‘Plages 18’
    From Perpetual Joseph, FRANCE RECTANGLE REC AL2 CD (2003)
  6. a.f.r.i. studios, ‘B1’
    From Goodbye If You Call That Gone, SPAIN LUCKY KITCHEN 012 CD (2001)
  7. Werner Durand, ‘Queen Bee’
    From The Art of Buzzing (Excuse The Delay Vol 1), GERMANY X-TRACT X-T 2004 CD (2002)
  8. Ian Nagoski, Effortless Battle, USA RECORDED 010 CD (2003)
  9. David First, ‘Harebrainer’
    From Dave’s Waves, ITALY ANTS ANT09CDR CD (2003)
  10. Julius, ‘vier schwarze rechtecke’
    From (halb) schwarz, GERMANY X-TRACT / EDITION RZ X-T 2001/ED. RZ 4001 CD (2001)

Almost all tracks played were faded / extracts.

The Sound Projector radio show,
originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM

Northern Sludge

Lost Head (BIOLOGICAL RECORDS BR-07) is the latest project we’ve received from the very wonderful Dave Cintron, American guitar all-rounder who has come our way on great recordings by other Cleveland bands Terminal Lovers and Scarcity Of Tanks, proving once again that great things breed in large swarms on the shores of Lake Erie. This time, Cintron is joined by fellow Terminal Lover drummer Scott Pickering and bassist Rick Kodramaz, and you could hear their 2014 debut performance on a CDR called Zen Pissed released by Tom Orange. Orange, who blurts the alto sax on this album, had the guts to call himself Orange Claw Hammer on one cassette, but given the superficially “Beefheartian” vibe of this squiggly record, it’s a forgiveable lapse.

Aye, the Lost Head have quickly developed their own very convincing take on a punky rock-jazz thing, and they do it with no straight lines or “tasteful” licks, just plenty of squirming energy and action-painting effects. It’s as though they were trying to recreate a version of Ornette’s Prime Time without hearing a single note of music and just going on a description they read in a jazz journal. A jazz journal whose pages had somehow become interleaved with Maximum Rock’N’ Roll, that is. On two of the strongest cuts here, ‘Escapee’s Lament’ and ‘Northern Sledge’, the quartet create an ingenious, amorphous gaseous purple ball of jazz-inflected noise, where the rhythm section are phenomenal – never once settling into a familiar groove and keeping the pulsebeat living and breathing by playing “around” the beat (as the great free jazz percussionists of the 1960s aimed to do). ‘Squeezing Graphene’ is a little more conventional with the souped-up funky rhythms as if aiming for a more wired, coked-up imitation of On The Corner by way of James Chance and The Contortions, but the energy falters not for one second.

‘Cargo Cult’ is cut from another cloth, a mysterious foray into scrapey noise, atmospheric mystery and forlorn guitar lines droning in dissonant manner. If it weren’t for Cintron’s tendency to occupy every space he can in the music (this seems to happen on every record he plays on, and he seeks out like-minded musicians who do the same), this track would be a genuine chiller. Drummer Pickering did the cover painting also. A great release from November 2016.

David Bowie (self-titled, 1967): 50 years ago today, a star man came out to play

David Bowie, self-titled, Deram Records (1967)

June 1st, 1967, was a significant day in the history of British rock and pop: an album by a highly influential act was released on that day. Naaah, I didn’t have The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in mind, important though that work might be in some people’s eyes. Besides, contrary to what is often believed, that particular recording’s release date was brought forward a week by its label EMI in Britain so the release date was actually May 26, 1967, instead of June 1st, 1967.

No, on that day, that hallowed day, the world was blessed with the release of David Bowie’s self-titled debut album. WHA-A-AT? you say, David Bowie’s first album, the one consigned to mental attics around the world as some unwanted and unloved mad relative of classics like “Low”, “Heroes” and “Station to Station”? Well yes, I want to rescue that album from its current inglorious status as one of the black moments in Bowie’s long history as an artist, equivalent to those seedy little pornographic flicks that famous actors always regret making while they were down on their last dollar as drama graduates way back when in the mists of time. As black moments go, “David Bowie” turns out to be much, much lighter in colour than people, even diehard Bowie fans, might make it out to be – c’mon, folks, can the same be said of other black moments in Bowie’s recording history like “Never Let Me Down”?

Well, I’ll grant that most of the music on “David Bowie” isn’t what you’d expect of an ambitious up-and-coming teenage pop singer: it often sounds twee and the minimal “play safe” approach doesn’t always suit the lyrics on several songs which cover themes and topics such as alienation or lack of connection with others, longing, futuristic dystopias in which irrational crowds follow self-proclaimed messiahs, fluid gender identity, population control, serial killing, necrophilia and paedophilia among others. (Some of these themes were to arise on future Bowie albums again and again.) Certainly the music on songs like “There Is A Happy Land”, which depending on one’s interpretation can carry a chilling message about the alien nature of youth, seems at odds with the track’s theme; on the other hand, its relaxed and stripped-back nature highlights the lyrics and Bowie’s crisp style of singing which varies from one song to the next. Quite a lot of vocal gymnastics is involved and if Bowie had had some training at this point in his career, the album could have been a very remarkable one for his vocal range and adventurous singing. There’s also the possibility that Bowie found juxtaposing dark and disturbing lyrics with seemingly happy or comic music intriguing and amusing, and he would not have been the first (certainly not the last) artist to discover that the happy pop song format is an ideal medium for conveying otherwise sinister messages.

Why Bowie chose to write and record his debut the way he did, with the music, the visually colourful lyrics and the sometimes disturbing messages they carry, we may never fully know. Legend has it his manager at the time, Ken Pitt, may have pressured the young singer into becoming an all-round entertainer with old music hall and vaudeville influences, and recording the album with that goal in mind. The irony of course is that Bowie eventually did become an all-round entertainer by following a different if perhaps more zig-zagging path.

Even so, with all the faults of this approach which ill-suited Bowie, several songs on the album have their own sweet and whimsical charm, and if you let them they can grow on you. Bowie’s singing which sounds surprisingly mature, even a little “old man”-ish for someone of his age, has a very distinct flavour at once intimate yet suggesting its owner might have access to some deep well of gnostic knowledge. The lyrics are often funny, self-deprecating and wry at the same time, and strong visual imagination and inventive, cunning wit are at work here. Bowie’s wacky and bizarre sense of humour – which never ch-ch-ch-changed over the years – is in full flight across several songs with a number of them containing very subtle twists in the tales they tell.

There are songs here (“When I Live My Dream”, “Sell Me A Coat” and “Silly Boy Blue”) that could have been reworked with different music arrangements and re-released, and no-one would guess that they’d been on this album. “Silly Boy Blue”, referencing Bowie’s life-long interest in Tibetan Buddhism, in particular imitates Tibetan-style droning music and rhythms and a later treatment could have incorporated actual drones and invited experimentation. “Join The Gang” enjoys a brief burst of avant jazz improv at its end which could have been extended to cover the whole song.

If one chooses to listen to the whole album just for Bowie’s voice, lyrics and subject matter, one will find very little filler even in songs with the most godawful crap music. With regard to experimentation, several tracks are quite good, given Bowie’s inexperience and the guidance he had, though they could have done with more and one track – it’s my favourite of the whole album – that will surprise listeners is the last song, “Please Mr Gravedigger”, sung entirely a cappella with just ambient effects as accompaniment. Now that’s what I call experimental!

Fifty years ago today, a star man came out to play … it’s time for this particular mad relative to come out of the attic and show us all how really mad it is!