Tag Archives: Drone

Lifetime Achievement: 7 Albums That Show The Many Sides Of Merzbow

Merzbow

Forty years after he first started recording as Merzbow, Masami Akita’s music is no easier to categorize. Though his creations are perennially pigeonholed as noise music, anti-music, and even über-music, the sheer magnitude of his output will always present an obstacle to easy classification. Consider Mike Connelly’s comments in the opening episode of Merzcast, one of two recently launched podcasts attempting to scale Akita’s entire discography—which currently towers at 432 releases and counting: “Like, what is he thinking when he’s doing this?!” Continue reading

Big Ups: Drew McDowall On His Top Five Recent Musical Discoveries

Drew McDowall

Photo by by Gordon Haswell

“There’s an essay by Jonathan Lethem called ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’ that I really love, based on the idea that we’re constantly influenced by everything that other people are doing. That’s the heart of what you’re immersed in, but also it’s a fine line and a very delicate balancing act.”

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In His Expansive Guitar Compositions, Expo ’70 Explores Galaxies

Expo 70

Speaking by phone from his home of Kansas City, Justin Wright outlines his early inspirations to become a musician in a calm, friendly pace. “My dad had an old reel-to-reel collection down in our basement, and I got curious about what they were. [He] showed me how to set it up. The first albums I ever heard [that way] were Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Led Zeppelin II, Woodstock. When I became a teenager in the mid-to-late ‘80s, I got into more aggressive and hard music. Around then, I knew I wanted to start playing guitar. I always had that passion.”

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Divide and Dissolve Use Drone to Combat Oppression and Intolerance

Divide and Dissolve

Drone metal seems like the ultimate apolitical genre. Outside of the transgressive act itself of crafting music through waves of undulating feedback, it’s hard to imagine what one could say with something that usually doesn’t have any words and involves a bunch of bearded dudes in hooded cloaks. Australian duo Divide and Dissolve are looking to change that—starting with the very demographics of the band itself. Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill certainly aren’t bearded dudes, and they have no interest in hiding who they are. To them, their identities are political acts in and of themselves: Both are women, and Reed is descended from, as she puts it, “indigenous people of the so-called United States.” According to the duo, who prefer to answer questions collectively, “Our music is helping carve out space where it isn’t supposed to be. Heavy music is apparently supposed to look, sound, and feel a certain way. Divide and Dissolve is and will continue to be a point of difference.”

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Guitarist Mike Vest Writes Crushing Songs That Blend Doom Metal, Drone, and Psych

Mike Vest

“My parents thought I was going to become a country singer, or a guitarist. I have no recollection of this, obviously, because I was six years old!”

Mike Vest is speaking with wry, warm humor from his home in Newcastle, England, about his childhood musical passions. And while the singing career may not have happened, the “guitarist” part did. Whether performing solo or with a variety of bands around his home city, Vest’s blasting, enveloping performances have earned him an iron-clad reputation among listeners whose tastes tend towards the aggressive side of psychedelia, doom metal overdrive, dark drones, and stoner freak-outs.

Vest’s prolific output, combined with his ear for queasy noise, almost suggests a fusion between Chrome’s legendary Helios Creed and Acid Mothers Temple’s frontman Kawabata Makoto. Vest himself traces his inspiration back to his parents. “They weren’t musicians, but there was always music on,” he says. “My dad used to listen to all the greats—Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane. Chaz Chandler, Jimi’s manager, used to have a house in Newcastle, and there was a big affection in the working class for Jimi Hendrix.”

In his late teens, Vest found his tastes shifting as he discovered music beyond punk rock, as he got into more general late ’90s underground music. “It made me realize that I could play whatever I want,” he says. “I used to know people a lot older than me who worked in record shops. I was quite lucky I got a lot of music in my face—noise music, avant-garde music—by the time I was 18.”

Two of Vest’s most well-known bands, the sludge-leaning trio 11 Paranoias and the full on drone/doom collective Bong, have their own Bandcamp pages, but Vest’s personal page is a clearinghouse for much of his other work, old and new, solo and with bands. We asked Vest to pick and discuss six representative releases, which he prefaced with a discussion about how he approaches composition and recording with so many different guises and collaborators:

“People play in a lot of bands, and have a lot of projects. I think it’s quite commonplace, really. I suppose I do have a certain sound for each of the bands. Some bands, like Haikai No Ku, that’s a very abstract guitar. I do some preparation before certain albums for what I want, but it’s quite hard to be outside yourself all the time. In order to get good, or get better, it’s always good to play with others.”

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Music to Soundtrack the Apocalypse

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project

Apocalyptic thinking is as ancient as mankind; when human beings first realized there was a future, we also realized there would be an end. The Zoroastrian Frashokereti is the oldest surviving eschatology, and surely there were others that predated it. Centuries later, Europeans in the Middle Ages felt terror toward the advent of the year 1000 that was driven by a belief that the soul would continue to live after the Apocalypse. They made prophetic music, often based on the Book of Revelations, and that creative impulse was also surely not new to man, the music maker.

In 2017, our own fears of the future are different—perhaps more terrifying precisely because they are driven by very real, corporeal dangers, like environmental disaster, pandemic, and nuclear war. And instead of music about the Apocalypse, we have music about what comes after, which is not paradise but a devastated, emptied world, cold enough, as author Cormac McCarthy wrote, to “crack stones.”

And we have our own, growing tradition of music that imagines the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Aesthetically falling under the “dark ambient” umbrella, much of this is drone-based, beat-less, and lacking any obvious human presence. Some of it is made to intentionally express that humanity has no future, some subconsciously broadcast terrors from the zeitgeist, all of it reflects our contemporary expectations for the future.

Comments on the Bandcamp pages for the albums in this list reflect an unexpected inclination to use the music as an aid to relaxation and sleep, finding comfort in the enveloping chill of the sublime. This is music to read Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and of course Joanna Demers’s Drone and Apocalypse by. Thinking about the End of Time is so human, so natural, that we might as well enjoy it.

Bandcamp has a deep catalogue of and community for dark ambient music, but this flavor of post-apocalyptic music is far less clearly defined. The following is a list of some of the best examples of the style, curated from the ominous world.

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The Mysterious Demen Makes Music From a Deep Cavern in a Distant Past

Demen

There’s not a lot of information on the woman who records as Demen—and that’s by design. All that her label, Kranky, will offer is that her name is Irma Orm, and she’s from Stockholm. Beyond that, even Kranky has scant details. The label was initially contacted by Demen via email a couple of years ago, anonymously.

“There is no great thinking or planning behind me being anonymous,” Orm says in our interview—conducted, at her request, via email. “I am simply sharing only what I find relevant for the purpose of the project, and leaving out that which is not.”

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Machinefabriek’s Experimental Electronic Music Swings From Murmur to Explosion

Machinefabriek

Machinefabriek by Robert Gradisen

The name of Rutger Zuydervelt’s creative identity, Machinefabriek, conjures notions of futuristic industrial dystopias—but, in fact, it came from a rather unremarkable source. “The word, meaning ‘machine factory,’ was on a building that I passed each time I went grocery shopping,” he explains. The upside is that he now has a name that carries with it a kind of cold, imposing authority. The downside is that he’s now regularly approached by people wanting to invite him to things like forklift auctions.

But then again, maybe that could be a good sonic source for him. For nearly 15 years, the Rotterdam-based Zuydervelt has worked both under the Machinefabriek name as well as his own, releasing an almost daunting but also highly varied series of albums, EPs and singles. His work resists easy classification, ranging from louder explosions of sound to minimal murmurs. His stated emphasis is on ‘experimental electronic music,’ a term Zuydervelt says works as well as any, though he adds, “Terms like ‘experimental’ and ‘abstract’ are quite relative, and a lot of my music has an electro-acoustic aspect.”

We interviewed Zuyderfelt—by email, at his request—to talk more about his life and approach to work, as well as how Bandcamp has particularly suited his continually evolving discography.

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