Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 10 Drone/Ambient of 2005

Can't think of a better way to wrap up Drone-uary! As I mentioned in the "main/stream" Top 10 of 2005, not such a great year for new releases... unless you count the ambient-drone-noise axis. As I was going through my iTunes collection, it was apparent that most of the stuff I was considering was on this list (and the next). I really had to stretch the first one - leaving off some marginal "bigger" albums, including some better local releases, confusing one EP's release year. This one is some good stuff, although it also stretches the genre labels a bit.

Also, I'm changing up the format of the entries slightly. Mostly just the order of links, but mainly the addition of non-iTunes places to purchase .mp3 downloads (for all you iTunes haters). Plus including links to albums on Lala, where available. (I'll try to retroactively update previous Top 10's, listed at right in the control module.)

#10 Jesu - Jesu

"We All Faulter" from Jesu (2005)

Genre - Shoegaze Ambient Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Wales, UK

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Jesu
Purchase - Hydra Head Records

First post-meltdown LP from main Head of David/Godflesh dude. This is probably the biggest stretch, what with the drums and vocals and distorted guitars. But a lot of it is droney, dirgey. Some is more trad, maybe shoegaze style. A good "rock" intro to one element of the drone equation.

#9 The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box - V/A

The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box
"Bufo Periglendes (Golden Toad) Parts I-III" [conclusion] by Bardo Pond, from The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box (2005)

Genre - Compiled Psych and Ambient and Drone and Noise and Minimalism plus et cetera...
Official - Last Visible Dog Records
Location - Various Artists

Review - Foxy Digitalis (10/10!!)
Download - Amazon, , iTunes
Lala - The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box
Purchase - LVD Records (cheaper than MP3!)

Six-disc compilation of name-brand noises, each paying extensive tribute to our fallen comrades: extinct species. It's really actually too much, especially given some of the songs/suites' lengths. More of a sampler to dip occasionally into, check out something here and there - maybe when you hear about a band or something related. Noteworthy contributors are: Psychedelphia icons Bardo Pond, Kiwi experimenter Birchville Cat Motel, Italo-duo My Cat Is An Alien, one-woman Phila. free(k)-folk Fursaxa, spastic Finn Tomutonttu, and more Finnoise from Uton. Believe me, not the final Finnish for today!

#8 Zome - White Rainbow

"Germany" from Zome (2005)

Genre - Psych-Drone
Myspace -
"Blog" (???) -
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Zome
Purchase - States Rights Records

Only had this one a week, and it's apparently really early stuff done as White Rainbow, for his (then?) girlfriend Valet. But I like the record, though it's odd - with its singing and all. For the video, I kind of lazily manipulated a couple of images for possibly the least representative WR song of all. But it's pretty short and kinda Krauty, and the Bardo Pond epic was a lot for now.

#7 Black Oni - Guapo

Black Oni
"II" from Black Oni (2005)

Genre - Contemporary Avant-Zeuhl
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Ipecac Records, Amazon , iTunes
Lala - Black Oni
Purchase - Amazon

As with any Zeuhl, you'll get nothing of one-thing on any one album (or song). However, the martial rollercoaster of "II" is the least ambient and most Magmaesque. But it's the only thing on YouTube and I'm done movie-making for the weekend... Guapo made the awesome Twisted Stems (#2, 2006). This has parts that approach those heights, and parts that never do. Still better than half the previous list.

#6 The Giallos Flame - The Giallos Flame

The Giallos Flame
"Giallos Flames" from Violent Professionals (2007)

Genre - Horror Soundtrack Italo
Official/Myspace -
Location - Dunwich-on-Lovecraft, U.K.

Review - The Metal Forge
Download - others at iTunes, Amazon
Lala - other Giallos Flame
Purchase - Amazon, others at Giallos Flame blog

Giallos Flame hits the Italian '70s exploitation/horror soundtrack sound much more than Zombi gets tagged with it. This is the debut, but their/his output is remarkably consistent... and great. The funk, the organ, the vibe. Like the inspirational work it builds on, you can hear how it would fit into a film ("The Getaway," "Jazz Killer," and "Crime Squad" kick off this record), but also enjoy on its own merits. Here's a cool interview for more insight.

#5 Stories for Owls - Badgerlore

Stories for Owls
"Stone Stick Earth Brick" from Stories for Owls (2005)

Genre - Freak-Folk Drone-Psych
Official/Myspace -
Location - Pacific Coast, USA

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - another Badgerlore album
Purchase - Amazon

Six-string improvisational all-star jams, mostly very low-key with a mellow dissonance. Includes the Six Organs of Admittance guy (#10, 2009), Tom Carter (#8, 2008) of Charalambides/The Mike Gunn, and one each from Deerhoof and Yellow Swans. Generally works better for close listening than in-the-background ambience. New record on Table of the Elements - due April 24!!

#4 1818-1991 - Somnivore

"Sought by Few, Scared by Many [Karelia, 1818]" from 1818-1991 (2005)

Genre - Dark Ambient
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Lapland/Finland

Review - Aural Pressure
Download/Purchase - Ltd. Ed. / OOP / unavailable...
Lala - Remix action

Very limited edition (60 copies!) of this debut release - can't remember where I got the audio. Thought it was, but now there's only one song located here. Maybe I was thinking of Houston's Tchrite, which isn't exactly similar really. Anyway, it's excellent ambient music with some kind of historical theme. Each song has a subtitle of a city and year, which I casually interpret as referring to wars, culture, industrialization, different things on different listens. Here, I'll look up the first one [Karelia, 1818]:
"Soviet power was established in November 1917-April 1918. Since the spring of 1918 Karelia had been an arena of the battles between the Red Army and the Byelaya Army and interventionists" (from the History of Karelia). Here's an interview with Somnivore. I love that The Library of Lapland owns a copy.

#3 Star Autopsy - Zoät-Aon

Star Autopsy
"Infra-Saturn & Exo" from Star Autopsy (2005)

Genre - Cosmic Noise-Ambient
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Oulu, Finland

Review - Aural Pressure
Download FREE live track - see 3 Dec 2009
Purchase - Aural Hypnox > Mail Order

Somehow vaguely related to Somnivore (#4), maybe that's how I found them. Whereas that project concerned the earthly, Zoät-Aon's terrain is the hyperverse. The machine-cycle-hum could be from spacecraft or the galactic axis. Occasional Ligeti-storms of Monolith noise-burst occlusion. A wormhole-tourism audio-pamphlet of alien topography, with field recordings of the fourth-dimensional, sun-eating birds of Arkh'torus XIV-b. Sounds like the apocalypse, or the universe being reborn.

#2 Lashing the Rye - Harvestman

Lashing the Rye
"Among the Heather" from Lashing the Rye (2005)

Genre - Mystical Pagan Pysch-Folk
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Neurot Recordings

The first album from Neurosis guitarist under the Harvestman moniker (next was #5, 2009). Some folk exploration, some heavy drones, some bagpipes, a whole lotta awesome! Approaches psychedelic instrumental guitar music from just about every angle, and then expands beyond.

#1 Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia - The Caretaker

Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia
"memories six & seven" from Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia (2005)

Genre - Hauntology
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Stockport, England (now Berlin)

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download FREE - Brainwashed

Another 6xCD package (on reissue), but this is all from one guy. It is mammoth: 72 tracks of ghostly reverie and/or dread. Especially if you tack on the 7th bonus disc (I sure did). Before The Caretaker, v/Vm dropped electro-dance prank-bombs. Since then, he's done something I'm getting to. These are sampled, treated, looped, distorted 78rpm records of old-timey British music, popular dancehall stuff from the early 20th c. The weight and corrosion of time are drawn out of the grooves and enhanced and fetishized. The Caretaker name is a reference to Kubrick's The Shining, with its elegant/horrific hauntings. The primary focus of the project was memory, in various aspects and applications. An online dictionary defines anterograde amnesia as: "A condition in which events that occurred after the onset of amnesia cannot be recalled and new memories cannot be formed." I really, really enjoy the music/audio here, but honestly that's the effect after listening to 72/84 tracks: I would be hard-pressed to distinguish a single outstanding "memory." Exact opposite of Badgerlore, almost mandatory as in-the-background. "Overwhelming artifact," indeed.

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