I honestly struggle to write about drone tracks in any meaningful way other than variations of “this is overwhelmingly beautiful/dark/powerful”, and the same goes for this brilliant 8 minute piece from Swedish composer LEHNBERG, so just listen to it and let it completely take you away from whatever mundane task you’re likely caught up in.
A longtime member of alt-rock band Nine Inch Nails, as a solo artist Alessandro Cortini has released something like a dozen or so albums over the last decade; electronic-based experiments in ambient, noise and occasionally straying into something that vaguely resembles techno. His latest LP SCURO CHIARO landed last week, and even though CHIAROSCURO came out as a single a few months back, I missed it at the time and it’s such a clear standout that I couldn’t not feature it. Building slowly from a base of celestial bleeps and hums to a gloriously intense finale, it’s the perfect embodiment of electronic music at its most cinematic.
Writing about this kind of floating, glassy ambient, I sometimes feel like words aren’t really doing it justice, which is, admittedly, a bit of an issue if you’ve chosen to run a blog where your own grasp of language is at least reasonably important. even – the latest from Japanese artist Akiyoshi Yasuda – is the latest to stump me. Is it ‘gorgeous’? Yes. Is it ‘evocative’? Also yes. Does it ‘feel as insignificant as curling wisps of distant clouds, but also have the ability to make your head spin with the force of its own delicate beauty’? Sure does.
Imagining Machines is a twenty-minute digital-only work in three parts by Australian sound designer Daniel McCagh which, if you’re a fan of William Basinski, is probably going to be right up your street. Focussing on the slow decay and disintegration of its main, constantly shifting pads while a whirling bank of machines limber up in the background, I guess all the individuals elements are fairly morose and disquieting. Except when you put them all together, it’s beautiful. And not just, “oh, that’s pretty” beautiful, but a kind of aching, longing appreciation of something that you can’t quite comprehend existing.
Sometimes all your want to do is sit back in a comfy chair and be made to feel increasingly anxious for 12 or so minutes. And while, sure, you could just drink several strong coffees and watch the news, there are better ways of achieving this sometimes weirdly pleasurable state of disquiet, so here come Grøte – a drone collective based in Croatia – with Prognosis 1 – which slowly overwhelms you to the point that all you can think about is the vastness of everything and the futility of your own existence in comparison. But, you know, in quite an enjoyable way.
Pigeon Breeders and Ghost Cars two experimental groups from Edmonton, Canada, and this is the second part of a session recorded on a muggy night in the summer of 2020, with guitar, bass, percussion, and electronics played live and improvised in a single take. Over the course of 12 minutes or so it ebbs and flows, building and receding with heavily reverbed guitars and eerie atmospherics taking centre stage, and while it doesn’t end up with anywhere near the same level of demented ferocity as something like Swans, it’s definitely in the same ballpark.
Seemingly not content with releasing one of the very best albums of the year, Keeley Forsyth put out a brand new EP, Photograph, last week. The title track was actually out around a month ago but I somehow missed it, and wanted to feature as it’s absolutely extraordinary. Her voice really is like nothing I’ve ever heard before, and coveys so much: angst, vulnerability and sorrow, but also a fierce defiance and resolution. The production is sparse but incredibly powerful, and the entire record strikes a heartbreaking balance between black, bleak misery and fragile optimism.
Yo La Tengo’s latest release is the five-track ambient drone piece We Have Amnesia Sometimes, recorded with a single microphone placed in the middle of the trio. Not that you can necessarily tell that it’s been recorded in this relatively unorthodox way, although there is definitely an all-encompassing quality to the music here; guitars are gently twanged at random, or left to drift endlessly into meandering waves of static and reverb. James gets up… is probably the stand out, and certainly the dreamiest and most relaxing, but it’s worth committing yourself to the album’s half an hour or so running time, and becoming one with the majesty and awesomeness of the cosmos, dude.
Brooding ambient drone from one of the very best in the business. Like a lot of Rafael Anton Irisarri’s work, this is pretty bleak, but compellingly – and often overwhelmingly – so, with enough tiny rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds to keep you coming back for more. This is on his new album Peripeteia which came out this week on Dais Records, and includes a continuous mix of all the album tracks if you really want to burrow into the gloom.