General Thoughts

Enter the Drone – A Beginner in Drone and Ambient Music


A Beginner in Drone and AmbientI’m a subscriber to a record label’s subscription service. To be exact it’s called a Jamscription and the record label is Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The music is that jam band psychedelic drug stuff. It doesn’t get too crazy. There are a surprising amount of 4 minute songs released on BBiB, for a label that focuses on psyche rock.

A release that didn’t fall into that 4 minute mold in my 2015 Jamscription, was an album by a band called Ancient Ocean by the name of Blood Moon. At the time I was annoyed. Why would they send me a piece of vinyl of boring drone music? It felt like a waste of vinyl and waste of my money. After the first listen, the record got put away and never listened to again, until now, while I write this.

While it still feels like a stretch to pay $15+ for an ambient or drone album, I have made a turn on my opinion of the genre. I can narrow it down to reading and subscribing to Warren Ellis’ newsletter where he recommends a lot of drone, ambient and field recording pieces on bandcamp.

I’ve enjoyed this genre mostly while reading and writing. But I’ve found the long tracks, the particular noise and some of weird field recording tracks to be engaging. Not in the way that a good metal or hip hop song is engaging, I’m interested in more of an abstract way, which allows me to keep working.

I don’t want to be the guy to define the differences between noise, drone and ambient (and the field recording that can be used any of those three genres to varying degrees). What I will do is link to some of the articles I’ve been using to discover what my tastes are in the genre.

First up is the aforementioned Warren Ellis. You can see his collection on bandcamp and this will give you a feel for ambient, drone and many artists who use field recordings.

The website A Closer Listen, has a very cool list of Top Ten Field Recording & Soundscape recordings from 2015. Getting my feet wet with this list should help me go in all sorts of dire

Invisible Oranges is a metal blog I listen too, but here are their recommendations for some noise compositions.  These will tend to be pretty harsh and the noise genre has many of its own sub-genres.

Pitchfork doesn’t just give bad reviews to indie rock and pop rap, here is their 2015 list for experimental music. This list contains drone, ambient, field recordings, light noise. It also comes with mini write ups that you might want to read before choosing what to listen to.

Here’s a best ever list of ambient music from Factmag. Some of this music isn’t reflective of what ambient music is today but any list with Brian Eno on it is a good list. He might be the godfather of modern ambient music.

At this point in my drone/ambient/experimental journey I’m not too interested in buying anything so this list from Make Use Of gives a whole bunch of free bandcamp recordings, if we fall in love with them then we can throw some dolla bills at the composers.

I’m still working out how I see the genre and the individual albums. What makes something from this group of genres memorable? What constitutes a good track or album? When is it bad? How should I listen to the music? Headphones? Stereo System? The car?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions yet. I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve listened to, some stands out and I’ll start recommending that stuff.