Drone (often interlinked with either ambient or doom metal) is exactly what it says on the tin: heavily reverbed/echoed sustained sounds by chosen instruments/vocals going through a ton of effects or loops. The drawn-out and slow tempo nature of the music often means the songs are fairly long in comparison to your pop chart hits – expect at least a 10-minute song average on a lot of drone albums.
The history of its coming dates so far back through history that it’s near impossible to sum up in a handful of paragraphs, but perhaps one of the most famous traditional form of drone music may be that of the Tibetan Buddhist chanting – the influence of which can be easily heard in the likes of Om or Sunn O))).
For this reason, it seems to be something of an acquired taste, most likely to touch on some sort of emotion with people who are considerably patient and open to what can be classed as “music”, but probably something that would drive your average Skrillex or Lady Gaga fan to despair.
That said, I’m a big fan and find it really relaxing to listen to, so here is a list of my personal favourites in drone (doom or ambient):
10. APHEX TWIN
Despite this being a bit of a cheat, to deny Aphex Twin any credibility in making great ambient-drone music is to completely ignore his Selected Ambient Works (although 85-92 had a more EBM basis than an ambient-drone one, but it had its moments). “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” is filled with haunting tracks and while it may not be his most celebrated release, it is a great example of electronic drone.
Although the line between doom metal and drone can be a fuzzy one at times, Moss (personally) take a big enough step into the drone realm to be called so. Just imagine Sunn O))) holding back on the feedback and slightly faster – or a slowed down 10x Eyehategod. Definitely one for the doomsters.
8. BEN FROST
Ben Frost manages to just capture pure loneliness in some of his tracks (the one above being an example) and it feels more genuine than any miserable acoustic singer-songwriter could ever try to be. Frost definitely concentrates on atmosphere and conflicting emotions through the bipolarism in his music and it’s beautiful for it.
If Om aren’t slow or tribal enough for you, then Bong surely are. The UK band have such a natural grasp on the psychedelic tribal sound, often using (what seems to be) oriental or Middle-eastern instruments, and the only vocals being monotone chants, the band have a mesmerising sound that has you coming back time and time again.
6. BLACK SWAN
Entering the more creepy side of drone (perhaps not in the fully-fledged way of the nightmarish Gnaw Their Tongues), Black Swans seem more than capable than giving listeners goosebumps. Their general sound is something like the soundtrack to the earliest black-and-white horror film ever created, but slowed down to an unrecognisable package. Unfortunately, the video above is the only song on youtube, but check their soundcloud for more.
Grouper is Liz Harries, a human being capable of drawing on so many emotions by herself more than full bands manage in their lifetimes. Often consisting of just her voice, guitar and effect pedals, Liz manages to make her echo for what seems to be an endless void, while being sad and beautiful at the same time. Just spinechilling.
4. BLACK BONED ANGEL
As the name might suggest, the band delves into the darkest areas of humanity and its history, perhaps more so than Sunn O))). Although they may not be as influential or well known as Sunn O))), Black Boned Angel’s dedication to extremely long and sorrowful tracks (the shortest being No Redemption But My Own, which clocks in at 19.15 minutes) means they are considerably more gargantuan in comparison…
3. SUNN O)))
…but you know, you have to love Sunn O))) no matter what. Do they really need any explanation at this point? They’re named after an amplifier brand, mainly consisting of two lone guitars played by Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson (sometimes with black metal vocalist and long time associate Attila Csihar) and they play LOUD, very LOUD. That’s all you need to know.
2. STARS OF THE LID
I don’t know how to explain. Just buy/download either “Stars Of The Lid And Their Refinement Of The Decline” or “The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid” and listen to them. If they don’t relax you and make you feel some inner peace then nothing will.
The band that is probably credited as a big influence on some of the bands in this list (Sunn O))) are pretty open about their worship after naming a song after Earth’s creator, pretty much a God in his own right, Dylan Carlson and a releasing a split with Earth themselves). Although Earth’s sound is now more clean and refined, drawing big influences from country/Western music, Earth were known for endorsing the loud, abrasive approach beforehand – just check out the likes of German Dental Work or Teeth Of The Lions Rule The Divine. Although I have a love for those eras, the softer eras are my choice of preference. Enjoy.