After releasing my new "Drone2012" album, I've been seeking out and listening to a bunch of music to try to get inspired for my next project, and I've discovered some great stuff.
I bought myself a few new albums from some artists I've never listened to before, and now I wish I'd been paying better attention these past few years. First on my new listening list is Baroness and their new double album, "Yellow and Green." I'd categorize these guys as heavy rock influenced by the Southern Sludge and N.O.L.A. bands like Down, Eyehategod, Thou, Crowbar. Their earlier albums from just a few years ago were much heavier and "sludgier", but this double-album set is downright melodic and much lighter. It's closer to Opeth's "Heritage" or "Damnation"
I was very surprised by this one and wasn't expecting the great vocals and vocal harmonies provided by singer/guitarists John Baizley and Peter Adams. The guitars aren't quite clean, but not really your typical fuzzed-out mud either. More of a classic rock overdrive and grit, with a few heavier tones here and there. The production on this album is surprisingly clear, focusing on the guitars and vocals, but letting the drums and bass share the aural space. I highly recommend this album. And look into their earlier albums, "Red" and "Blue" if you want something a bit nastier.
I also bought the latest Public Image Limited album, called, "This is PiL." I've been a fan of these guys for a while, so they aren't new to me, but this album isn't quite what I expected. Which is par for the course with Mr. John Lydon and his latest line-up of experienced musical backers.
The critics have been saying this album reaches back to their more experimental early period, and I am inclined to agree, though no happily. Personally, I like their "less experimental" side, like their "Generic Album" produced by Bill Laswell, and their 1992 album "That What Is Not", which in my opinion was a really great rock album (though panned by the critics). The music is very dub-influenced, led by the basslines of Scott Firth and the steady drumbeats of Bruce Smith. Lu Edmonds provides the clanking guitar chords, very reggae and dub-influenced, but a bit more "angular" and discordant. Lots of weird effects and echoes migrate from his amps, and he also plays a bunch of songs on electric "saz", a Turkish three-stringed instrument, but I have a difficult time discerning it from "normal" electric guitar.
And finally we have the ever-unique and abrasive vocals from Mr "Johnny Rotten" himself, John Lydon. Most mainstream music listeners (i.e., fans of American Idol and The Voice) will automatically hate his vocals, and I also find myself wincing every so often, but Lydon is not out to please you with his mellifluous and dulcet tones. He's here to piss you off and make you think. And that's exactly what he does. I just wish the backing music was a bit more "rocking" and less "dub."
I'm dragging on a but, but I promise, this is the last music recommendation here, folks ... ready?
I can't believe I've never listened to them before. Led by guitarist Dylan Carlson (and his drummer/wife Adrienne Davis), Earth are classified as a "drone" band, but they really play music that could be considered "majestic desert travelogue" or something like that. Their early noisy, sludgey, droney albums of the 1990's were a huge influence on Sunn O))), Boris, The Melvins, and a slew of other bands.
Carlson is also known somewhat infamously (not his fault, though) as Kurt Cobain's best friend and probably the last person to see him alive. Which is why Earth went on hiatus in 1996, while Carlson recovered from his friend's suicide by abusing various illegal substances. After their first three very loud and fuzzy albums (and several EP's), Earth would not be heard from again for nine years until 2005, when Carlson managed to get his life back on track. He also completely reinvented the band's sound by dropping nearly all distortion from the guitars, leaving them crisp and just slightly gritty, much more Duane Eddy than Tony Iommi.
If you like Sunn O))) and Boris, check out their earlier material. But I really prefer their albums from 2005 and on. Loud but relatively "clean" guitars dominate the mix, playing slow and deliberate "riffs" and arpeggiated chords over very minimalistic drums. The guitar tones are absolutely gorgeous. Think Telecasters through Fender Twins at that volume where the sound just barely begins to break into overdrive. The drums are very well recorded. Bass and other instruments (including cello, violin, organ, and trombone) compliment, but never rise to overtake the mix from the guitars.
Start with their 2005 album, "HEX; or Printing In the Infernal Method" and then just go out and get the rest. Just do it. Burn 'em into your iPod and put them on constant repeat. Your ears will be rewarded with hours of splendid guitar tones. Seriously, as a guitar player, you just can't help but "bathe" in the sumptuous vibrations of single-coils singing through the speakers.
Okay, enough for now. Listening to all this music has already inspired me to start thinking about my next recording. It won't quite be "Drone2012, part 2", but that is kind of a starting point. It will be "droney"; think of Song 4 on "Drone2012" but imagine it if Earth were playing it. Yeah, that's the ticket.