Various Artists – Drone Islands – The Lost Maps

[Reviewed by stark]

After “Occult Realm” this is the second compilation curated by Raffaele Pezzella in 2020. This time it’s the second installment of the “Drone Islands” series. Last year, Raffaele’s flagship (along with Unexplained Sounds Group) label, Eighth Tower Records has offered “Drone Islands – Land Rising” to all the drone maniacs and it hasn’t even been a year when we got a follow-up, entitled “The Lost Maps.”

The line-up is more than interesting as within more than an hour we have the opportunity to check the new track of experienced drone/experimental wolves, the younger but already respected ones and a group of debutants, the anonymous projects having a chance to present their music to a broader audience.

But it is one of those oldtimers who opens the compilation. Lately I came to a conclusion that Rapoon is probably one of my favourite artists ever. That fact wasn’t that obvious, because when I think of my beloved music, I’ve never considered Robin Storey’s project in that context. Yet while with other projects I often make a break which may last over a year or so, I realized there’s no month without listening to one or two Rapoon albums. “Sphinx Wings” is absolutely top-notch deep ambient, beautiful nautical drones, tiny bells and atmospheric textures make me think of deep underwater kingdoms, the remnants of ancient civilizations devoured by the sea.

Gaspar Peralta is a relatively unknown ambient maker from Tijuana, Mexico. What he provides here is a decent piece of that branch of ambient which I find particularly interesting and inspiring these days, something I call Atmospheric Ambient Noise. I suppose the sound he achieved here is made of strongly processed string instruments and/or guitars. While listening to this piece, I was constantly thinking of Tim Hecker. And I love Tim Hecker, so you can guess I truly enjoyed the young Mexican’s offering.

We continue with the projects I’ve never heard of before. Surprisingly BedouinDrone comes from Antwerp, because if I wouldn’t know I’d guess it is music straight from the Middle-East. On the other hand, the ones like Rapoon or Muslimgauze are British, then why not make resembling music in Belgium. Slow and pulsating rhythms, desert-like drones, TV broadcasts hidden in deep background and — again — atmospheric, cinematic approach, all this makes me wanting more from this artist.

Simon Balestrazzi is one of the members of legendary T.A.C. collective, but he also works solo, under his own name. His track is subtly aggressive, where distorted guitar forms a background for a plethora of odd sounds, tribal rhythms, hums, howls, and micronoises. There’s something deeply disturbing here, the surreal threat hanging over your head. Judging from the title “Engramma 1”, this might be the opener for the upcoming album, so we’ll have to wait how this story will evolve. I’m intrigued.

Another one is not so much to my liking, mostly because I’m not a fan of such abstract forms, the tiny pieces you need to put together to discover any sense. Perhaps there is one in these TraumaTerrestial’s small glitches, harsh guitar drones, police sirens and female voice played backwards, I don’t deny it, perhaps I will seek for it at some point, but… maybe not today.

You hear Troum, you think legend. It’s one of the very few projects which have worked out their own, unique style that cannot be mistaken with anything else. I don’t believe there’s anyone reading this review and not knowing Troum works, but if somehow there is, “Dérivé d’écume” is a good sample of Troum’s idea of music. Dense guitar drones, a lot of reverbing and delays, and this peculiar oneiric atmosphere, characteristic for the duo from Bremen. This may not be their best track ever, but even their average work is on the level unreachable for the vast majority of other musicians.

The seventh composition is a collaborative one, Autopsia and Instinct Primal have joined forces to deliver an intense journey into the abyss, it may not deliver anything new to the dark ambient genre, but it’s well performed and really suggestive. It works how dark ambient/drone music should work so there’s nothing to complain.

Yet it can’t achieve the level of intensity of another track. This is Schloss Tegal’s trademark, I’m constantly astonished how this project can grab you by the throat and throw into the eye of the hellish cyclone. It is darkness at its best. It’s like a distant storm on the wasteland. Sheer perfection.

Taphephobia offers a different spectrum of emotions, Ketil’s project has always reminded me a little bit of Troum, obviously because of the melancholic vibe achieved through reverbed guitar drones. “Light Years From Home”, what an appropriate title – alone, forgotten… you watch “C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate”, but you yearn for home. I’m always exceptionally sensitive for such emotions in ambient music.

Some compilations are very coherent in terms of style, sometimes even to such moment when you can’t say whether it is a work of one or more artists. “The Lost Maps” stands on the opposite side, because while all the tracks can be described as deep/dark/drone, each one has an individual character, a different story behind it. Tunnels Of Āh’s “Red Distribution” is abstract and minimal. And completely distinct from the previous nine tracks. It’s like some poor birds trapped in a digital sewer. I feel a Coil spirit hidden somewhere within these sounds.

“Ominous” by Martyria begins exactly like “Follower’s Credo” theme from “Fallout” videogame, yet with consecutive percussion beats it all morphs into a multilayered drone magma, which to me could last for another hour or so.

Complex electronic textures, a bit of cinematic atmosphere and space understood both literally and metaphorically. Alphaxone is a frequent guest in our webzine as we simply like this project from Iran and “Dark Horizon” will not change our warm feelings towards it. A competent piece of dark ambient.

Every journey has to end at some point. This one ends with “Nocturnal” by Bloodkry, yet another artist I’ve never heard of before. Apparently it’s a one man project from Finland which prefer rather a severe and ascetic attitude – monotonous analogue drone along with subtle noises and distortions may not be my cup of tea, but I have to honestly admit that the track sounds really well.

And that is all. The man behind the label is in this business for years and the devotion he’s constantly promoting the electronic underground with is priceless, whether via his label or the weekly radio broadcasts. Not all the tracks are exactly to my taste, but in general it is a comprehensive compendium of a drone world in the beginning of 2020.

Various Artists – Drone Islands – The Lost Maps
Eighth Tower Records
CD/Digital 2020

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