Various Artists

The Throne of Drones

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The original concept for the Asphodel subsidiary Sombient was to create a darker alternative to the relaxed "chill-out" music that emerged from the early-'90s rave scene. The first installment of their series of drone compilations was 1995's "The Throne of Drones." Assembling artists from different musical communities (some are played in clubs, some are considered new age, and others are associated with the avant-garde), Asphodel put together a varied and deeply satisfying collection of dark ambient music. While the individual tracks are distinctive enough, a similar feeling of tense uncertainty is consistent throughout. Robert Rich's "The Simorgh Sleeps on Velvet Tongues" sounds as if it was recorded in a massive cavern, with gongs that seem to reverberate for minutes and deep brass drones that could double as foghorns. Jeff Greinke's haunting "Low Ceiling" combines luminous extended tones with an animalistic wailing of uncertain origin, while Rythym & Noise offer a slightly warmer take on drone with "A Filament in Strata," a track not far afield from the processing experiments of Fripp & Eno. Biosphere's "En Trance" is true to its name, with hypnotic acoustic guitar strumming that renders it the most conventionally "musical" track here. At the other end of that spectrum is the extremely unsettling and atonal "Sound Characters" from mind-blowing installation artist Maryanne Amacher. Though it provided the title for her later album on Tzadik and would fit well on that brilliant release, "Sound Characters" is exclusive to this very worthwhile compilation.

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