Saturday 17 April 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Drone Islands - Stellar

Dark Ambient Review: Drone Islands - Stellar

Review By Casey Douglass

Drone Islands - Stellar

Space certainly seems to be a great fit as the inspiration for music that loves to drone, the vast distances and cold danger just the kind of setting for sounds that seem to continue on and on. Drone Islands – Stellar is a collection of tracks inspired by astronomical events, and features a variety of dark ambient artists.

I think that my favourite track is Planetary Chain from Grey Frequency. It opens with a mid-level drone, one that has a vibrating edge. A siren-like drone rises behind it, the whoosh of what might be a rocket engine too, but the vibrating edge is what set the scene for me. I couldn’t help but think about how spare change rattles on a car dashboard. With the space setting of this album, I had visions of a spacecraft manoeuvring in the inky blackness of space, one of the pilot’s keepsakes buzzing on top of the control station. After the midpoint, wave-like sounds rustle against the ears, piano notes joining them a littler later. This led me to wonder if the ship is headed down some kind of galactic plug-hole.

PLUHM’s Sospensione is another track that I enjoyed, although in the beginning, I wasn’t so sure. It starts with a high, organ-like tone that crackles and breaks. A low drone sounds beneath as the notes echo away, small crackles popping as they distort. A buzzing begins, and when it ends, the soundscape has changed to a different space, one with an electronic heart-beat tone, plucked notes, and with a soaring drone behind. This buzzing occurs again, and once again the soundscape changes. It feels like whatever is going on is evolving, maybe like the stages a star goes through in its life time, or on a smaller scale, the journey an astronaut might make into the stars. By the end of the track, I had warmed to it a great deal, it’s a fascinating listen.

Astral Bridge Severance from Infinexhuma is the opening track of the album, and another one that stood out for me. It begins with a vibrating and echoing soundscape, metallic knocking sounds seeming to stir the space, a low hiss roaming, a distant shimmer beckoning. This track felt like the film Event Horizon to me, a drifting spaceship about which no one knows where it’s been or why it has appeared now. It’s sinister. The soundscape becomes a bit more cacophonous as it continues, a feeling of energy building up or maybe an engine flaring into life. There are rasping drones, female vocals, and an effect that seems like a bestial roar. This soundscape, for me, was one of threat, collapse and unknown forces. I like those things a great deal.

Drone Islands – Stellar is a varied collection of dark ambient space and drone scapes. I tended to enjoy the darker, deeper tracks more than some of the higher pitched creations, but all of the tracks have their own charm. If you like your dark ambient cosmological and droning, you should check out Drone Islands – Stellar.

Visit the Drone Islands - Stellar page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Drone Islands - Stellar

Album Artist: Various

Label: Eighth Tower Records

Released: 2 April 2021