"Drone" isn't a specific style of music. What this excellently compiled album sets out to prove is that while many modern styles are marked by (as the sleeve notes say) "a continuous, repeated or simply implied note of fixed pitch, serving as a permanent focus in a given opus", this is hardly a new development. In fact, the selections from various World Musics suggest that harmonic modulation might just be a recent musical phenomenon that's pretty much localised to Western Europe and North America.
Compilations on the eccentric Chrome Dreams label are characterised by an eclecticism that verges on the demented. This is no exception. As a sucker for that kind of thing, when I saw a track list which went from Miles Davis' "So What" to Rolf Harris's "Sun Arise" to a movement from a Haydn symphony, I was hooked. Other listeners may prefer more homogeneity, or at least logic. The sleeve notes don't help in that sense. As is often the case with Chrome Dreams, they're written by Alan Clayson in a style that's so contorted it rather masks how well-informed he is.
Styles herein include a big tranche of World Music, blues, gospel, folk, movie soundtracks, jazz, bagpipes, and "classical" work from Haydn to the avant garde. You'll also find George Formby, whose not-especially-PC "Hindoo Man" isn't an accurate portrayal of Indian music, but is probably a very accurate picture of what most British people in 1937 thought it sounded like. LaMonte Young's "For Brass", an avant garde composition from 1957, rests on the idea that sustaining one chord for five minutes is needlessly elaborate, so let's sustain one NOTE for five minutes. The Velvet Underground start here. Elswhere, there's a field recording from Papua New Guinea in which a live beetle is used in a kind of Jew's harp. "One hell of a racket" doesn't even come close. The finest thing here, and new to me till I indulged in this CD, is the Allegretto from Shostakovich's 4th String Quartet, a jaw-droppingly inventive and moving piece of music in any context.
To conclude, if you're looking for the new, different, and rewardingly esoteric, you could do a lot worse than this. If, on the other hand, you're just looking for tunes or some pleasant background noise, don't come near this even in a decontamination suit.
This is really quite a wonderful little oddity... Its packaged to look bizarrely like a supermarket-shelf pop collection, but within its covers lurk music both rare and challenging, zipping about throughout the whole history of recorded music in both time and place. The thread which runs between them all is that they are presented as ancestors of modern drone music, some more obviously than others, but don't be put off if you're not a fan of 'drone' - the music here is varied and eclecetic enough to transcend its theme. Any comp which can jump between George Formby, La Monte Young, the Wam Tribe of New Guinea (playing live beetles), John Cages's silent 4.33 and One String Sam's I need a Hundred Dollars is all right by me. Dive in... you are sure to find something you've never heard before, or perhaps never heard in this context before. Even old chestnuts like Formby or Rolf Harris are somehow reinvigorated by the context. The only downside for me is that some of the longer pieces (e.g. the Ragas) are shortened due to considerations of space, and it would have been great to hear their full length, but of course that would be impossible in a 2 CD set. Anyone who considers themself interested in music that exists beyond the confines of the Top 40 will find much to enjoy here...highly recommended.
It is a really good concept to look into he past to cover drone music as a hidden line trough time, music styles and geography. The selection is good in scoope but som of the pieces of music could be better. I can recommend it as a first approach to the roots of drone but i hope that somebody (probably Julian Cope ?) could make a more interesting "drone compendium".