A new book on drone music goes in search of sonic oblivion

From the earliest ancient traditions to the sonic soundscapes of Brian Eno and Sunn O))), humanity is drawn time and again to the ‘drone’ – an aural expression of a universal hum we can only hope to fleetingly channel.

The influence of drone on music, ritual and popular culture is the subject of a new book by Harry Sword, Monolithic Undertow: In Search of Sonic Oblivion (click here for pre-orders), which is due to be published in February 2021 by White Rabbit Books.

The book will trace the line from neolithic traditions to the modern underground, navigating archaeoacoustics, ringing feedback, chest plate sub-bass, avant-garde eccentricity, sound weaponry and fervent spiritualism.

Whether represented by the outer reaches of Faust and Ash Ra Temple; the hash-fueled fug of The Theatre of Eternal Music or the cough syrup reverse hardcore of Melvins – to say nothing of the Sufi mystics and Indian raga masters – drone is an an audio carrier vessel capable of evoking womb like warmth or cavernous dread alike. 

Author Harry Sword, who admits the idea for the book came to him from “a moment of epiphany in a Dutch dive bar”, describes the book as a “a rabbit hole to the universal drone, sonic oblivion and the transcendence of the self through music”.

Or, in the words of The Grid’s Richard Norris, Sword has “drawn a Venn diagram of countless esoteric sonic treasures and puts the reader right in the centre, marvelling at their endless connectivity. I have shelves of books and music on the subjects covered here, but can’t recall them ever residing in a single volume. This story of sound and vibration, hypnosis and gnosis, is a great tale, and a fathoms-deep resource – Electric Eden for drone heads.”

The book is due to be released in February of next year. More information on White Rabbit Books can be found here.

To get you in the mood, here’s a playlist of drone and ambient tracks to enable you to peek through the letterbox of the doors of perception… 🙂

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