Drone Theory - "s/t" (self-released 1999, CD)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Drone Theory aren't really a drone band. They play a dreamy, usually guitar driven, brand of pop music that includes vocals reminding me of the 80's synth pop bands. But though prominent, the vocals are typically secondary to the ethereal melodies and atmospherics created by the music. Who did that song, "Always Something There To Remind Me"? The singer is a dead ringer for that guy. Cocteau Twins is a comparison I saw in other reviews. But while this may imply sappy pop music, Drone Theory's take on pop is saved by what seems to be more a concern for the dreamy landscapes that happen to include catchy melodies than a desire for hit singles. The band consists of Sean Preston on guitars, samples, and vocals, John Corkran on synthesizers and samples, and Lisa Starace on acoustic and electric percussion, and samples. This is their first album.
The CD opens with "Book Of Secrets", with its dreamy, slowly strumming guitar. Ethereal but with a pop sound. The music is quite nice and the guitar creates a gorgeous atmosphere by really doing very little. Light percussion and keys accompany to give more of a band sound. "Your Mother" is similar but with a more varied melody and additional percussion. "Siamese Twins" includes vocals, but the music itself is more interesting due to the delicate guitar bits, and I was surprised by after a beginning that seemed focused on being a pop tune the song goes off on a dreamy jam that carries the remainder of the song. "Bonaventure" is similar, and Drone Theory's trademark style is becoming evident as the song starts off as a vocal tune with the music soon taking over. Electric percussion and a thudding bass line help add darkness and intensity to the mix. "Feeling Empty On A Sunday Afternoon" and "Savannah" are my favorite tracks. The former features varied dancing keyboards with a few freaky synth sounds thrown in for fun, plus heavy percussion and rumbling guitar. And "Savannah" is probably the fastest paced song on the album, including a rapid spacey guitar and percussion jam that I enjoyed.
In summary, Drone Theory are indeed a pop band, but thankfully fall short of hit single potential due to the beauty of the atmospherics and subtlety of their melodies. Nothing mind blowing here. Just really nice music. I was confused by the fact that each of the 6 tracks are repeated, the only difference being a couple seconds in the length between each version. I didn't get too hung up on trying to compare them but they certainly sounded like the same mixes.
You can visit Drone Theory at their web site.
Contact via snail mail at 4370 ½ Mississippi Street; San Diego, CA 92104.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz