Droning, droning, droning… Bull of Heaven

I am currently in the process of finishing the longest song that I have ever heard. It’s called Candles Green, Heads and Skulls by drone band Bull of Heaven (Last.fm here, or you can head on over to their website here and listen) and it’s quite a daunting task. Four hours of repetitive, minimal riffs on guitars, looping almost endlessly. It seems there is only a chord progression once every hour, making a grand total of four progressions and a long, monotonous drone.

It’s difficult for me to sit through this – it’s not that it’s not enjoyable, because to some degree, it’s very soothing to me. Relaxing, and yet stimulating. However, coming back to my computer to know that I will still be listening to the same song that I started 3 days ago is not refreshing to me. Sometimes, I want to just quit and listen to something else, like the new Don Caballero album that leaked. But I don’t, because I want to carry through to the end. It’s almost exhausting in itself, to find myself constantly presented with a looping infinite drone of chord. And yet I enjoy it.

So why do I put myself up to such extremes? Bull of Heaven has been a fascination ever since I stumbled on a last.fm drone group that mentioned them in a forum about long songs. And when drone fans say long, they mean LONG. As in days long. Bull of Heaven have a week-long song (which I have yet to undertake), and it almost seems like they’re a little conceited. They expect us to throw away at least a week (which would be a continuous listen, no stopping to pee or go anywhere), meaning that for normal people, probably a month of constant listening to their song, which barely meanders anywhere for hours on end, only to reach a conclusion that maybe the song did reach some climax while we were barely attentive of it anymore.

But is that the point of drone? Are we supposed to lose focus of where it’s headed, so that when we finally do tune out it can surprise us with a progression to make us interested again? It seems like that’s not true, since as I write this, Candles Green, Heads and Skulls has barely made any ground in its 3 hours that I’ve listened to it. I still have an hour left, but I don’t expect it to make a sudden movement towards enlightenment. Bull of Heaven have seemed to create something meaningless, but is it? How did they come up with their title for the song? And why so much droning repetition? Why is it all the same song, why couldn’t they have made it into four or five? These questions seem to portray that BoH have a point to express, if not so articulately to us as it is to them. Maybe I just can’t see it until repeated listens.

As for right now, I’ll hopefully be finishing up the last hour and a half of the song and setting it away for a while, because though minimally enjoyable, I’m just exhausted from the journey. I’m not fond of repetition in anything, so four hours of it takes a toll on me.

But it left me wondering about the genre of drone and where it goes. Where does it take us? I know for me, I lose myself listening to it, almost like a trance. Where does it take you?

I’m droning on. My point is drone as music is interesting subject matter, especially with Bull of Heaven. I cannot find any information as to who BoH is, or how they make their music. But one thing is for certain – they’ve piqued my interest in repetition of music.

This is drone of heaven. Droning on.

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7 thoughts on “Droning, droning, droning… Bull of Heaven

  1. jim says:

    ah, a new blog!

    i’ve been listening to bull of heaven for a few months. some of their songs do have dramatic changes. check #039, which launches into a lo-fi rock epic at around halfway in. here’s some more information on the band.

    http://splus7.blogspot.com/2008/08/intermission-bull-of-heaven.html

    hard to get through some of them, but the longer ones seem to have some purpose besides irritation. my favorite ones are ‘he is not dead’ (which is really monotonous, but short(er) and really good) and ‘sun ritual’ (also really monotonous, with only one major change) but all of them i’ve heard have some spiritual/hypnotic effect on me after a couple of hours.

  2. Thanks a lot for reading!

    I do like Bull of Heaven, and after a while I did feel that hypnotic trance affect me.
    Thanks for the info on them, I’ve been looking everywhere for something.

    I’ll have to check out the ones that you’ve requested, as the length and bulk of their songs seems quite daunting.

  3. jim says:

    a lot of the shorter ones are satisfying to me, but the longer tracks are nice to sleep to. very calming. i don’t think of it as conceit as much as trying to create something unique.

    now if only radiohead would make a week long record…

  4. I also like the shorter ones.
    I think that the couple shorter ones I’ve heard have a nice effect to them, especially with the dialogues they incorporate in them.

    Haha, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the Radiohead one.
    Do you know of any other bands that have such long songs?

  5. jim says:

    not even close. as far as single tracks go, i think they must hold the record. la monte young has some long drones, and the leif inge piece they talk about in the other blog is 24 hours. but i don’t think any of those are available as one file….

  6. Yeah, I heard mention of La Monte Young and the Leif Inge piece.
    I’m fairly new to the noise/drone genres, so I’m just barely breaking the surface on anything.

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