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The ddr. Radio Logs – Entry #3: No Place Like Drone


In the third installment of the ddr. Radio Logs – a monthly series by residents of Dublin Digital Radio, exploring their practice and the craft of radio-making – Droid & Neil Dronovan, hosts of No Place Like Drone, give us the lowdown on their monthly show.

Like many a wretched thing, it emerged from the muck of Laois, specifically, from a temporary car park in a field in Stradbally and an impromptu contest to find the best drone-related pun. Or we might rewind ten hours back through time, to the sight of dozens of spangled revellers laid out like wartime casualties under blankets of dappled disco light, ensconced in a little bubble of calm we’d inflated amidst the chaos of Electric Picnic – and we could say it started there. Or perhaps it began in a basement in Dublin 1, wreathed in smoke and darkness, illuminated by laptops and flashing modular lights, listening to the echoes fade. Or upstairs in the International Bar at Lazybird, dozing to the sound of bowed cymbals and gongs. Or we can go back to a spare room in Finglas with a sheaf of freshly burned and unlabelled CDRs and an idea for a new way to mix ambient music. Or perhaps it began on a night walk, accompanied by the crashing waves and ghostly metronome of Global Communication’s Ob Selon Mi Nos, when a C-90 chill-out compilation and a Sony Walkman with dying batteries were your constant companions. Or back further, way back, to a flat in Ballymun, a ten spot and brand new copy of Selected Ambient Works 2 on the turntable – we could keep going back, or sideways, or even forwards because beginnings are often strange, indefinable things. Amorphous. The more you think about them the vaguer, more vaporous they become… you can probably see where we’re going with this.

We’ve been lurking on the periphery of the Dublin music scene for decades. Haunting pirate radio, promoting experimental music gigs, putting out records, playing niche music in nearly every venue in Dublin at one point or another. Between us we’ve been listening to ambient music for nearly 60 years, which means we either started very young or are very old – or both. You would think that after all that time in the chill-out room we’d be getting a bit cramped and restless – but that’s the thing about ambient music, it’s not something you get stuck in, or even a genre, as such. It’s a spectrum, or a sensibility, or a body of water, something you swim through. From furniture music to sustained tone minimalism, from new age to isolationism, from environmental ambience to noise, through all the myriad permutations and intersections with extant and extinct scenes and ideas. Our show moves through this spectrum in an attempt to merge traditions and discover interesting and contrasting combinations. New age flutes with no-input hums. Cistern reverbs and molecular drone. Country ambient over dreamsong. It’s this fuzziness, these wild variations in style and instrumentation and approach and the sheer sprawling immensity of it all that’s so enveloping, the way it seeps into and out of almost all other music in one way or another, like blooms of coloured ink in water. It’s easy to just keep floating on, to lean back and let your ballast rise – which may explain why, as we write this, we’re heading towards our 72nd show since we were first invited to Dublin Digital Radio in 2017. 


In his 2019 essay How much world do you want? Ambient listening and its questions, David Toop describes the idealised act of ambient listening as “taking the metaphorical shape of an octopus being whose intelligent, sensitive tendril extensions forage in worlds both close and distant, suckering themselves around whatever sound events are compelling, promising, unavoidable, enticing, seductive, nutritious”. We won’t comment on the intelligence or sensitivity of our tendril extensions, but we can speak to the nurturing, enticing and nutritious nature of the medium we find ourselves in, and not just with regard to the music. Ambient people, we have discovered, are some of the loveliest people around, and we’ve benefited greatly from the generosity of listeners, artists, promoters, producers, guests and labels. We’ve been nourished by the warm upswell of wonderful local talent that enriches this ocean of sound; Jonathan Deasy, Natalia Beylis, Gareth Quinn Redmond, Dunk Murphy, Jane Deasy, and Icebear are just some of the navigators of these waters. We are continually inspired by communities and labels like DDR, FES, DOE, Nyaah and Open Ear, these people that have opened up space for new generations of musical aquanauts. We are sustained in our dotage by all of this kindness and goodwill, and so we persist –  because there is so much yet to discover in the wormholes of YouTube and Bandcamp, in the heaving inboxes and shared drives, because we are continuously entranced by the music we encounter. Because we’ve somehow managed to craft a set of circumstances that allows us to listen to thousands of ambient records every year and claim it as productive work. Because we have achieved a kind of contented stasis in which two ambient dads can sit down once a month to listen to, and talk about all the music they’ve enjoyed since they last met and call it a radio show. 

So some Wednesday evening at 9pm you might join us as we fashion pigs’ ears from silk purses and turn gold into lead. Tune in and tune out. And as ever, don’t drone alone.

Keep up to date with all things No Place Like Drone via ddr., Mixcloud and Twitter.