Tag: Dark Ambient (Page 1 of 24)

Senketsu No Night Club – Shikkoku – Review

Artist: Senketsu no Night Club
Album: Shikkoku
Release date: 25 September 2018
Label: Dark Jazz Records (Aquarellist)/ Toten Schwan Records

Tracklist:
01. 衝動の契
02. 漆黒
03. Nothingness
04. Pleasure Can
05. Nikutai No Gakko
06. 愛の渇き
07. Shikkoku
08. Aokigahara Jukai

I really want to stress the point from the start that this album should be a revelation to followers of Bohren und der Club of Gore. I’ve been a massive fan of that project for years, and I have desperately hoped that there would be more projects of this style to follow. There certainly are, in a sense. But, the combination of melancholic jazz, dark ambient, and an ear for subtlety and restraint is one that has proven elusive to many of the albums I’ve heard in this corner of musical oddities. Recently, there have been some sparks of interest in this area that I have found more aligned with the sound palette for which I’m searching. But, Shikkoku is consistently committed to combining these elements to a perfection for an entire album.

Speaking of recent releases which come close to this dark jazz perfection, but only for brief moments. The final track on Shikkoku, “Aokigahara Jukai”, reminds me of a combination of Cryo Chamber releases. Flowers for Bodysnatchers and Atrium Carceri certainly come to mind in the piano, while Phonothek and Wordclock elements stand out on the jazz side, with light saxophone elements fading in and out in a ghostly transition, bass gently plucking away. There is a dark and yet fascinating atmosphere created by this music which is truly on par, in my opinion, with the aforementioned projects on Cryo Chamber. It’s easy to make the connection, based on relevant themes. But, the truly impressive part of the connection is on the technical side. “Aokigahara Jukai”, like the entirety of Shikkoku, truly has an atmospheric depth that is magical when heard.

Senketsu no Night Club is comprised of Adriano Vincenti (Zoloft Evra, Macelleria Mobile Di Mezzanotte, Cronaca Nera, Detour Doom Project), Ian Ferguson (The Sarto Klyn V, L’assassinat), Giovanni Leonardi, and Furachi Life. Stated inspiration from material such as “the erotic lyricism of Mishima’s novel Nikutai No Gakko, 愛の渇き, and the eternal clash of Eros and Thanatos by G. Bataille”, shows that Senketsu no Night Club comes at this dark jazz style with a depth and love for their topics which gives them added emphasis. They are truly interested in exploring this Eastern/Western dynamic in a more profound way through dark jazz music. Furachi Life, a Japanese filmmaker as well as sound and performance artist, is considered to be the defining motivating spark behind this project. That she doesn’t contribute musically on Shikkoku, shows how important her influence must be over the structural creativity of the project. Through ideas conveyed to the musicians and through visual artworks conveyed to the audience, Furachi Life is sort of the director of this project, at least from a creative perspective.

Shikkoku has moved much further from the noise roots that were often prevalent on the debut. I am not one for noise music, there are times I will delve into it, but in general it’s a bit too much for me. While Senketsu no Night Club never descended into the chaotic end of that genre for more than brief periods on their previous S/T album, it did make the digestion of their debut album a bit harder for someone preferring a lighter touch. We’ve certainly gotten that lighter touch on Shikkoku. Particularly looking at a track like the closer, “Aokigahara Jukai”, there is a great deal of restraint here. This restraint seems crucial to the combining of all these elements into an entertaining and coherent whole, which will be magnificent to many genre aficionados, but it will also turn the heads of many newcomers. This is music that could be taken on a jazz club tour circuit and find an audience.

I am more attracted to this dark jazz genre by aesthetics and not technique, so I can’t speak to the jazz technicalities of the album. But, I can certainly say that it hits that perfect spot for me. Comparisons to Bohren und der Club of Gore are obviously inescapable, and warranted. To me, this could be one of their albums. There are images of dark smoky rooms. It might be a proper jazz club. It might be some city apartment overlooking Rome or Tokyo as the taxis drive past. It might be the imperceptible depths of Club Silencio. It could be a troubled detective hunting their killer through the haze of the early morning hours. There are a lot of images to conjure and a lot of things to love about the dark jazz genre.

Shikkoku is definitely a step in the right direction for Senketsu no Night Club. They need not abandon the noise elements. But an album where they are as minimally present as Shikkoku worked out well enough that they should not get too concerned with specifically conforming to their past work. With that said, I suppose their future could take them in any direction. We could see more like this, or more of the noise elements coming back to prominence. I would love to see some more input from Furachi Life, in terms of the sound end of the project. But, this is not a necessity by any means. I highly recommend Shikkoku to dark jazz fans, but I think it should find plenty of acclaim from most discerning dark music fans.

Written by: Michael Barnett

VelgeNaturlig – Kundalini – Review

Artist: VelgeNaturlig
Album: Kundalini
Release date: 21 September 2018
Label: Winter-Light

Tracklist:
01. Padmasana
02. On
03. Hold
04. Grey Sun
05. Secret Dialogue
06. Reflux
07. Indra
08. Matariki
09. Flow
10. Urur
11. Tara
12. Unboundedness

VelgeNaturlig is a dark ambient project out of Portugal. He’s been creating music in this genre for well over a decade, but he has only been submitting albums to major labels within the genre for a few years. So, after Opalescent Pust, last year’s album by Velgenaturlig (you can read our review here), he has returned again to Winter-Light for the release of his next album, Kundalini.

Kundalini (Sanskrit: कुण्डलिनी kuṇḍalinī,”coiled one”), in Hinduism refers to a form of primal energy, or shakti, said to be located at the base of the spine. Shakti is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism and Shaktism. So, we can see that this release has a very specific theme and focus on matters related to these ancient religious traditions.

The music, itself, will weave in and out of terrain which would be considered more or less dark ambient. What I should probably mention promptly, is that Kundalini doesn’t have that new age feel which would be such a negative for many of our readers. There are absolutely sections of the album which will flirt with this new age territory, something that is almost impossible to avoid when working with instruments and ritual elements related to Hinduism/Buddhism, yoga/meditation, etc. But, these sections on Kundalini serve to solidify the atmospherics of the album, while more often the soundscapes created are more in-line with the dark ambient aesthetics than yoga center soundtracks.

I happened to start focusing on this album at almost the same time I started practicing yoga, so the timing and setting were perfect for me to enjoy this release to its fullest. As with most things, I practice yoga in the solitude of my home, without the prying eye or direction of any outside forces. So, I really don’t know the “rules” on combining music with yoga/meditation practices (when doing them in a traditional/guided way). But, I will say that I have been using Kundalini as my background music with each morning’s yoga practice and I’ve found the combination very rewarding.

The album contains tracks which flow in a more ritual ambient direction like “Indra” and the album closer “Unboundedness” which use combinations of electro-acoustic loops to create atmospheres similar to those conjured by artists on Aural Hypnox. The opener, “Padmasana”, feels more in-line with more standard dark ambient, using drones and field recordings to initially draw us into the album. “Hold” is almost fully constructed of field recordings. There seems to be a combination of pristine nature sounds (crickets, wind, running water) which is in contrast to a prevalent mechanical sound, as if some vast engine is running off in the distance. “Grey Sun” and “Secret Dialogue” may take us the furthest into those ancient lands of south Asia, full of the history of such old and powerful religions. The field recordings blend with singing bowls, sitar, and drones to create first an atmosphere and then a mindset, a mindset perfect for the activities of meditation and/or yoga.

VelgeNaturlig seems to have tightened their reigns with Kundalini. While I greatly enjoyed Opalescent Pust, I find Kundalini to be a much more unified, as well as enjoyable, experience. Whereas, Opalescent Pust sort of left the themes and emotional responses to the listeners’ discretion, Kundalini has a much more rigged framework, and therefore seems to require a more direct guidance over the listening experience. This won’t do any favors for the fans that like to create their own narrative with a dark ambient album. But it is very helpful for us to know exactly what the artist had in mind when creating their works, and to know how best to appreciate these works. In my experience, these more directed approaches usually provide the most entertaining results. This is the case with Kundalini. I would still recommend Kundalini to those listeners that have no interest in religion/meditation/yoga, the album is certainly aimed toward those themes but the listener should have little trouble pushing this aside and enjoying their drive or a good book. For those looking to augment their yoga/meditation with dark ambient soundscapes, this will be a highly rewarding album to you in particular.

Editor’s Note: I was already planning on reviewing this release, but pushed it to the front because of hearing the sad news that this artist’s entire set of live equipment was stolen as he was headed for the airport to play Blasvart Aften Vol.10, an event curated by Svartsinn in Trondheim, Norway. Due to this sad situation VelgeNaturlig was forced to cancel. Sysselmann quickly stepped up to fill the slot, but that doesn’t help the fact that VelgeNaturlig has taken a massive financial hit. Many/most of us know how little money there is in music these days, especially in our beloved little sub-genres. Events like this can often prove fatal to the careers of musicians, because of finances and/or pessimism. So let’s do  what we can to show this artist our support during this less than optimal time.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Shinkiro – Archive: Volumes I-III – Review

Artist: Shinkiro
Album: Archive: Volumes I-III
Release date: 15 June 2018
Label: Old Captain

Tracklist:
CD 1 Archive: Volumes I – II
01. I.A.D. – Day 1
02. I.A.D. – Day 2
03. I.A.D. – Day 3
04. I.A.D. – Day 4
05. I.A.D. – Day 5
06. I.A.D. – Day 6
07. I.A.D. – Day 7
08. I.A.D. – Day 8
09. I.A.D. – Day 9
10. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – First Stage
11. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Second Stage
12. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Third Stage
13. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Fourth Stage
14. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Fifth Stage

CD 2 Archive: Volumes II – III
01. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Sixth Stage
02. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Seventh Stage
03. Reflections Of Her Deepest Fears – Final Stage
04. One – Part I
05. One – Part II
06. One – Part III
07. One – Part IV
08. One – Part V
09. One – Part VI

Shinkiro is another project to give the public access to its archives, give the opportunity to look into the past and watch how its style took shape over the years. More and more, such releases are out these days, old recordings, reissues, “extended versions” of debut albums and so, and so… I have an ambivalent attitude towards them, I mean it’s nice to have the easy possibility to get the discographies of complete projects, especially when many of these ‘archive’ albums aesthetically look even better than the originals (and the case of Shinkiro there is no exception – it’s a nice 2CD 4-panel gloss-laminated digipack). But, sometimes I think that in this world of easy access to everything, it’s good to have something to look for, the hard to find rarities, the music people heard of but didn’t actually experience.

Of course, the status of Shinkiro, even in the dark ambient micro-scale is not as significant as the legends of the genre. But, it has its own style which captured some souls around the world, including myself. Easy to guess that, since it’s called Volumes I-III, then it must be split into three segments. The first one is called I.A.D., nine tracks, formally from the pre-Shinkiro era. They have never been released, this is the first time they see the light of day. And it’s not that Shinkiro you know from the other albums, these compositions are far more claustrophobic. They make you feel as if you are closed in some sort of boiler room where it is as dark as it is hot. This first section is from that time when Manabu was experimenting with harsher, more industrial sound attributes. But, he eventually realized that it’s not the path he wanted to follow. To be fair, I.A.D. also includes more rhythmic and melodic parts than the studio albums from early era Shinkiro.

The second segment is Reflection Of Her Deepest Fears, the previously unreleased album recorded simultaneously with the official debut, Deep Blue. Shinkiro calls it “the factual 2nd album”. It’s two steps closer to the essential dark ambient form, although still quite distant from his most majestic moments of deep organic space. More like a horror soundtrack, Reflection Of Her Deepest Fears becomes better and better with each consecutive piece, reaching the climax in two last “Stages”, intense and captivating.

The final segment of this epic compendium is One, made by assembling selected materials from 2003-2007 and adapting them to today’s Shinkiro vision of music. And, this is beauty. The kind of ambient to drown in. Deep drones of the opening composition make me feel so alone in space. It’s a pleasant feeling. Later he blends them with ritual parts and the oriental touch, always subtle, yet so charming.

So, with this release my Shinkiro collection seems complete, but… a couple of days ago I’ve read information somewhere that Manabu is re-working another set of old recordings, so apparently there’s still at least one section in his sound library that hasn’t been open to the public yet.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn

Manifesto – Hive – Review

Artist: Manifesto
Album: Hive
Release date: 17 August 2018
Label: Reverse Alignment

Tracklist:
01. Hive
02. Dog Country
03. First Rain
04. Surge
05. Tempest
06. Last Transmission

Manifesto is the post-industrial project of Uppsala, Sweden’s Magnus Zetterberg. Before venturing into the dark ambient world, Zetterberg earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sound and Music Production.  The project has now been active for well over a decade, but the last few years have seemed to see a bit of shift in the work of Manifesto. We’ve also seen the artist settle into the Reverse Alignment label with this another release through them, becoming one of the most talented artists on their roster.

Sound quality seems to have improved significantly since earlier albums. There is much less low/mid-range noise, and less of the industrial percussive elements. Even so recently as their third full length, Rust, which appeared on Silken Tofu in 2012, Manifesto was still leaning heavily into that death-industrial territory, with comparisons made at the time to acts like Megapetra and Mental Destruction. In general, there is less of an industrial influence than in previous years, and Manifesto digs deep into their dark ambient repertoire to create a new sound which nods to their death-industrial past, but fits a framework much more aligned with the subtler elements of dark ambient.  Listeners will certainly still find many of these older elements present, but never in the bold/raw way presented previously. The opening track “Hive”, for instance, includes a subtle industrial beat along with indecipherable voice transmissions atop a droning soundscape to create a hauntingly dark atmosphere, while also holding the sense of solitude and fear which often are rather presented as claustrophobia and anxiety on many death-industrial releases. The track has a consistent abandoned industrial factory sort of feel, as if we are curled up beneath some steel staircase, eavesdropping on the conversation of some post-apocalyptic plague-doctor-looking-lunatic as he lords his newfound authority over some hapless victim.

While it is true that the dark ambient genre has exploded in output as well as popularity over the last few years, there is an unfortunate side-effect that some of the greatest releases will be completely ignored. I am guilty of this myself, having really enjoyed the previous release, Exit, by Manifesto, but watching as it fell further into the distance, as new releases continued pouring in for consideration. While I enjoyed Exit, I find Hive to truly capture the intricacies of the style Manifesto has been slowly perfecting over their career. The blending of death-industrial elements into a more traditional dark ambient structure is displayed most powerfully on this release and could be a strong benchmark for other musicians looking to make that combination of the harsher material with dark ambient more palatable.

Hive falls most specifically, I suppose, into a harsher sort of horror ambient framework. That feeling of being in an old factory, cowering in fear, never seems to let up. In this way there are certainly some similarities to earlier Atrium Carceri (a style which a reasonable number of fans would love to see resurface in the Atrium Carceri sound). The feelings of desperation, desolation, and despair all boil to the surface. To our horror (and/or delight) we feel ourselves in the midst of a very real place. But there is also the sense of something supernatural happening just beneath the surface. It is the sort of feeling one would get from those scenes in The Nightmare on Elm Street when the girls wander through the steamy recesses of some nightmarish factory, chains clanging, motors grinding gears, furnaces stoking a hell-fire inferno as molten metals boil just beyond our vision. Yet, something more may be lurking beyond this equipment. Something lurking in the shadows. Whether that something is a burnt-skinned, undead supervillain or the dread of tomorrow’s big presentation at the office, is for the listener to decide.

live at Verket, Umeå Sept. 2016. Photo by Marcus Norman.

Another element worth quick mention is the cover art. Hive features a sort of degraded photographic looking effect on an green and black image which depicts what appears to be some old dilapidated building. The moon slowly creeps into view behind the silhouette of a tree on the horizon. This cover art and design were created by the hand of the brilliant Axel Torvenius, who creates a plethora of products with a truly dark flavor. (Check out his store here.)

If your pleasure is that old-school dark ambient feel, a feel which captures these industrial and horror elements in equal doses. If you enjoyed the works of artists like old-Atrium Carceri, Atrox Pestis, Cryobiosis, or Phragments,  you are likely to find much to enjoy here. Reverse Alignment have unveiled a release which should be recognized by all relevant entities throughout the dark ambient community. The level of craftsmanship presented here can’t be understated, nor can the level of market noise. I would highly recommend long-time fans of the dark ambient genre to become acquainted with this new album by Manifesto. Many of the veteran listeners will immediately notice reasons for praise. Those newer to the genres within the post-industrial family will maybe find Hive to be a bit too raw. This isn’t Cryo Chamber style dark ambient, shined to a pristine glow. It is more in line with those releases we’d find on Malignant Records or Cold Meat Industry. Dark ambient for industrial folks. This being said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend that new-comers avoid Hive! Just be sure to go into it with slightly different expectations than you had for the latest protoU.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Atrium Carceri – Codex – Review

Artist: Atrium Carceri
Album: Codex
Release date: 11 September 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. The Void
02. From Chasms Reborn
03. The Seer
04. A Memory Lost
05. The Empty Chapel
06. Path Of Fallen Gods
07. The Ancient City
08. Sacrifice to the Machine
09. The Maze
10. A Hunger Too Deep
11. The Citadel

I took quite a bit of time allowing Codex to fully sink into my psyche before I even began to consider reviewing it. Some albums require but a matter of moments to understand the beauty of their content. Other works might take years to fully unveil their secrets to the listener. Atrium Carceri has always been one of the latter for me. It is impossible to fully appreciate these works by just putting them on as background music. I find that I must enjoy Atrium Carceri much like I do with works of David Lynch, repeatedly and under various mental states.

The first set of listens revealed an album which was much more musical than I was expecting.  Atrium Carceri has for a long time incorporated tracks which show much more resemblance to fully structured songs than most other artists in the genre. Yet, Codex still managed to surprise, from the opening tracks “The Void” and “From Chasms Reborn”, Atrium Carceri delivers tracks which take on a sort of glitchy off-time feel. This feeling of oddity sets a proper foundation for the rest of the release. Focusing on worlds beyond the veil, either deep in history, or a matter of footsteps away hidden in some dark realm, just beyond the fabric of reality.

Almost all the tracks on Codex will show this perfect combination of atmosphere and musicality. Some, like “The Maze” make it central to the track’s foundation, while others such as “Sacrifice to the Machine” use it as a tool for achieving an emotional climax within the story.  While the music of some tracks builds the atmosphere, other tracks hold religious connotations, such as “The Empty Chapel” and “The Citadel” which both incorporate treated choral elements. “The Empty Chapel” shows off some of the same elements which elicited such strong emotion on “Österländska Tempel” from his recent collaboration with Herbst9, Ur Djupan Dal (Reviewed here.). A sense of entering some old, decrepit chapel/cathedral, a relic from the height of some civilization’s religious fervor.

Codex gives us snippets of many places visited over previous Atrium Carceri albums. On the opening tracks, “The Void” and “From Chasms Reborn”, we seem to be taken to the places and events documented during Void and The Untold. “The Ancient City” takes us once again into that twisted metropolis which we have been able to explore considerably throughout the discography of Atrium Carceri, most notably on tracks like “A Stroll Through the Ancient City” from Kapnobatai or many tracks from Metropolis, including “Decrepit City”, “Industrial District”, “Heart of the Metropolis” and others. We seem to be re-visiting ‘The Warden’ or some similar character on several tracks from Codex. Particularly “Sacrifice to the Machine” and “The Maze” make these connections for me. On “Sacrifice to the Machine” we might actually hear that deep orcish sounding voice which has instilled terror in listeners since the project began.  Is this the warden or is this some other entity? Possibly the horrific entity, visually and textually detailed on an earlier track of the album, “The Seer”?

As I spent more and more time with Codex, I slowly began to make a realization. There doesn’t necessarily appear to be a whole lot of new revelations presented on Codex. The album seems to be giving us deeper understandings, through atmospheric soundscapes, but also through the focused use of imagery and text within the digibooklet. Within the Atrium Carceri discography there are albums like Cellblock and Void (really most of the discography) which seem to follow very specific story-lines (you can read my in-depth look at Cellblock here), and there are other albums like Archives I-II (read my old review on the Terra Relicta website) which capture fragments of different times and places. Codex seem to be part of this latter, but in a much more polished fashion, as Archives I-II was a piece-work compilation of old fragments from previous Atrium Carceri album sessions. This is not to say that there is nothing to be learned about the Atrium Carceri story, just that Codex focuses more on clarification of previously explored territory than on creation/unveiling of new territory.  Codex gives us added details and we must individually decide how to place these details within the greater context.

The many stories within the world of Atrium Carceri give listeners ample reason to keep returning to these albums. In this way, the music of Atrium Carceri is best appreciated in much the same way as the films of David Lynch. One must approach the content from various angles in order to fully understand its meanings and plots. One may listen more casually, focusing on moods and imagined landscapes. Later, one may return to the album, focusing much more specifically on the individual sounds, trying to place them in their proper contexts. One may celebrate the legalization of marijuana in parts of the U.S. with an especially elevated and/or distorted listening session.  One may ignore the whole story and focus only on the music, for the sake of enjoying the music. However one approaches Codex, as well as the previous Atrium Carceri releases, the listener seems to have a world of options available. There seems to be a whole universe within the content, one with history, scientific breakthroughs, and psychological/societal meltdowns. The realms of the holy and the apocalyptic are constantly brushing against one another. The question of the self, the ego, and their perceived impact on the political and social order can all be pondered indefinitely.

Codex is the first solo Atrium Carceri release to see a vinyl option. For fans of the vinyl renaissance, Codex will be a much anticipated and appreciated release. But, for those followers that are keen on fully understanding the intricacies of Atrium Carceri, the digibook CD version is recommended, as it includes a booklet with brilliant artwork and texts which add a much greater sense of depth to the Atrium Carceri story. Then of course there is the digital version, in 24-bit, which will be the go-to for audiophiles looking to find secrets in the vast tapestry of sounds for which Atrium Carceri is most known and revered. Also all artwork is present within the digital version, so the lacking art isn’t a deal-breaker on the vinyl.

Codex has not yet uncovered any great burning answers to my questions concerning the realms of Atrium Carceri. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t present on Codex, still awaiting my revelation. It also doesn’t make the album any less potent of a release from one of the most highly-recognized and well-respected names within the genre of dark ambient. Codex proves once again why Simon Heath has become the standard-bearer for the latest generation of dark ambient happenings. His auxiliary work on Cryo Chamber consistently fills the market with dark ambient albums worth the time and money they require to be fully enjoyed. Meanwhile, his work as Atrium Carceri, but also as Sabled Sun, continues to push the boundaries of what we, the dark ambient community, expect of our musicians.  What we expect of a ‘cinematic story’. What we expect of any artist worth their salt. We look to musicians in the dark ambient genre to take us out of our dull everyday lives, and transport us to a place both beautiful and horrifying. There is no artist better at achieving this goal than Simon Heath, Codex shows us, yet again, why this is indisputable.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Halloween Horror Ambient Mix – 2018

A mix of the creepiest dark ambient tracks I could compile! A blend of brand new tracks with some classics intertwined. Perfect for a solitary night of reading horror fiction or scaring the trick or treaters. Over two hours of seamlessly mixed darkness! Enjoy!

See links to all included albums below the Mixcloud player!

01. 0:00:00 Mortaur – Moving in Darkness
02. 0:03:35 Manifesto – Hive
03. 0:12:55 Northumbria – The Wìndjigò
04. 0:17:45 Archon Satani – Exceeding Insalubrity
05. 0:22:15 Alphaxone & Xerxes the Dark – Ancient Amulet
06. 0:26:20 Skincage – Lost Carcosa
07. 0:28:20 RNGMNN – Spectral Lines (Exclusive preview from upcoming album!)
08. 0:33:50 Svartsinn – Doubt as Sin (Nietzsce’s Lament)
09. 0:39:05 raison d’etre – Katharsis (Follow the link to the new vinyl re-release!)
10. 0:45:10 Cities Last Broadcast – Anomaly
11. 0:47:05 Nordvargr – I See Shadows
12. 0:51:20 Dronny Darko – Pale Shadows
13. 0:53:50 Apocryphos – Tenebrous
14. 1:01:30 Bonedust – When The Heavens Flee
15. 1:04:10 Atrium Carceri – The Maze
16. 1:07:05 Mater Suspiria Vision – Satan Oh Satan
17. 1:07:55 Randal Collier-Ford – Hellgate
18. 1:13:05 Oestergaards – Nihilist
19. 1:17:50 L’Horrible Passion – Apatheia
20. 1:26:15 Uncertain – Seedling (Withering)
21. 1:31:10 The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – Giallo
22. 1:37:00 Dahlia’s Tear – The Frozen Echoes of the Endless Moor
23. 1:42:45 Emilia – Closed Eyes
24. 1:44:10 Taphephobia & Bleak Fiction – Sick Route
25. 1:47:40 VelgeNaturlig – Grey Sun
26. 1:48:50 Ajna – Black Room
27. 1:55:30 Caleb R.K. Williams – Spectral Throne
28. 1:56:55 Moloch Conspiracy – The Awful Ritual
29. 2:03:05 Dead Melodies – Haunted by Whispers
30. 2:08:00 Flowers for Bodysnatchers – A Darker Rebirth
31. 2:14:50 Sana Obruent – The Haunted Waltz

Devil’s Night Mix (Post-Industrial Aural Assault)

The Devil’s Night Mix was inspired by my interest in ‘Devil’s Night’ on the 30th of October, which has long been a dreaded celebration in Detroit, among other places in the United States. What started half a century ago as a light-hearted night of trickery, later turned into an all-out assault on the city of Detroit every October. The destruction reached a peak in the mid- to late-1980s, with more than 800 fires set in 1984, and 500 to 800 fires in the three days and nights before Halloween in a typical year. But the legacy lingers, and this odd “holiday” is increasingly known around the world, thanks to its inclusion in The Crow and other entertainment industry projects.

This mix is a combination of some harsher dark ambient along with a blend of post-industrial devastation.

Proceed with caution!

You can find links to all music included in this mix below the Mixcloud player.

Tracklist:
01. 0:00:00 Atrium Carceri – Sacrifice to the Machine
02. 0:04:45 MZ.412 – The Father Uncreated
03. 0:10:10 Murderous Vision – Voided
04. 0:15:30 Yen Pox – Scorched Earth
05. 0:25:00 Mortaur – Suit Wearer Walking Backwards
06. 0:26:40 Ajna – Infinitam Abyssum
07. 0:32:50 Trepaneringsritualen – Death & Ecstacy
08. 0:36:10 Abattoir, Satori – The Great Vow
09. 0:41:50 All Signs of Those Who Left – Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
(Exclusive Use of Upcoming Track, check out the ASOTWL releases here.)
10. 0:46:10 Common Eider, King Eider – Helene
11. 0:53:50 Corona Barathri – Daemonolatreia (feat. Infernvs)
12. 1:01:50 Himukalt – Ruined-Raped
13. 1:06:30 Harko City – Swollen Empire
14. 1:10:30 Dodsmaskin – Syndrom
15. 1:17:05 Fear-Modern-Man – Nightmare Death Syndrome
16. 1:22:50 In Slaughter Natives – 113th Scar
17. 1:28:10 Analfabetism – Vi Resere Nu En Grav
18. 1:34:50 Aegri Somnia – Endtime Psalms
19. 1:40:15 Aderlating – The Sword of Christ
20. 1:47:05 Ex. Order – Skillful Killing

Photo: Dominic Alves (used under CC without photographer’s endorsement)

False Mirror – SIGINT – Review

Artist: False Mirror
Album: SIGINT
Release date: July 2018
Label: Malignant Records

Tracklist:
01. Perimeter
02. Transmission
03. Antenna
04. Trajectory
05. Fallout
06. Corona
07. Leviathan
08. Troposcatter
09. Aether
10. Message

False Mirror is the dark ambient project of Berlin’s Tobias Hornberger. He’s been creating music since 2007’s release of Chronostatic Scenes on dataObscura. But, he really made an impact on the dark ambient world with his third release, Derelict World, in 2010 on Malignant Records. Derelict World consisted of eight highly atmospheric tracks, filled to the brim with field recordings. The album was rounded out with some subtle dronework, but the field recordings really helped to create a dark and abandoned soundscape, which would draw many a dark ambient fan into its grasp.

Now, eight long years after the release of Derelict World, False Mirror has released a new album, SIGINT, again through Malignant Records. For fans of Derelict World, SIGINT will prove to be a relatively different experience. The use of field recordings is still quite heavy, but the album takes a more demanding stance. The dronework is much more pronounced and there is frequent use of choral vocal samples. And, of course, there are still plenty of field recordings throughout the album, helping to keep the visual (perceived) elements at the forefront.

The defining differences between SIGINT and Derelict World begin with the theme. Whereas, Derelict World let listeners gaze into an abandoned world, one that has been slowly decaying, possibly for centuries, the focus of SIGINT is much more technologically driven.

False Mirror is one of the unsung masters of field recording use within the dark ambient community, not only gathering the necessary source material from his fellow colleagues for his own albums, but also sharing his personal collection with other musicians, as in the case of Astral Unity by Phelios, among possible others. (I don’t doubt they exist but I’m unaware of any others.) While the field recordings on Derelict World were mostly of nature (plenty of water running and winds blowing), SIGINT uses much more unusual source material. Sources specifically mentioned in the digipak include: various electronic transmissions, encrypted messages of the German BND and Russian FSB, beacons, over-the-horizon radars, and troposcatter communications. And, like on Derelict World, he has once again acquired source material from Axel Baune, Dieter Trustedt, and Tarek Mansur.

The combination of these field recordings and theme with the previous styles False Mirror has explored creates a very interesting feel, which took me some time to fully grasp. Upon initially reading the album blurb on Malignant Records Bandcamp page, I was assuming this would be some kind of highly synthetic-feeling “spacey” sort of dark ambient, with little personality or emotion. I’m not too keen on the overly sci-fi/space-ambient releases, in general, and didn’t necessarily give SIGINT the attention it deserved in the first few months after the release. Luckily, I returned to the album, and really gave it a few thorough listens and the intricacies, detail, and emotion of the release revealed to me that I was quite mistaken in my first impressions.

The combination of cover-art, track titles, and general feel of the album have all lead me to find a better interpretation of what SIGINT is about. Interestingly, Derelict World was compared to The Canceled Earth by Cities Last Broadcast. But, I find that SIGINT is actually much more in-line with that album’s theme. For me, SIGINT is a window into the remnants of a dying or dead earth. Comparisons could also be made to the 214X series of albums by Sabled Sun, but SIGINT, like The Canceled Earth, focuses more on the atmospherics rather than the cinematics. All these transmissions and signal noises, combined with the drones, sparse piano sections and choral voices, gives us a feeling of reminiscence for a dead civilization. The technical field recordings give us the feeling of those old machines spitting out sounds as the last of their dying battery power fails. The more musical elements add a sorrow to the mix, a true feeling of emotion, which is often not present on sci-fi/space ambient releases, and thusly why I don’t enjoy those sorts of albums so much.

So, the technicalities of the release are all top-notch for me. But, further than this, there are some incredibly memorable tracks presented on SIGINT. This is a feat that wasn’t so well accomplished on Derelict World (maybe it was not intended, that would be fine too). “Corona” reminds me of the feeling I get from “District Delta” by Cisfinitum on their magnificent and highly underrated album, Landschaft. It has a glacially-paced build up, which one barely feels becoming more extreme, until the listener finds themselves fully enraptured by the utter beauty, but also power, which seems to emanate from the track. Likewise, “Troposcatter” manages to dig its talons into the listener’s mind, demanding our attention, but also our emotion, as if it is some sort of final mournful ode to humanity.

Derelict World had a beautiful physical presentation, vivid visual art combined with a mournful story filled the accompanying booklet, and the last few pages were a detailed log of the exact times, locations, and equipment used for creating each track. SIGINT takes a different, but no less impressive direction with its physical presentation. The cover-art is, in a word, spectacular. It doesn’t necessarily convey a stereotypical darkness, little of the album does. Instead it presents us with the remnants of some old scientific/technological facility. We may gaze out, through the torn cloth remnants which blow carelessly in the wind, at a distant horizon, with no signs of other human presence anywhere in between. The booklet is, in fact, a “Cryptographic Manual”, which explains in detail how to decipher an encrypted message. Interestingly, at the end of the booklet, we are told to “EXAMINE TRACK 10”, the track entitled “Message”, which ends the album. Just as I’ve seen in an old review of Derelict World, False Mirror invites listeners to actively take part in experiencing this album, studying this manual should allow the listener to decipher the encrypted message at the end of the album, leading to some hidden secret.

SIGINT is a tour-de-force return to the dark ambient scene for False Mirror. The subtleties of the album are only paralleled by the equally bold and emotionally-driven moments. Even more so than in the past, False Mirror has allowed all elements (drone, field recording, voice sample, etc.) to rise to the surface and hold their own amongst one another. The album is a beautiful soundscape to play in the background while reading, studying, or writing. But, when given full attention, its merits blossom and the listener can become fully enraptured in its depth. False Mirror reminds us, after far too long, why their name has had a lasting impression within the genre, while their output has been anything but frequent. Malignant Records also remind listeners, with this release, why they are one of the forefront labels in the dark ambient genre, even if their dark ambient output is less frequent than some of the other big dark ambient labels. SIGINT is a highly recommended release for any discerning fan of the dark ambient genre.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Sysselmann – Live at Mir – Review, Exclusive Full Album Stream!

Artist: Sysselmann
Album: Live at Mir
Release date: 31 October 2018
Label: Tipi Token Records

Tracklist:
01. Stormwatch
02. Transmigration
03. Sacred Calling
04. Juniper tree song
05. The Great Horn of the Mountain
06. Koncovka flute improv
07. Primal Spirit outro

Enjoy an exclusive full album stream of Live at Mir!

Sysselmann released his first album, The Northern Chronicles in October of 2016. Tipi Token Records had the foresight to recruit this promising new dark ambient project to their also new label. The physical copy quickly sold out. A beautiful piece of art in itself, using a “vinyl effect” CD, with inner & outer sleeves which also helped build this vinyl effect. That CD was re-issued in August 2018, and there are copies still available. I highly recommend the release. You can read my review of The Northern Chronicles here.

 

Now, Sysselmann and Tipi Token are back with Live at Mir, a live recording from Mir Café in Oslo, Norway on October 7, 2017. Being in the USA, I rarely (basically never) get to see any live dark ambient performances. I was unaware of this recorded event, but the following month Sysselmann took the stage at Blåsvart Aften in Trondheim, Norway, along with dark ambient giants Svartsinn, TeHÔM, New Risen Throne, and one other lesser known act, Tutfarangi. I would say these two events were quite helpful in getting the name Sysselmann around the Scandinavian region. Any dark ambient musician I’ve spoken to about Sysselmann has had nothing but positive words.

Live recordings can be a real gamble to release. If you aren’t Metallica or some huge rock band, drowning in profits, you are not likely to have the best resources available for recording and reproducing a live set. But, as with the recent Live Assault by TeHÔM, Sysselmann and his associates have managed to craft a live album which is well worth the listeners’ time. The recordings are clear and there is very little background noise to be discerned. The acoustic elements seem to stand out a bit more in the mix on this live set than they did on The Northern Chronicles. This is particularly great for a live performance, as listeners tend to be less inclined to stand in front of a musician who, to them, may seem to be doing very little. The added or accentuated acoustic instruments always provide a needed extra layer to dark ambient live performances, giving the crowd something to see as well as hear.

Photo shamelessly stolen from TeHÔM’s Facebook post. From left: TeHÔM, Svartsinn, Taphephobia, Sysselmann, Northaunt, New Risen Throne

With only one full length album released prior to Live at Mir, I wondered (upon first hearing about this release) exactly what Tipi Token and Sysselmann would see fit to include. I can happily say that it isn’t just a reproduction of The Northern Chronicles. Though just over half the tracks on Live at Mir were featured on the previous album, there are also three new tracks: “Sacred Calling”, “Koncovka flute improv” and “Primal Spirit outro”. These three tracks account for twenty minutes of previously unreleased music, and I’ve found them all quite enjoyable. While “Sacred Calling” falls in line with the tracks from The Northern Chronicles, “Koncovka flute improv” and “Primal Spirit outro” incorporate significantly less electronic elements and seem to rely almost entirely on live acoustic elements.

Live at Mir will be released October 31 as a digital album on Bandcamp. There will also be a limited edition cassette version made available at the same time. While I haven’t seen this cassette myself, it is described as a “pro duplicated cassette in a very limited run to celebrate this release”. So if you are interested in a copy, I recommend keeping an eye out for it on release day. I would highly recommend this album to fans of Sysselmann‘s previous work, and also to those dedicated followers of the Scandinavian branch of the dark ambient scene. Sysselmann exhibits many of those same qualities that make this region so well known in the post-industrial world.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Arktau Eos – Erēmos – Review

Artist: Arktau Eos
Album: Erēmos
Release date: 12 October 2018
Label: Aural Hypnox

Tracklist:
01. The Liminal Pilgrim
02. Facing the Exarchs of Desolation
03. He Who Drinks the Light of the Stars
04. The Cells Beneath
05. Autochthon
06. Pacts of Stone and the Sun
07. In the Jaws of Basalt Lions
08. Column of Sky-Iron
09. Eden

Arktau Eos seem to have become the flagship project for the Aural Hypnox label. Since their debut, Mirrorion in 2006, Arktau Eos have quickly found a solid fan-base, which rabidly follows their every release. Erēmos shows fans, yet again, why Arktau Eos is esteemed so highly in the ritual ambient community and beyond. But, as has recently become less unusual, Arktau Eos have taken a step further into the unknown, expanding into new sonic territory as they transport us far from their mysterious Katajan Kaiku lodge in Northern Finland to the vast arid Mongolian steppe.

Arktau Eos says about the album in their promotional description on social media:
As has been the testimony of wise men and women of all faiths, solitude bestows its own distinct gifts upon the seeker, a process here treated in less intimate terms than on the voice-led Catacomb Resonator. Erēmos is more expansive; the desert that opens before the listener is not a locus of temptations or simple retreat, but a vivid inner mindscape of dramatic confrontations and transformations between flora, fauna, stellar matter, earth, and stone. Gradually they shed away the humanness in its most banal sense, until man identifies with the scorpionic voice of power that carries to the ends of the earth – and cosmos.

I am seeing Erēmos as a sort of connector between two worlds. The two places where Arktau Eos captured field recordings for the project were the initiators of this idea for me. I found it interesting and slightly strange that they would use field recordings from so far away as the Mongolian Steppe, and to then somehow connect these recordings to those captured in the northern Ostrobothnian woods of Finland. These disparate ideas can begin to reveal how they are connected as we look to the track titles on Erēmos.

“The Liminal Pilgrim” seems to be the indicator that we are about to experience a sort of pilgrimage, within the mind, to a place distant in time and space. It also indicates for us that this is a journey in solitude, not a cult attempting to make a grand movement, but a sole individual, seeking further enlightenment in realms unknown. This is further alluded to by the album’s title, Erēmos, which takes its meaning from the Greek “eremites” – person of the desert.

“He Who Drinks the Light of the Stars” seems to have a strong ritualistic feel to it, even more so than the previous tracks. This seems like a point where the meditator makes a sort of extra sensory move into the ancient lands of the Mongolian steppe, as they sit in their native Finland, gazing into a clear night sky. Or, they could even become conscious through the physical vessel of some native Mongolian of the past. This theory could follow nicely to the next track “Autochthon”, which here would likely refer to the birth of this human vessel within his own land of the Mongolian steppe. The track has a strong Eastern feel to it and Arktau Eos brings us into this new land smoothly using field recordings, not to mention the use of a plethora of other sounds which all help to build up this impressive sonic tapestry.

I will decline to make any further evaluations on this narrative presented by Arktau Eos. Various artists from Aural Hypnox have made it clear in the past that their albums should be a point of personal enlightenment and need not be too actively directed by the creators of the music. Though, with that said, Erēmos does seem to have a decent bit more specifics built into itself, through the album’s description and the track titles, than we are used to seeing from Aural Hypnox artists.

A further adjustment seems to have been made on this Arktau Eos project. As alluded to earlier, Erēmos is a natural progression further into new territory. Arktau Eos, and Aural Hypnox as a whole, have been testing the grounds of synthetic sounds more courageously over the last few years than could be witnessed on most of the label’s earlier releases. Though, as we have seen on an album like Zoät-AonStar Autopsy, a strict adherence to tribal/culturally-relevant instruments and other natural instruments like the voice, bone-flutes, or acoustic guitars is not necessary to create the same level of transcendental/mind-altering effects. Tracks like “The Liminal Pilgrim” and “Autochthon” are both brilliant examples of Arktau Eos ability to use their large array of sonic tools to dig deep into the consciousness of the listener, without sticking too closely to the standard ritual/tribal framework.

Erēmos has been released exclusively on CD. There was a quickly sold-out variant described by the label as “The Bleeding Stones edition” which had several alternate colour schemes and some extra photographs. But, it is worth sharing here that Arktau Eos said on social media, in response to a few people’s dismay at the sold-out special edition:

“Sorry to hear you missed out on the Bleeding Stones edition. Perhaps it is of some consolation that we consider it more of a curiosity than a proper special edition like the ones we have done before. In fact, none was planned for Erēmos, but these copies practically forced themselves to manifest and we could not but act duly! Regarding actual extra materials, they exist and might be released in a less strictly limited edition. We will see once we get back to work soon post-Erēmos – there is a lot of stuff seething in the cauldrons that begs to be finished and let loose upon the unsuspecting world, but that is all we know or can say right now!”

Arktau Eos have created a truly brilliant album in Erēmos. The sounds presented here are able to touch the listener in a multitude of different ways. We can close our eyes and imagine this world, which Arktau Eos have illustrated, unfolding before us. We are able to travel through time and space to a destination which only exists in our own minds, but is highly detailed nonetheless. Erēmos doesn’t contain a moment of the sort of primordial ritual ambient which was more prevalent on earlier Aural Hypnox releases. The evolution of their sound has kept the authenticity and subliminal power of its foundations, but they have moved into territory which is much more diverse from moment to moment and capable of conveying more specific visuals through sound. This would be an essential album to show those readers or their friends which are unfamiliar with Aural Hypnox. The Arktau Eos sound is possibly more focused and more effective here than at any time in their past. The project, like the rest of the label, just seems to keep increasing in quality with each passing year.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Page 1 of 24

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: