Tag: Dark Ambient (Page 1 of 24)

Otavan Veret – Syvys – Review

Artist: Otavan Veret
Album: Syvys
Release date: 21 December 2018
Label: Cyclic Law

Tracklist:
01. I
02. II
03. III
04. IV

Otavan Veret is a dark/ritual ambient project out of Finland. Syvys is the second album by the project, which is led by Kaarna (Tervahäät, Slave’s Mask, Anima Artica Label etc..) and Kivelä. There first self-titled album was released back in 2014, also on Cyclic Law.

While there is plenty of reference to stellar space in the description of the album as well as the cover-art, this feels to me more like the soundscapes of a person standing upon the Earth, staring into the vast depths of limitless space. Not an astronaut touring the galaxies. Rather a psychonaut, the mind filling with an eruption of understanding as the cosmos unveil themselves to a mystic hermit, as he gazes from some far northern campsite into the depths of space. The mind becoming fully enraptured and enlightened along the way.

The self-titled debut took the artists on a similar path as their latest Syvys. But, there is a noticeable difference in the sounds. Percussion was used more often in the first album, and has little inclusion on Syvys, where they use more rhythmic patterns with the synths to create a similar effect, but still contain a bit of subtle tribal percussion. There was also a sort of monotony to both releases, which a reviewer of their previous album considered a downside. But, for most fans of dark ambient and similar genres, we appreciate soundscapes that stretch on for 10+ minutes and gradually shift from one emotion into another, bringing the listener along for a beautiful journey, if only they are patient enough to take the ride. Syvys seems to put this ‘monotony’ to better use (probably a bad word for it as this is really nothing like the so-called monotony of a drone ambient release). The soundscapes quickly pull the listener into their grasp, opening us to feelings of awe, oneness and respite. The long track lengths, instead of making the album boring, turn it into a highly meditative medium, one that I’ve incorporated into yoga, and one which is also quite perfect for drifting off to sleep.

The style of the music fits in line nicely with another set of musicians, also hailing from Finland, that blend this feeling of interstellar travel with a simultaneous sense of earthly grounding. That is, of course, the Aural Hypnox label. Otavan Veret excels in the subtle inclusion of ritual elements, in particular chanting, which draw ties to the sounds of Arktau Eos or Halo Manash. Yet, there is also a more electronic feel and a musicality that lean toward a project like Lingua Fungi. Cyclic Law has been doing a splendid job over the last few years of working with artists that are outside the Aural Hypnox label, but share many of the same elements, including projects like Bonini Bulga, Altarmang (both side-projects of Kammarheit), Common Eider, King Eider, and Phurpa.

“I” starts with a piercing high note, which lingers for the first three minutes of the track before slowly fading into a sacral sort of feel, which vaguely hints at the feel of early work from raison d’être or Desiderii Marginis. “II” contains lingering elements of “I” which forms a noticeable continuity between the tracks, though this one is a bit less active. There is a real depth to the layers of sound on “II” I could make fleeting comparisons here to some of the sound design used by Atrium Carceri.

“III” is the highlight of the album for me. For anyone impatient, wanting to find the gem within the release, you should skip to this one and then check out the rest of the album. Though, I greatly prefer hearing it in its proper order. There is a simplicity here that can be deceiving. This takes us closest to the Aural Hypnox comparison. There are definite ritual overtones, but this ritualistic earthly nature seems to melt into the distant cosmos here. The mind of the listener opens and this primal energy pours in. “IV” starts with a high level of almost chaotic energy, reeling off the energies from the preceding track, but as it progresses we are taken into soundscapes that highlight a deep sense of peacefulness and solitude. Here, I get the feeling that we’ve been lying upon the snows of the far north, in some forest clearing gazing upon the stars above. But as we become further enraptured by the sounds, we are slowly losing life, fading off into a deep dark and frigid nothingness. As all fades out, we are left with an almost winter synth sort of outro, which really seems like the perfect ending to this epic journey through the mind, the north, and the cosmos.

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 07

Joseph Mlodik of Noctilucant says of his latest dark ambient vlog:
“Two Inner Sanctum episodes in one month! What is going on?! In this special “holiday” edition of The Inner Sanctum, I chill out, be myself and talk about a few older and generally forgotten dark ambient releases from years past. Reviews and further insights on releases from Convalescent, Vestigial, Non Ethos and Cataclyst. Enjoy the darkness!”

Episode chapters:
00:00 Intro
01:59 Convalescent
08:30 Vestigial
15:32 Non Ethos
22:26 Cataclyst
29:16 Outro
32:40 End Credits

Check out the Noctilucant Youtube channel here.

Arktau Eos – Interview

Credit: Arktau Eos

Arktau Eos are one of the most distinct and respected groups in the ritual post-industrial scene. They have been among the top-tier acts in many of the most revered festivals in the scene over more than a decade. Arktau Eos, like the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective as a whole, exudes an air of authenticity and primal energy which is unrivaled by most, I would passionately argue.

There haven’t been a large number of interviews over the years with anyone from the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective, though the ones available are certainly worth seeking out! So, it is with great respect and privilege that I am presenting you with this highly in-depth interview with Arktau Eos, who also have authority to, and do, speak on matters of the label at large herein.

In this interview we will be discussing the future of Arktau Eos, their greater relationship (or lack thereof) with music, politics and religion, their current views on physical, digital and video formats, analysis of Eremos and its context in the Arktau Eos discography, proper setting/atmosphere for deeper listening/understanding of their music, and quite a bit more!


Michael: Arktau Eos has been an essential group in the ritual ambient scene for more than a decade. Do you see yourselves on the same trajectory, following the same ideologies and aesthetics as when the group was first formed?

Arktau Eos: First, thank you for your kind words. We are certainly still on the same trajectory. Aesthetics evolve, ideas are fine-tuned, our technical know-how improves, but as for fundamental changes – there have been none.

Perceived changes usually relate to matters nearly wholly external. Being something of lone wolves and outlaws, we have, for instance, gradually drifted apart from categories such as ‘ritual ambient’ or ‘dark ambient’. Granted, those terms are not entirely without merit and many of our listeners fall into the demographic; no disrespect is intended. Yet we have searched for a slightly better fitting description, using ‘elemental music’ on occasion, in reference to its primal origins, suggesting a step aside from the dominion of chronology to seek the eternal, while simultaneously recalling the Paracelsian tria prima and similar formulations: everything has its base in a few active elements from which things of great complexity may nevertheless be composed by skilled hands, aided by knowledge of nature’s mysterious ways. Then again, we can agree with Alexey Tegin from Phurpa, who is adamant that Arktau Eos – like his own group – in fact has nothing to do with music per se.

Michael: Where do you see the future taking Arktau Eos? Should we expect another decade of releases?

Arktau Eos: Without any doubt. After all, Arktau Eos is a part of our respective life works, a point where our mutual interests and goals converge in a partially public context. We acknowledge Death as the grand initiator whose presence drives us to continue apace. This is not a statement of some inherent morbidity – we laugh too much to pass for the most ardent death-worshippers – yet it holds true in many senses, the basest one being that we realise the limits as to what can be accomplished in this lifetime at best. One can only hope it is enough to create a sustained awareness in areas of transition, including the final one that awaits us all. To this end, our records are travelogues and notebooks, quick sketches of eldritch spaces in mind or elsewhere (is there a difference?), cryptic but meant to communicate keys of access to others via suggestion and deep, universal symbols: beyond textual means, beyond sound even.

Credits: Costin Chioreanu

Michael: What is the current line-up of Arktau Eos? Is this still a fluid roster, keeping the core members A.I.H. & A.I.L., but interchanging other members from album to album?

Arktau Eos: It has never been a fluid roster really. We have returned to the original Arktau Eos pact, a duo formation, and intend to keep it that way. If we require the expertise of additional musicians or artists, they will be invited as guests of honour and lavished with fine wines, champagne and Cuban cigars, but typical ‘band’ dynamics are usually just a hindrance to the actual work at hand, and to be avoided.

Michael: Your last release Catacomb Resonator as well as its predecessor Unworeldes were released on vinyl. Your newest album Erēmos has returned to a CD-only format. Does each release dictate its own physical characteristics (cassette/CD/vinyl), or do outside influences (market/pricing) dictate the choice?

Arktau Eos: A combination of both. CDs will in all probability remain the label mainstay. Rather sadly, vinyl is becoming increasingly infeasible for us. So much is good about vinyl, but the odd frequencies and lengthy tracks present lots of problems mastering-wise and reliable pressing plants are few. Catacomb Resonator is a case in point. While it turned out decent and benefits from the vinyl sound, the process of getting there was taxing to the point of ridiculousness – the endless travails of its emergence included inspecting and sending back every single copy of the entire run! Cassettes are less finicky. Genuine tape saturation and hiss usually work wonders for our sonics anyway.

As a side-note of potential interest to some readers, it remains a distinct possibility that we pushed our luck too much with Catacomb Resonator. Its third song or side (‘The Third Canticle’ of the liner notes), the real core of the record, is merely implied by hidden motifs on both sides A and B, residing soundlessly in-between them as a sort of ‘charged absence’… perhaps this artificial tension overloaded the aura of the album, playing a part in its troubled manifestation. This matter cannot be explained in plainer words, so we’ll leave it at that.

To get back to the original subject slightly: contrary to expectations the recent vinyl boom did not benefit any of the Aural Hypnox artists even marginally, so frankly, a release must justify its appearance on vinyl exceptionally well for the format to be even considered. Such are the realities as we speak, however disappointing to the vinylophiles among us.

Some Aural Hypnox customers have remarked that a CD is an easy (!) way to bring along Arktau Eos for walks in the woods and mountains. In fact, portability is the only sensible reason for download codes we have ever come up with; perhaps we will relent and add them to the physical releases sometime in the future as a gesture of good will towards those few folks inclined to take our music to accompany their private pilgrimages.

Credit: Robin Levet

Michael: You’ve worked again with the artist K.T.L. on the artwork for Erēmos. Is K.T.L. a part of the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective, creating music under one of these projects? Or, is this someone from the outside world you’ve sought for collaborations?

Arktau Eos: Our collaboration came about the most natural and hassle-free way possible. Timo Ketola, or K.T.L. as he is known in the Hypnox circle, is A.I.L.’s friend since the ‘90s and has been more or less clued in to Arktau Eos’ ways of working ever since the release of Mirrorion. Having vast experience of metaphysical and artistical subjects consonant with ours, K.T.L. adapts easily to our peculiar whims and is a rich source of ideas himself. He is mainly known as a visual artist, a highly talented draughtsman and painter, who in recent years has also been apprenticing in the art of tattooing. However, A.I.L. and K.T.L. did perform together as boreal electro-Behenian duo Astrolithos in Salerno and Rome back in 2017; K.T.L. did percussion. The Astrolithos set was demoed to an advanced stage, but there hasn’t been a suitable opportunity to finish it.

Most pertinent is that we will be working with him again for the 2019 Blow Up festival in Helsinki; with a bit of luck, this also means another new release from Arktau Eos. In a way, we continue in the spirit of the Origin of Fire event in Stockholm in late 2017. At Origin of Fire, Welt, Ketola, and S.A. Hynninen exhibited their work, while Arktau Eos, Stephen O’Malley, Aluk Todolo and Corps provided the evening’s sonic backbone. A 96-page exhibition catalogue was released that night including a foreword by Bobby Beausoleil. It is well worth getting if still available.

Michael: Erēmos contains field recordings from the North Ostrobothnian Woods in Northern Finland, as well as the “untamed steppes of Mongolia”. Was the idea for Erēmos conceived unexpectedly during your travels to Mongolia in 2014? Or, did you travel to Mongolia with the creation of this album in mind?

Arktau Eos: No, the concept of Erēmos is not tied to these travels originally. It was conceived in late 2017, when we were finishing Catacomb Resonator, its distant relative. The recordings were drawn from our archives because they fit and enhanced the concept. It was not premeditated at all. We have unused recordings all the way from our early days, and often they just reappear when needed. A.I.L. also did additional recordings in solitude at a remote Tantric Buddhist initiation temple in Mongolia – with permission, we might add: the gifts of the spirits are unexpected and numerous! Those recordings are yet to be used. They need a context, something more ritualistic than Erēmos could convey, whereas the rationale for using the field recordings on Erēmos is tied to the polarities these remote places – the Finnish woods and the Mongolian steppe – represent. While both are potential locations of retreat, they are in many ways opposites. The eternally blue skies and the openness of the steppe is contrasted with the dank, dark, forbidding nature of the Finnish woods, the open air ovoos with the minuscule cell of a solitary monk etc. The vision that unfolds when listening to Erēmos is an unspecified ‘desert’, that is, a mind-scape of extreme retreat which manifests according to the individual, not necessarily something that has a physical presence or counterpart. Fittingly, after an absence of a few years, solar-Apollonian elements have also crept in, most notable in this sense is “Pacts of Stone and the Sun”, recorded during the Summer Solstice.

Credit: Jeanne Saint-Julien

Michael: Also on the topic of release formats, will there be plans for more full-length video releases in the future, similar to Taiwaskivi and R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA by Halo Manash? Or, do you now prefer just doing individual music videos, similar to the recent Templum N.R. “The Unseen Tailor”?

Arktau Eos: Individual videos seem to be the way forward. The bigger issue here is not the format or length but the actual content: for instance, R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA was fine for its time, but the focus of Aural Hypnox video productions has since shifted. Instead of depicting ritual customs, our interest right now is in their after-effects, in painting impressions of what it means to do a ritual and what sensations it evokes – and for ‘ritual’, please take a broad view and read also meditation, summoning, prayer, etc. The problem with ritualistic videos is that they are very much tied to a certain moment. Watching them after the energies have departed might satisfy someone’s curiosity for procedural minutiae, but that is neither here nor there. The power and intent are already elsewhere.

Michael: It’s been stated in past interviews that Aural Hypnox seeks to remain separate from any specific religious doctrines. Is this also the case specifically within Arktau Eos? If there are any universal beliefs followed within Arktau Eos, what would they be?

Arktau Eos: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that while we do not avoid any specific religious doctrines, we tend to steer away from their most common or vulgar expressions. Alternatively, you could say there is an Arktau Eos filter at work. While recognizing the immensity – perhaps impossibility! – of the task, Arktau Eos attempts to reach beyond the obvious appearances to deeper ur-currents that feed the present religious, magical, or mystical expressions, remaining untainted by political agendas or intellectual fads. One must learn the mystery of the mask and the masked to do so without impunity, with open heart and discerning intellect. In our home studios, we are constantly surrounded by markers of this enigma; wooden idols, thangkas, icons, nkisis, and so forth, which may or may not leave their imprint to what we do – but at the very least their presence draws our minds back to the work whenever they start to drift toward everyday worries, which have no place in our studio-laboratory environment. While we shun shifting beliefs or paradigmatic approach to religion as a folly of the rootless, we refrain from proclaiming a single doctrine of truth; we leave preaching to others, and in general tend towards detachment and the apophatic. Power itself does not gain from being drawn towards the human; it is richer without limitations, some of which are instantaneously in effect, should we desire to address it.

Credit: Gavin Semple

In a practical sense, to remain on the same page regarding Arktau Eos, we assume a few working hypotheses which pertain more to cosmological and ontological rather than religious aspects. A few delineations follow, which may be of interest to the few who care about such matters. Most of these general ideas are nothing new: visualizing the vertical dimension as comprising of three distinct realms, understood as the underworld, our world, and the celestial and stellar domain. Man’s unique role may well be joining the superior with the inferior as Hermetic-derived traditions insist, yet sometimes it feels like we are lightning conductors and not logical operators in doing so! The universe appears to express harmony and correspondence, and analogical thinking enables us to correlate its contents and consolidate some of the seemingly conflicting world-views and maps of reality, while the axiom of the inner being the outer and the within being the without is a Gordian knot best split by the blade of sudden insight, not intellect. There is life before birth and life after death; even biologically speaking we return to the elements through the work of worms or the agency of fire. Some dreams appear to arrive from beyond these dramatic realignments, and they may even eradicate the boundaries shaping that which we in the wake world identify as ourselves (Ioh-Maera is heavily concerned with this process). Arktau Eos as an entity appears to stand motionless at the edge of twilight, Janus-faced, yet it walks the route of the return and the widdershins way at the same time, continuously realizing their unity as a point afresh in the eternity of NOW.

Michael: Arktau Eos, like Aural Hypnox as a whole, focuses on the mystical and spiritually connecting to the natural world. Do any members hold strong political views/beliefs which dictate the direction of the project? Put differently, do you see the current global issues, particularly focusing on the environment, as an important element in your artistic output? Or, do you try to stay focused on your own lives and remain separated from any greater political/cultural dialogues?

Arktau Eos: We make some conscious choices in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment, but we are not activists or especially politically orientated. To those who argue that no act at all is without political undertones, we may appear conservative: after all, we value the survival of old beliefs and traditional handicrafts. On the other hand, our sonic output obeys no rules at all. Arktau Eos sessions are devoid of political discussions. While we leave politics, and environmental politics in particular, to those more eloquent and passionate about them, for what it’s worth, it should be clear to anyone who has ever held an Aural Hypnox artefact in their hands that we want to create things that are of lasting value, forsaking throwaway produce and culture, and view purely utilitarian preying on the environment as short-sighted and negative.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: If you do see a need for concern, do you consider the output of Arktau Eos to be a way of reconnecting humanity to the natural world?

Our interest in this direction lies in the interactions of man with specific places in the natural world, the portals and power-zones, sites of attested theophanies and curious photic phenomena, unusual geomagnetic and geographical regions, mountaintops, caves, holy springs and lakes, nemetons, etc., all of which inspired our ancestors to marvel, worship gods known and forgotten, build shrines and tumuli, and erect megaliths based on stellar and solar alignments. Churches upon Mithraeums, chapels upon spots of pre-Christian apparitions… the layers are many and all are fascinating.

The otherworld is never but a figurative step away, but these liminal locations appear to amplify the catacomb resonances, the sense of the otherness, at times causing the veils of separation to unravel forcefully. Perhaps they are there to compartmentalize our experience, for who can withstand the full incursion of the greater reality unprepared? Beyond those veils certain sites shine as beacons to which flock entities that may bear little or no resemblance whatsoever to human life. Whether the impromptu sabbatic revels ensuing from encounters with such non- or un-beings still count as engagements with the natural world is obviously a matter of debate!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Our age lacks the framework for comprehending such experiences and casually relegates them to the category of the supernatural, now used pejoratively, stigmatizing unusual phenomena by equating them with hallucinations or glitches of brain-functions. All in vain hope that this would somehow nullify the nagging unease brought on by them displaying characteristics we are accustomed to associate with ourselves and related species, such as intelligence and independent will. We are not opposed to hard sciences and we value critical thinking, but merely wish to point out, as Shakespeare had Hamlet state to Horatio, that “there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. We have sent probes to Mars, which is all great, and even the depths of seas are becoming familiar to scientists, although their hold on imagination has not let go. And probably never will, so primal is the strata in which the idea of the abyss, tehom, resides, welling up as the waters of Genesis or earlier creation myths like that of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Yet, even today much on this planet remains little known, just consider the vastness of deep biosphere and how it defies expectations with its strange lifeforms: microbes living hundreds of thousands of years, for instance. Try, then, to explain the complexity of our imaginative faculty or of consciousness: the shoreless ocean or, indeed, abyss, the evolution of which spans geological epochs!

Some of our innate sensitivity to the numinous itself – the capability for apprehending pure awe that carries no moral or ethical baggage – has been lost, perhaps irrevocably. The common man has his senses dulled, his mind distracted by the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’, as if there would ever be an end to the chain of questioning. The culprits contributing to this sad state of affairs are numerous, but we could start with urbanization, light pollution, unnatural pace of life, over-reliance on technology, and the forceful shifts in our way of thinking since the Industrial Revolution, not to mention imperious scientism rife among the myopic and petty types. Religions and supposed experts on spiritual matters are not without fault themselves, having often accrued ways of conceiving the divine in terms unduly influenced by social and sociopolitical patterning. It is a precarious balance, to be sure.

In our own small way, we attempt to reverse the damage, cultivate an understanding of sacred sites within Arktau Eos, and walk their precincts with reverence. This is a reconnection, but alas! of a kind that will never be popular. Perhaps one must have a Gnostic sense of unease to seek out the forbidden and hidden to begin with. Few are truly called.

Credit: Arktau Eos

Michael: Aural Hypnox has previously unveiled Mount Hypnox, a line of hand-crafted incenses which could be used in connection with the label’s releases to further connect the listener to the aura of the music. Would you have any recommendations for the best incense blend to better connect the listener to the new album, Erēmos?

Arktau Eos: Erēmos calls for something uncomplicated. Locally available tree resins and the scent of a campfire are enough. Further down the line, we will probably release an Arktau Eos incense blend of more complexity. It should be clarified here that while we often use incense live, it is to add an extra dimension to the proceedings, an appeal to the olfactory senses to deepen immersion, and not to appease someone’s desire (fixation) for ritual as such. Immersion is vastly more important live than ceremony. The live shows should be more akin to a prolonged dream than a routine ‘ritual’ – at least they work better viewed that way.

Michael: Do you have any recommendations to listeners on the best way to enjoy this new release? Should it be enjoyed casually? During meditation? During one’s own rituals? Is there a right answer?

Arktau Eos: The gist of it is, indeed, that there is no correct answer. Over the years we have heard back from many listeners and have been pleasantly surprised about the ways people have deeply engaged with our albums. The knowledge that our records have been used in the rituals of certain magical orders and Neognostic enclaves is also gratifying in that it speaks volumes of their applicability and capability to communicate in such highly charged settings. Nevertheless, Erēmos is so unambiguously focused that a suggestion is hereby offered: it just might be best suited to lonely wanderings and meditations, whatever form they take. Trust your instincts. And by the way, we have no objections to casual enjoyment of our musical endeavours either. Your choice. Your responsibility, as ever. This is one area in which we have quit being elitist bastards. Working on the rest.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: Arktau Eos has recently performed at the L’Homme Sauvage event in France. What was the event like for Arktau Eos in comparison to some of your previous events. Were there any fellow artists from the line-up that you found particularly impressive?

Arktau Eos: L’Homme Sauvage is an excellent event, a whole community selflessly coming together to create something of greater good. It was our fourth time playing in the mountains (Stella Natura in the US twice, Funkenflug in the Austrian Alps, and now this). Rather conspicuously they all number among the highlights of our live ‘career’. Perhaps we have an affinity to mountains? At L’Homme Sauvage, we watched one of the bands struggle with power cut-offs earlier in the evening, but although stressful to the organisers, in the end the tension just seemed to heighten the collective anticipation and atmosphere. With bonfires lighting the area and a lone hurdy-gurdy resounding in distance, a truly unusual atmosphere took over, and when everything finally worked out as it should, people seemed to appreciate everything on-stage with heightened fervour. The organizers made a wise choice in having Visions play last, since his drone-heavy set helped that atmosphere linger on long into the night instead of being dissipated by traditional band-type sounds, as could have easily happened.

We had acclimatized to the Pyrenees, mentally preparing for the gig the entire preceding week by presenting ourselves to the powers that be on solitary peaks and other significant places, such as the many Cathar castle ruins dotting the landscape. We also spent some time with director-shaman Richard Stanley and witch Amanda, then residents of the village of Montségur, whose expert guidance in the region was most illuminative. Standing before the pog of Montségur, in full moon’s light in the dead of night, immersed in the profoundest silence punctuated by an owl’s hoots, remains one of the most powerful experiences of our recent travels. It is hard to relay without resorting to clichés since it is so archetypical: without warning – as gently as the first snow brushing your face yet as decidedly as a tidal flow – something entirely else came over and the landscape was transformed into an eerily beautiful faerie realm of timelessness. An extreme calmness remained although one’s sensorium was madly tingling owing to the presence of that which is beyond – and more than – human, leaving in its wake a curious nostalgia, or longing… And that is all that can be said, except that intuitively you feel certain that this has been experienced over and over again, century after century, by many folks, us being merely the last in a long line. Probably there are those who at that very interstice have decided to walk away from the life as we know it for good and now reside in that lambent ever-night permanently, barely remembering their former selves.

Our last time in Stella Natura was another momentous mountain spectacle from the beginning to the end, and to tell all would require pages and pages. Perhaps another time. As for the climax, we played in the early morning hours before the first light of dawn and it was actually damned hard to find our way out of the imposing Sierra Nevada woods and back to the trails after our set! A disastrous snowstorm had struck the day before and only a handful of people, the truly hard core, had stuck it out for our set, sipping magical potions infused with ingredients gathered from botanicas of San Francisco, drawn into that strange, cold void exhaling the breath of the earth and the intoxicating scent of pine resin deep in the woods. Together we formed a closed circle set apart from the rest of the world, in sway of total darkness except for the hues of spectral red bathing the stage, our drones and cymbals echoing through the massive canyon carved by the Yuba River nearby. Those gear-geeks looking for the ’best natural reverb’ on Internet forums, we declare the search over; but you can’t put it into a pedal, sorry!

Back to France and your question. Unfortunately, we did not get to see that many of our fellow performers at L’Homme Sauvage, being away on our own excursions under the mountains, exploring tunnels in darkness of which time itself flows in abnormal directions! Of the ones that we managed to hear, we enjoyed the tribal noise act 若潭 / ruò tán and the folk-goth of Traum’er Leben, both well-versed in their craft, and Mütterlein, who sounded very powerful. And as is natural in such rustic surroundings, the experimental folk stylings of La Breiche were more than fitting! Our friends Hexvessel are always good on-stage, and we gladly accepted their invitation to bring some of the Arktau Eos hexcraft onboard for a rendition of “I am the Ritual” to cap off the musical side of our trip.

Credit: Gavin Semple

Michael: You also recently performed at Death Cult Rising III in Barcelona, along with long-time label-mates Zoät-Aon. Were there any special moments from this event you’d like to share? Was it nice to see a Zoät-Aon performance after quite a lengthy silence from them?

Arktau Eos: Death Cult Rising III was another great festival and line-up. Always reassuring to see organisers put real effort into what they do, and the sound was fantastic. Highly recommended. This urbane setting – a club resembling a scene from a David Lynch movie complete with a masonic floorboard – was a nice contrast to the rustic festivities that soon followed it in form of L’Homme Sauvage. For ourselves, it was interesting to compare how our basic set took different directions with the slightest push, transforming itself to suit the surroundings in both cases. Let us hope 2019 will turn out equally fulfilling regarding live appearances!

As for Zoät-Aon, it was and is excellent to see Jaakko Vanhala set the old beast into motion again. We have both assisted him live at one point or another (A.I.L. accompanied him for the last two shows), and he fully deserves the credit and laudation he has acclaimed throughout the years for creating his original, highly technical yet feral brand of dark ambient. A running Hypnox house in-joke calls it ‘in-your-face ambient’.

Michael: Speaking of Zoät-Aon, I wonder if there are currently any plans to release another album as Arktau Aon?

Arktau Eos: No plans exist. The whole concept would need to reworked, as we cannot possibly re-create the youthful fire and spontaneity of the original sessions. It’s a miracle they survived and were recovered from our archives in the first place!

Michael: I wonder if you would be interested in detailing any of the process of creation for Arktau Eos? I’m particularly interested in how the drones and other synthetic elements are created in association to the live elements such as percussion, chanting, etc. Do you plan these rituals out in advance, creating the synthetic elements to be utilized in the live ritual setting? Or, do you create these synthetic elements intuitively and extemporaneously during a live ritual recording process?

Arktau Eos: There is always an element of intuition involved. We are not that big on presets, and enjoy tweaking sounds live, come what may. We always ensure there is room for improvisation, the possibility of taking the set in unanticipated directions. Certainly, much is planned and rehearsed, but should the situation call for it, a trip beyond in the spirit of joyful abandon will be seized with no remorse. We will never be a sterile live act that simply attempts to recreate studio work on-stage. What we can bring along creates natural limitations and the lack of second takes guarantees certain rawness and lack of refinement, but that is not necessarily a drawback.

When crafting our sound in the studio, there is no set work-flow. The only hard-and-fast rule these days is that it should immediately evoke that unmistakable presence of otherness to which one responds at gut-level. Synthetic, organic, digital, analog – while we have our preferences (vintage when possible!), it does not matter in the end, unless we want to involve some element or a self-made instrument for a distinct reason. We are not Luddites or attempting to recreate hypothetical prehistoric music, nor hold any pretensions to that effect, so there is never a question of authenticity in that sense – playing music with only sticks, bones and stones, to fulfill someone’s idealized, absurd notion of original ritual music! Catacomb Resonator was 90% vocals, Erēmos relied on other things… and what we work on right now sits right between the two albums, subject to change as always.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change. We treat the synthetic parts as at least half-sentient, evolving things, animated by the subtle interrelated alchemy between everything that goes on in the studio. Electricity is an organic element as much as are fire and wind. Directing control voltages through analog gear is the act of mesmerizing the machine; electromagnetism is the kuṇḍalinī of the circuits!

Therefore, we also cherish and utilize to the full the moments when old or malfunctioning synthesizers and effects decide to embark on their own trajectories, bringing about unexpected changes. This goes in tandem with our interest in the romance and mystique of ‘transmissions’, whether supernatural or shortwave! Intention, if correctly formed, eventually pulls everything together. The filaments of the spider’s web reach into the unknown, carrying resonances from afar. Some of our synths involve the operator becoming part of the actual circuits, further fulfilling a mystic conjunction of flesh and metal. Tactility is a must: you will not be seeing Arktau Eos with a laptop on-stage anytime soon, perish the thought!

Credit: David Arranz

Michael: The ritual ambient genre seems to be growing every day. Though many of the musicians creating within this genre don’t seem to have nearly the depth of seriousness which musicians from Aural Hypnox consistently present. Would there be any certain musicians outside the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective which you would recommend to followers of your works that are looking for the same level of dedication and authenticity?

Arktau Eos: To be honest, we do not wish to assume the mantle of arbiters regarding these matters: time will always tell. Let us see about dedication in five or ten years. Many from the old school have proven their dedication repeatedly and compared to them we are the newcomers. All hail and honour, you know who you are: acceptance by Arktau Eos is hardly needed! As for authenticity, the shallow ones are effortlessly told apart, although there is no pleasure in the exercise: those desperately striving for recognition, the pathologically self-important, the ones vacant-mindedly copying sigils from grimoires they do not grasp in hopes of impressing other dimwits, and so on, ad nauseam. All of them united by wallowing in the bitter waters of their smug self-complacency, while failing to recognize the vessel of crystal-clear stellar nectars when it is freely passed forth… You know the drill. Waste of energy, though fools may strike gold, once! More importantly, for the rest, the sincere ones we extend our well-wishes and a friendly word: just know how ‘authentic’ you want to become, because when things get real, they inevitably bring on danger, personal sacrifice – and your ego to the firing line. Those with escapist fantasies are not cut for such trials. The abyss will gaze back, unwavering.

Michael: Thank you very much for this interview, I am fully aware that these aren’t granted often, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you gentlemen!

Arktau Eos: Thank you, it was a pleasure answering your thought-out questions! We appreciate your time and interest, wishing you the best of luck with This Is Darkness.

Arktau Eos Links

Helixes Collective Official Site
Aural Hypnox Official Site
Arktau Eos – Facebook
Aural Hypnox – Soundcloud
Aural Hypnox – Vimeo

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 6

We are very pleased to share with you the latest episode of Joseph Mlodik’s
The Inner Sanctum!

“Episode 6 of The Inner Sanctum is upon thee! In this episode I talk about one of my own recent releases, and then discuss a relatively new project called, Forest of Frogs, which is followed by Infinexhuma making its second appearance on The Inner Sanctum with the brilliant, Unasan, album. Pär Boström; the man, the myth, the legend, is discussed next, with his recent side-projects, Bonini Bulga and Hymnambulae. Thanks for watching!”

Enjoy the Darkness!

Contents:
00:00 Intro 00:00
01:56 Noctilucant/DeepDark
12:46 Forest of Frogs
16:36 Infinexhuma
27:48 Intermission
28:18 Pär Boström
32:43 Bonini Bulga
37:44 Hymnambulae
43:56 Outro
44:35 End Credits

You can read our review of Bonini Bulga – Sealed here.

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

Page 1 of 24

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: