Tag: Drone

øjeRum – Nattesne – Review

Nattesne quickly merges with the subconscious. As the listener falls into the pattern of the album, the music becomes a meditation of its own.

Artist: øjeRum
Album: Nattesne
Release date: 3 March 2019
Label: Eilean Records

Eilean Rec. says of øjeRum:
“øjeRum is Copenhagen based musician and collage artist Paw Grabowski. Since 2014 he has put out releases on various labels such as A Giant Fern, Cabin Floor Esoterica, Eilean Rec., Phinery, Scissor Tail Editions and Vaald. øjeRum is all about the attempt to capture and convey emotions, moods and memories. two years and a half after his first release on eilean rec. we’re glad to host øjeRum for a second time on the map with the wonderful work: Nattesne.”

Before I heard this release, I was immediately captivated by the beautiful and evocative album art. The girl appears to be wearing a niqab and sitting in prayer or meditation. She is enveloped by a dull grey room, with sprigs of plants peaking out from behind. There is a halo behind her head (represented by the white circle). Her chest is an image of a snowy wooded landscape with the full moon peaking out from behind the trees. Her lower face scarf is a dark starry sky. So many narratives and emotions begin to immediately arise as I ponder the meaning of this artwork. This is the collage work of Paw Grabowski, the man behind øjeRum.

 

The album stays very true to the initial impressions I had of the artwork. There is a deep feeling of peace and meditative bliss present here. I don’t think I would call the music dark ambient, but it is pertinent to our sensibilities as listeners of that genre. There is a fleeting sadness, loneliness and isolation present throughout this release. These feelings reach an early climax on “V” with the help of vocalist Siri Anna Flensburg. Her voice draws all these feelings from meditation to loneliness to pure bliss into the six and a half minute track. Her voice melts into the tapestry of sounds, which on this track include a drone, which recurs throughout the album, accompanied by a dreamy and melancholic piano arrangement. This is the only time on the album that vocals or piano surface.

The majority of the album, aside from the aforementioned track “V”, has a recurring set of motifs. The guitar drone (not sure if it’s a guitar, it could be synth, but that’s not really pertinent) recurs through tracks I, III, V, VII, IX, XI, XIII, XV. You might notice that this is every odd track. Each time the album steers away from this template it is always certain to find its way back. The tracks filling in the even numbers alternate between two more templates.  A slowly strummed acoustic guitar allows its chords to resonate into the stillness. The remaining tracks feature another acoustic guitar but this time with picking progressions instead of strumming. The recurring nature of these elements drives the listener deep into a state of meditation, nostalgia, melancholy or some combination of the three.

Nattesne quickly merges with the subconscious. As the listener falls into the pattern of the album, the music becomes a meditation of its own. A spiraling staircase which one must ascend, only to find a brick wall at the top before the inevitable returning descent.

As alluded to by the imagery of the cover, the sounds of the album have a sort of “eastern feel” to them. The picked guitar sections could be a harp, the droning sections could be a flute, the strummed sections could be a sitar. And alternatively, the middle-eastern woman in prayer could be me, sitting in my American apartment in a deep meditation. Everything is cyclical and one, part of an inescapable whole.

As I’ve come to expect, Eilean Records has presented us with another beautiful release. Likely the last of their winter series before the course shifts to spring motifs. The limited edition CD of Nattesne quickly sold-out, as expected. Though there may still be a few copies floating around for sale outside the label. I always find Eilean Rec. releases to be perfect for the dark ambient sensibilities while only treading on the outer boundaries of it. Of course, dark ambient isn’t what they are going for, I only mention it because it’s the focus of our site! However, I doubt there will be many listeners questioning its appeal to our tastes.

I highly recommend Nattesne, and I equally recommend listeners explore the back-catalogs of øjeRum, as well as Eilean Records. There are many treasures still to be discovered for readers that dig this release!

Written by: Michael Barnett

Kaya North – That Comes from the Tree and the Mist – Review

Kaya North deliver a dark ambient improvisation
which showcases some of the best elements of The Eagle Stone Collective musically, as well as in the physical release.

Artist: Kaya North
Album: That Comes from the Tree and the Mist
Release date: 3 February 2019
Label: The Eagle Stone Collective

Tracklist:
01. Animal Crown
02. Shamanic Blood Leaf
03. Ancient Conifers Reign
04. Prophetic Dusk
05. Oaks Ceremony
06. Primal Forest


The Eagle Stone Collective
is a label out of France, run by Caleb R.K. Williams. A rough translation of his label’s mission statement says:

“The Eagle Stone Collective is a musical project/collective on the fringes of ambient Americana, drone and other experiments. Influenced by the desert and natural areas of the wilderness of our world and beyond. A minimalist and emotional vision of a sensory universe.”

The label released their first digital album, Eagle Stone EP in 2015 and their first physical, Alaska in 2016. The label features a variety of guests including Abigail Lily O’Hara, who released the enchanting Meander late last year. John Scott Gartner has appeared solo, as well as part of Eagle Stone and Old Green Mountain, both of which are duo projects with Caleb R.K. Williams. But the majority of the label’s releases are various solo works by Caleb R.K. Williams.

Williams uses various names to denote the different sorts of music he creates on the label, in a similar fashion to the structures Pär Boström (Kammarheit, Cities Last Broadcast, etc.) and Peter Andersson (raison d’être, Atomine Elektrine, etc.) have used over the years to denote their various styles of music. But unlike either of the aforementioned gentlemen, Williams not only uses his label for fully realized albums, it is also a place to release his experimentations and improvisations. The music that falls under this category is released under his real name, while the proper albums are released under one of his monikers (at least this appears to be the pattern from my perspective).

I’ve taken the time to detail the label itself here because I truly love what they are doing. I’ve been following The Eagle Stone Collective since about 2016 or early 2017 and I really enjoy everything they release. Some of the improvisations feel rougher than others, but that’s fine, Williams is testing his musical boundaries before the eyes of the music community. It is a laudable task to simultaneously release many of one’s wanderings while still managing to keep the releases feeling fresh and valuable (in the sense that their listeners’ time is valuable and we shouldn’t waste it listening to just anything, even an improvisation should leave the listener feeling rewarded, otherwise it shouldn’t be released at all). I always feel that my time was well-spent listening to their albums. Be they improvs, solo experimentations of Williams, or a proper album release from one of their “groups/bands” for lack of a better term.

So now I’ll get into That Comes from the Tree and the MistKaya North is one of the proper solo projects of Caleb R.K. Williams. This one he describes as his dark ambient side-project. The album was released on cassette and CDr, both in ultra-limited editions. I’m not a huge fan of CDr for obvious reasons. But, when a label is doing an edition of only 15 copies in each format it would be absurd to expect them to be pro-manufactured CDs. Every label can’t have the resources to create editions like Cyclic Law and Cold Spring. But, this is not a reason to shy away from the physical medium altogether. I think these ultra-limited editions are certainly a way of bridging that gap. Listeners that want something physical can feel that they have a truly unique piece of work in their hands, even if it isn’t 100% professional (think professional = appealing to our 21st century corporate sensibilities. It wasn’t created in a massive factory?!?! For shame!!!!).

That Comes from the Tree and the Mist is predominately a drone album. Just as conveyed on the cover-art, the music is like a thick dark fog creeping over hills and through foliage. There is a primal sense of wonder and darkness present here. There is a feeling of deep reverence and fear for/of nature, through an almost ritual lens. The ritual vibe is further evoked through the track titles themselves. Names like “Prophetic Dusk”, “Oaks Ceremony” and “Shamanic Blood Leaf” nudge our understanding of the album in the right direction. This is music evoking the old world. Old Gods and old forests, old rituals and old traditions are all subtly evoked.

While the music on That Comes from the Tree and the Mist is improvised, it feels like it moves forward with a purpose. I don’t feel that “meh, he did it in 45 minutes” vibe that I get from so many improvised dark/drone ambient projects. There is substance here, and there is music worth listening to more than once (more than 20 times in my case). There also appear to be field recordings present in a few sections of the album. Though, as the album is stated to be improvised, I wonder (and hope) that those field recordings are actually part of the improvisation. I like to imagine a window open in the studio, with a microphone aiming outward capturing nature, while simultaneously capturing his electronic alchemy inside.

While the CDr is long since sold-out (sorry, I’m moving slowly with reviews these days…) there are 2 copies of the cassette left as I type this. I personally purchased the cassette and can certainly recommend it to others (if cassettes are your thing)! It comes in a numbered j-card (I have number 10/15) with sticker labels on the cassette denoting A/B and showing that gorgeously gloomy forest from the cover (so many cassettes aren’t being labelled at all these days!). It also came with two folded sheets of paper which appear to be stamped with hand-etched rubber.

I would highly recommend Kaya North‘s latest album. For those unfamiliar with The Eagle Stone Collective, this is a great place to start, especially so far as readers of This Is Darkness would be concerned, as it is more solidly dark ambient than many of their other releases. I would also recommend following the label in general, some styles of music they release are more to my liking than others, but I truly enjoy hearing each new release from them. It will be time well spent in a market that is becoming quite over-saturated at the moment.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Med Gen – Brittleroots – Review

Artist: Med Gen
Album: Brittleroots
Release date: 22 September 2018
Label: ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ

Tracklist:
01. Peat Accumulation
02. Thallophyta
03. Nelumbo
04. Man From the Bog
05. Silt
06. Oxalis Poisoning
07. Typha

“The quiet humming of the earth and high-pitched bird calls, reflections of the autumn sun in the bog puddles… Silent steps on the path well-hidden in the thickets. No winds here. Just mesmerizing swaying of branches. Maybe they’re giving you signs not to partake in this journey, maybe better turn back and go home while you can… Yet this smell, these colors, those mysterious rustles in the deepness of the woods. One step after another and the story begins to unfold. What lies beneath these murky waters, between the layers of peat and on these oddly colored tussocks? Sun is approaching the horizon, so don’t hesitate, breathe in this night.”

Med Gen is the dark drone ambient project by Russia’s Michael Selitsky. Med Gen sounds often contain vast amounts of rich field recordings, often overlayed with subtle dronework. Though his first release only dates back to 2014, Med Gen has been one of my go-to musicians for contemplative dark ambient music for a few years.

To date, Med Gen has eight full length releases. While his initial releases were either self-released or through the Minus Silence label, recently Med Gen has been releasing his content through the magnificent, but highly under-recognized, ambient label ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ, run by Tim Six (known for his work as Creation VI). ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ have been making their name in the ambient scene with releases which are often quite colorful and artistic, with some bigger name artists working with the label along the way that include: Ugasanie, SiJ, Astral&Shit, Strom Noir and Endless Melancholy among others.

Med Gen says of their creative process and style: “The keeper of the med gen derives its sound from nature worlds and processes, after a long stay in solitude or wandering through nature places, then relays all senses into a sound stream.” This is a great description of the project for me, as the sounds truly do feel like they’ve been pulled directly from someone’s wanderings through nature.

The focus on field recordings and subtle drones makes Brittleroots a highly versatile release. Listeners can incorporate Brittleroots into practices like meditation and yoga, as the sounds provide a rich background, but never move far enough into the active that they become distracting in any way. This also makes the album perfect for background music while reading, or a rich soundscape to usher one into the dreamworld.

While much of the album is more or less uneventful, in the sense that things never really heat up or seem to present an overarching story-line, there are moments of true beauty which emerge from the depths of Brittleroots. “Thallophyta”, for instance, moves effortlessly through its first roughly eight minutes before the background sounds drop out and a lonely synth-line comes to the surface. Subtle field recordings continue to linger in the background. The combination achieves a feel that I would compare to some of my favorite moments in the Northaunt Istid series. Fleeting glimmers of beauty and musicality emerging from the drones, only to sink back into the nothingness moments later.

I would recommend Brittleroots to any lovers of rich field recordings and subtle dronework. If this album is to your liking, you will certainly find a treasure trove of previous works on the ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ label, as well as within Med Gen‘s personal discography to provide many hours of contemplation and serenity.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Endless Chasm – Saṃsāra Eternal – Review

Artist: Endless Chasm
Album: Saṃsāra Eternal
Release date: 12 July 2018
Label: Chthonic Streams

Tracklist:
01. An Outline of a Memory
02. Just Below the Hot Surface

Endless Chasm is a dark/ritual/noise ambient artist out of Lawrence, Kansas. Since their first release in 2015, Endless Chasm is keeping a pretty steady release schedule, with roughly two full-lengths dropping per year. Previous releases have been hosted by labels including: Big Pharma Records, Lurker Bias and Endless Landscapes of Decay. Saṃsāra Eternal is brought to us by Chthonic Streams, a label which predominately releases works by it’s label head Derek Rush (COMPACTOR, Dream Into Dust, A Murder of Angels). Though, Rush will occasionally find an album which fits the framework of his aesthetic goals. Saṃsāra Eternal is one such release, in which the artist, much like Rush himself, uses a combination of techniques to conjure a plethora of abstract soundscapes from his electronics, while adding a unique touch to the project, through the addition of field recordings. [We’ve also previously reviewed another excellent release from Chthonic Streams by Hoor-Paar-Kraat which you can read here.]

“An Outline of a Memory” follows a dark drone ambient framework which borders on harsh noise at times. It successfully blends these harsher sounds which remind of artists like Jarl and many of the artists featured on labels such as Endless Landscapes of Decay, with something more meditative. What this combination creates is something I could compare with the recent AltarmangVoid or many of the harsher works on Aural Hypnox. There are great peaks of intense walls of sound, as this pulsating drone shifts from its piercing high pitched register to a calmer more contemplative soundscape, and back again.

“Just Below the Hot Surface” is more in line with the sort of dark ambient I often enjoy. Endless Chasm uses a balanced combination of pulsating analog synth and industrialized field recordings to create a complex atmosphere. We get the feeling of a sort of post-apocalyptic ritual taking place in the catacombs beneath some smoky rusted factory. The depths and complexities of this atmosphere slowly evolve, and likewise slowly reveal their subtle textures over time. The sounds which begin as lifeless mechanical workings evolve into this dark ritual with otherworldly/underworldly voices seeming to be channeled from the metallic clanging.

As the album progresses, and so too as it is replayed, the listener will be forgiven for beginning to second guess their initial intuitions on the sounds and their individual musical elements. Simple drones can morph into monstrous voices, mechanical hammering turns into ritual drumming and back again as the mind is slowly made aware of its surroundings, only to be deceived once again moments later.

Saṃsāra Eternal is released digitally and also in a limited art edition cassette box set. The matte black box includes a red C-30 cassette, 4 art prints which feature photography by Derek Rush (as well as a 5th on the cover of the box), an info card with album credits, a black-on-black sigil, and a red carnation. This presentation again brings to mind the depth and care that we expect from D.I.Y. labels such as Aural Hypnox.

Fans of more digitally-focused, subtle, cinematic dark ambient releases might find Saṃsāra Eternal a little over-bearing at times. But for those that are accustomed to the moments of climactic harshness, you will find an album which is masterfully prepared and worthy of the comparisons made to works on more internationally recognized labels. Endless Chasm has crafted an album I would highly recommend to those that prefer something contemplative/meditative, but also challenging in its delivery. Like any good release in these genres, the depth of these soundscapes will only slowly reveal itself over time, making for an album worth revisiting numerous times.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Wound – Up in the Starry Ether – Review

Artist: Wound
Album: Up In The Starry Ether
Release date: 15 June 2018
Label: Self-released

Tracklist:
01. Bright and Cold
02. Oblivious to the Passing Hours and Days

Up In The Starry Ether by Wound is an album that immediately resonated with me. The artist shared the album with me and I initially liked the simple yet emotive cover-art design and then found that the music itself is also quite enjoyable. In his words, “Wound is a musician from Poland who incorporates various elements of ambient, drone and glitch into his music. Bringing together ordinary instruments like strings or piano with otherworldly electronic sounds he creates a soundtrack for the brief moments between unconsciousness and walking life.”

Photo by: FOT. SIEMI.

This apt description explains a number of the reasons I love this project. Wound combines the aesthetics of glitch, drone and ambient in interesting ways. Listening to Up in the Starry Ether, it is obvious that the release is based upon a drone foundation. The two tracks both run at approximately fifteen minutes a piece, making a nice length for a cassette release, and also allowing plenty of time for each track to slowly evolve. These drones are complemented by subtle field recordings as well as glitchy noises which keep us grounded in the modern realm.

“Bright and Cold” is the more relaxing of the two tracks. The drone elements are a bit less prominent on the opener and it allows us to slowly visualize the scene Wound is painting. Shimmering, yet slightly harsh drones solidify the cold atmosphere. Field recordings of wind blowing and footsteps through snowy terrain paint a picture of a lone traveler, making their way through a subzero white-out. The track gradually becomes more abrasive as it nears its ending, adding to this sense of discomfort and peril for the traveler.

Photo by: FOT. SIEMI.

“Oblivious to the Passing Hours and Days” begins with only field recordings. We now seem to be in a darker, more claustrophobic space. We can hear sounds in the distance, which could either be the rushing winds outside, or possibly some large factory off in the distance. The drones slowly intensify as the track progresses and we begin to hear a multitude of unsettling sounds. A high pitched-hissing comes and goes, as if we’ve passed some nearby pressure-release valve. Meanwhile, a looping musical element is creeping to the forefront. Though this never progresses into something that would be considered “music” outside our genres, it does add an emotional element to the track, and helps the listener descend further into these soundscapes of Wound.

Wound says of Up in the Starry Ether, “…the second release in my Drone Series project where I experiment with techniques to create long-form compositions. In the first one, Man as a Prism, the no-input mixer improvisation has been used, whereas in this I have collected found or discarded sounds to create a dreamy collage of trash.” This collage element is one of the things that makes me enjoy the album so much. There are so many sounds coming together. I get a sense here of that complexity which we expect of someone like Jarl, but with more of an ambient focus and less of the noise elements. This plethora of sounds makes for multiple rewarding listens. I have been enjoying this one for a few months in preparation to write about it and new elements are still presenting themselves. This is, of course, one of the best indicators of a great ambient release, for me.

 

Up in the Starry Ether is available in digital format as well as a handsome cassette edition, with a fitting artwork and a nice frigid, abstract palette. Wound is basically giving these cassettes away, at a five euro price tag. The first drone series release by Wound, Man as a Prism, can also be purchased along with Up in the Starry Ether as a bundle.

I highly recommend this album to those that enjoy drone ambient, but often find it monotonous, or worse, boring. Wound manages to harness the drone ambient slowly evolving format, while simultaneously embedding it with enough extra details that we can truly enjoy every minute of its playtime. It is quite the impressive release for an artist that doesn’t yet appear to be working through any record label, instead managing to bring together some memorable physical releases on his own. Readers/followers should be pleased with this one, but labels seeking new talent really should take note.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Skeldos – Ilgės – Review

Artist: Skeldos
Album: Ilgės
Release date: 21 June 2018
Label: Self-released

Tracklist:
01. melas
02. ilgės

Skeldos is an “anxious electronic, industrial, ambient” project by Vytenis Eitminavičius of Lithuania. Ilgės is his third full length solo release. While his debut album, Įspaudai, was released on the Lithuanian label Terror, his last two solo releases, as well as his brilliant collaboration, Aviliai with fellow Lithuanian ambient/drone artist Daina Dieva, have all been independently released.

Skeldos focuses on a form of drone/dark ambient which at times can be incredibly relaxing and calm. But it can move into varied territories with little awareness from the listener. The sounds seem to morph effortlessly. While the music itself can sound a good bit different at times, the approach to these soundscapes seems quite reminiscent of Kammarheit, or some amalgamation of Kammarheit and Taphephobia, maybe. Or at their harshest of times (not present on this album) can come into territory more aligned with artists like Jarl or Yen Pox, creating textures which can seem chaotic and over-bearing, but are still able to totally draw the listener into their coils, taking us on a mental voyage to destinations unknown. An interesting caveat here is that it would appear Skeldos creates all his “drones” with real acoustic instruments, namely on this album: accordion, Lithuanian zither and guitar.

The first track on Ilgės, “melas”, falls somewhere in the middle of Skeldos‘ range of soundscapes. There is a slight harshness, but it is predominately a sort of trance-inducing dronescape, which has little variation, and yet has managed to keep my full attention over many, many replays. I could maybe lightly compare the style to something more reserved on Aural Hypnox. The second track, “ilgės”, takes us into calmer, more melancholic territory. The backing dronework has a sort of celestial/shimmering/peaceful quality to it, which is accentuated by its solitude within the track. As listeners begin to sink into this trance, Skeldos introduces, for the first time on Ilgės, what I think is his most defining characteristic. His vocals. Skeldos has a very relaxing mid-deep ranged vocal quality. His vocals sound as if they are a lullaby, cutting through the darkness of night, in a sort of singing whisper. As we reach the end of the track, the energy of the soundscapes, as well as Skeldos‘ vocals, pick up momentum for a more emotional finale.

The inspiration for this album was taken from the poem “melas” or “A Lie” by Lithuanian writer Antanas Škėma. In the physical cassette release of Ilgės, Skeldos features the poem in its original Lithuanian as well as in English translation. This poem is included on a beautiful tan paper adorned with artwork similar to that of the album cover. The ART edition (25 of the 100 copies) goes a step further, stitching this paper directly into the handcrafted cassette case, giving it a very personal ‘do-it-yourself’ sort of feel. Though I should say the end result, concerning the cases, looks like quite professional work. The cassette itself is blank aside from a white “I” or “II” painted in its center, which isn’t  “professional”, but avoids my greatest problem with unlabeled cassettes, which side is which? Also, the hand-painted numerals further add to the DIY aesthetic. In the end, I’d say this is one of the best looking handcrafted cassette releases I’ve seen so far. Proof that  overall quality doesn’t need to be sacrificed on account of the hand-crafted nature.

Skeldos is a little known artist, under-recognized much more so than under-rated, that should be seeing a good bit more attention, in my humble opinion. Since discovering his music recently, I’ve been returning to it very often, especially in that last hour before sleep, most frequently after the lights are out for the evening. Skeldos‘ style of drone-work along with his vocal contributions make for a wonderfully peaceful, if thoroughly melancholic, experience. I would highly recommend Ilgės to anyone that loves the calmer more introspective forms of dark ambient. Ilgės is certainly on par with many of the genre’s renowned artists.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Ajna – An Era of Torment – Review

Artist: Ajna
Album: An Era of Torment
Release date: 22 December 2017
Label: Reverse Alignment

Tracklist:
01. An Era of Torment I
02. Infect My Soul
03. An Era of Torment II
04. The Melancholy Hours
05. Manie Sans Delire
06. An Era of Torment III

Ajna is a dark ambient artist out of New York. He’s been creating dark ambient music since about 2008. But, his first proper release didn’t come until The Strange Demeanor of Solitude in 2013 on the Petroglyph Music netlabel. By 2016, he had his first physical release, Inevitable Mortality, through Reverse Alignment. Inevitable Mortality spread the subtle but ominous drones of the Ajna sound to a larger audience. Further solidifying his name in the dark ambient genre, Ajna released Black Monolith, a massive collaboration with Dronny Darko. (You can read the review of Black Monolith here.)

The latest release, An Era of Torment through Reverse Alignment, will not hold any surprises for listeners familiar with Ajna. The dominating element of the sounds are drones, as was the case on previous releases. However, there has certainly been growth in the artist since his last release. An Era of Torment has a strong isolationist feel. The music in ways reminds me of the more subtle tracks by Svartsinn. The sounds are consistently dark and eerie. The drones are crafted with the utmost care. But, the overall experience is slow-paced. This slow pace gives the album a particular edge when searching for quality background music for studying, sleep aid, etc.

The album opens with “An Era of Torment I” which brings us slowly into the mix through drones of various texture, some light and hollow, while others are incredibly thick, distorted and crushing. Moving into the following track, “Infect My Soul”, Ajna incorporates a more active approach. The track is again dominated by the movement of drone-work, but there are field recordings throughout the track, which add an extra layer of depth not only for the sake of the music, but also to help paint a better picture of the surrounding environment. The track brings forth images of the end times, apocalyptic visions and a devastated environment reek havoc on the soul, slowly moving toward its full and irreversible corruption. The rest of An Era of Torment sticks more or less to the formats of these first two tracks. There are three parts to the title tracks “Era of Torment (I-III)”. In general, these “Era of Torment” tracks are more heavily reliant upon drone than the other three tracks on the album, giving the full experience a nice ebb and flow.

With An Era of Torment, Ajna proves that he is still developing as an artist, each album that comes along shows improvements on techniques and a focus of vision. Much of the music is incredibly subtle, so fans of the more active varieties of dark ambient may not find what they are looking for here. But, if you enjoy artists like Svartsinn, Kave, or Dronny Darko, that create passive, but intricately crafted drone-work, you are likely to find much to love on An Era of Torment.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Jarl – Hypnosis Colour – Review

Artist: Jarl
Album: Hypnosis Colour
Release date: 16 July 2017
Label: Reverse Alignment

Tracklist:
01. Hypnosis Colour

Jarl is the dark/drone ambient project of Erik Jarl of Norrköping, Sweden. Erik Jarl might be better known for his role in the power electronics project IRM, in which he collaborates with Martin Bladh and Mikael Oretoft. But Jarl is certainly his more active project, having released roughly two dozen albums since he started the project back in 2001. These albums have been released on a number of renowned labels including Malignant Records, Annihilvs Power Electronics and Autarkeia. But most recently, Jarl has been releasing the most consistently through Reverse Alignment, and that is where today’s album in question is released.

Hypnosis Colour is a successor to Amygdala Colours – Hemisphere Rotation from 2016. That album was described in its liner notes as: Electronic and acoustic sounds for the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. For the right and left side of Amygdala”. So we see, it was not really directed as a musical experience, so much as a psychological manipulation. Jarl started work on the next installment right after that album’s release.

His latest release, Hypnosis Colour, plays with this section of the brain in a different way. The amygdala is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory. Recent research¹ has shown that hypnosis makes it possible for the amygdala to be controlled. So Hypnosis Colour is still focused on that section of the brain which was initially explored in Amygdala Colours. Under hypnosis, the amygdala is able to be turned off, thereby stopping the mind and body from having emotional reactions, giving it time to heal any mental or even physical wounds more efficiently.

So we can see that Jarl is not simply delivering us music for casual listening. Hypnosis Colour is able to serve a specific purpose. If allowed, Hypnosis Colour could likely have profound effects on the brain. This stands to reason that the listening of this album should be given full attention. The listener should absolutely be wearing headphones, in order to correctly experience the panning of sounds between the left and right speakers. Furthermore, it should be experienced in a dark, quiet setting, where the listener is not likely to be disturbed by any external elements. If these conditions are adhered to, the listener will be able to fully appreciate the effect that Jarl is trying to achieve.

From a technical standpoint, Hypnosis Colour will exhibit many of the same sorts of sounds and techniques used on previous Jarl albums. The sounds are extremely nuanced. The album works in a steady progression, slowly building up layers upon layers of acoustic and electronic sounds, while the volume also steadily increases to its maximum. There is the same level of harshness to the release which would be expected by any seasoned fan of the Jarl sound. But, as is usual with Jarl, somehow he manages to take this harshness to a place that is mind-altering, but never overbearing or anxiety inducing. The feat is likely achieved with the help of Peter Andersson of raison d’être, who has mastered the majority of Erik Jarl’s releases as well as those by IRM over the years. For added effect, he has also used artwork created by Karolina Urbaniak, another long-time collaborator. Her cover art is a beautiful combination of light greens and blues swirling upon a black backdrop. The visuals could be called psychedelic, without any of the usual hippy connotations that often weigh this word down.

Long-time fans of Jarl will have every reason to love Hypnosis Colour. It takes his sound into a direction that makes the most sense yet in his career, the building of layers in order to create an actual mind-shift in the listener. Readers that are new to the sounds of Jarl should be warned that this isn’t light listening. You will have to approach this album in a different way than you would with the usual dark ambient release. It is meant to be an active listening experience and headphones are mandatory. With that said, Hypnosis Colour as well as it’s predecessor Amygdala Colours are two of the most technically and thematically successful releases of Erik Jarl’s to date, and both should be perfect entry points for beginners. It will be interesting to see if Jarl will continue on this path with his next release or if he has plans to switch gears into a different direction.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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