Tag: experimental (Page 1 of 2)

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

Bonedust – New Album Streaming in Full

Annihilvs is beyond honoured and privileged to present the Fruit of the Ash digipak CD-R by Bonedust in 2018.

Bonedust was formed as a performance art project in 2004 by vocalist/composer Chrissy Wolpert (director of The Assembly of Light Choir, frequent contributor to The Body) and interdisciplinary artist Pippi Zornoza (Rectrix, Vvltvre, Worms in Women and Cattle). They are joined on this incredible recording by vocalists Rebecca Mitchell (Whore Paint, House Red), Maralie Armstrong (Humanbeast, Valise), Natalja Kent (Querent) and vocalist/performer Neve Cross.

Fruit of the Ash is based on their 2011 theatrical performance of the same name, and was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Kris Lapke (Alberich) at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Dirt Palace in Providence, and Dungeon Beach in Brooklyn.

This release will also be available as a Bundle, including a cassette edition, a t-shirt, a one-sided picture disc lathe-cut 7inch single, and a copy of the digipak CD-R.

Bonedust – Fruit of the Ash

The album can be purchased now on Bandcamp.

Listen to Fruit of the Ash streaming in full and support underground music!

Check out more releases from the Annihilvs label on Bandcamp here.

Our recent reviews of other Annihilvs and Theologian releases:
Skincage – Unimagined Space – Review
Theologian – Forced Utopia – Review
Theologian – Reconcile – Review

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 4

Joseph Mlodik, of the dark ambient project Noctilucant, is back with the fourth episode of his dark ambient vlog, The Inner Sanctum. On this episode Joseph speaks about dark ambient projects Svartsinn and Infinexhuma along with some other projects which we would call “On the Periphery” here. As usual, it’s great to hear the thoughts of a long time dark ambient fan, one with an inner perspective as well, since he also releases music within the genre. We’re proud to continue sharing his vlog episodes here and we hope you are enjoying them!

Michael Barnett

Episode 4 of The Inner Sanctum has arrived! This time around I talk about a dark ambient classic from Svartsinn, and then diverge a bit and talk about some more experimental electronic, noise and even dungeon synth related releases, before jumping back to form with a relatively new and exciting pure dark ambient release. Enjoy the darkness!

Joseph Mlodik

Episode Chapters:
Intro 00:00
Svartsinn 01:23
Nothing 10:42
Wilt 18:18
Arvo Zylo 22:36
Intermission 26:30
Infernum 27:21
Infinexhuma 33:29
Outro/End Credits 42:43

Links To Featured Artists:

Svartsinn:
svartsinn.bandcamp.com

Nothing:
jwalton.bandcamp.com

Wilt:
wilt314.bandcamp.com

Arvo Zylo / No Part of it Records:
nopartofit.bandcamp.com

Infernum:
infernumds.bandcamp.com

Infinexhuma:
infinexhuma.bandcamp.com

Previous Episodes of The Inner Sanctum

Episode: 1, 2, 3

Tapes and Topographies – Signal to Noise – Review

Artist: Tapes and Topographies
Album: Signal to Noise
Release date: 17 August 2017
Label: Simulacra Records

Tracklist:
01. Answered in an Echo
02. Rain in Our Room
03. An Illustrious Career
04. Painted Bird
05. Resplendent
06. In Stockholm, Where I Saw You Last
07. Wiretaps
08. All the Ports are Empty
09. Signal to Noise
10. Both of Us, Regardless

So I must admit I’m running a bit behind on this one. I was first introduced to Tapes and Topographies as well as their label Simulacra Records last summer with this release, Signal to Noise. I immediately fell in love with it, but I like to give an album time to sit with me for a bit, especially if the artist is new to me. So, by the time I realized that Signal to Noise was possibly my favorite album of the summer, it was already well into fall. So now summer has returned, and with it Signal to Noise. As the heat crept up, this CD found its way right back into my player on long drives.

As Tear Ceremony and Sonogram, Todd Gautreau has been releasing albums since the early ’90s. But Tapes and Topographies seems to be a much newer project, with five total releases dating back to 2014. Signal to Noise is the third of these, and just prior to writing this I realized his latest, Opiates, will also definitely need to be heard thoroughly and likely covered here. To say Signal to Noise was my absolute favorite album of summer 2017 might be a stretch. But, it certainly has stuck with me in a more personal way than most of what I encountered through the year.

What will become immediately clear to the listener upon diving into Signal to Noise is that it is seeking to evoke a sense of nostalgia. I would argue that it is a heavily melancholic, but nevertheless cherished, nostalgia. The sort of feeling you get walking back into some childhood home, but its now overgrown and rotten, or less intensely, a home that has new occupants with a new color paint and a new mailbox. The memories are still just as beautiful, but the time has passed, the world is a different place now. Each time I revisit Signal to Noise, these feelings present themselves freshly, as if I am experiencing it again for the first time.

Songs like the opener, “Answered in an Echo”, are quite direct in their prodding of our subconscious. The track starts off with a high-mid ranged drone that gently sweeps through field recordings of some park on a summer day. Children are playing only feet away. Parents chat amongst one another more quietly. But there are other elements to “Answered in an Echo” which are more experimental and take it into a more interesting place for someone like myself that is not overly interested in drone heavy releases. I would make a comparison, for dark ambient fans, to the way that Elegi has incorporated a wide variety of instrumentation and techniques to create something that is at once nostalgic, peaceful, and experimental. There are different layers of drones, field recordings, and likely other actual instruments, which I haven’t specifically placed.

While “Answered in an Echo” is direct in its evocation of nostalgic memories, the whole album does not guide you so directly. Some tracks, like “An Illustrious Career” are sort of a glitchy form of classical. Soft and peaceful piano arrangements mingle with more strange noises. The connection here clearly being that we are able to remember these beautiful bits and pieces from our pasts, but not all that we remember is correct, and not all that happened is remembered. There is a lot of noise that accumulates through the years, muddying the signal, diminishing its purity. But, the scientific definition for signal to noise is: Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. A ratio higher than 1:1 (greater than 0 dB) indicates more signal than noise.

Another favorite to be mentioned is “In Stockholm, Where I Saw You Last”. This one adds some beautiful string instrumentation to the already delightful piano arrangements. This track actually includes very little of the more experimental sounds, focusing almost fully one the classical instruments. It makes for a nice little interlude in the album. It could evoke the feelings and/or memories of something like a moment of clarity. When for once life actually presented itself to you, no riddles included.

I can say equally positive things about the cover-art and digipak for this one. The open window, sun shining in upon a dirt floor is the perfect visual representation of this album’s emotion. A feeling of loneliness, a bit old and worn. But, the album doesn’t present itself as all sadness and despair. The memories are not quite yet gone, the moments live on in our minds, and maybe one day moments so beautiful will present themselves once again. Or is life only ever so beautiful in hindsight?

Written by: Michael Barnett

Sonologyst – Apocalypse – Review

Artist: Sonologyst
Album: Apocalypse
Release date: 15 September 2017
Label: Eighth Tower Records

Tracklist:
01. Hypnosis
02. Sulphurous rain
03. Abandoned city
04. Stay in your homes!
05. Global threat
06. Dying Oceans
07. System collapse
08. Towers of sand
09. Prayers from nowhere

In a few short years, Sonologyst has managed to place himself in the collective consciousness of many that follow the dark ambient as well as experimental ambient genres. Raffaele Pezzella of Napoli, Italia, got his musical career up and running in 2011 with his proper debut, Ipotesi del continuo. He used the momentum from this to secure follow-up releases through labels such as: Petroglyph Music, Gravity’s Rainbow Tapes, Attenuation Circuit, and Cold Spring Records over the next few years. Meanwhile, his own label, Unexplained Sounds Group (USG), began to take shape and started a progressive release schedule which is still keeping its momentum. Then, in 2017, Pezzella started a sub-label of USG, named Eighth Tower Records.

Eighth Tower Records is where the career of Pezzella truly makes its collision with This Is Darkness. While experimental ambient releases are certainly fair game for us, specifically dark themed experimental (though thus-far less experimental than much of the material on USG) ambient releases are even more in line with our preferred sound palette. While about half of their releases so far have been compilations (with some great talent always involved, though not always with exclusive tracks), the other half focuses on some great up & coming or under-the-radar talent, including: Aseptic Void, Urs Wild and Hezaliel, to name a few.

Apocalypse is the most recent release by Sonologyst, on Eighth Tower Records. This album focuses on the apocalypse, not necessarily through any single event, but through snippets of events, landscapes through soundscape, and mental states. I will say, immediately, this album feels less experimental and more in line with the range of sounds we would hear on a more traditional dark ambient release. There are, however, moments throughout the album where Pezzella’s fondness for the experimental certainly still shines through. When it does, it has a stronger and more benign effect on me than would otherwise be the case.

I’ve been considering Apocalypse for a good while. Since it’s release, it’s been in steady rotation here. What started as my favorite release yet by Sonologyst, has turned into one of my favorite releases of 2017. So many tracks on this album are quite memorable and are able to evoke a great deal of emotion from the listener, as we are taken along on the ride through this apocalyptic soundscape. Tracks like “Sulphurous rain” and “Dying oceans” are incredibly relaxing, minimal in design, but incredibly rich in emotion. Particularly on “Dying oceans” there is a sound, that may or may not be a dolphin, which seems to be crying out in abject terror, as the oceans of Earth lose their last life sustaining properties, a mass extinction of their inhabitants.

“Hypnosis” is another favorite for me on Apocalypse. It sounds much like something that would be released through the ritual ambient label, Aural Hypnox. A gentle and relaxing loop runs throughout the track. A calm male voice, echoed by a female counterpart, repeats a phrase throughout “Hypnosis”. Topping off the track is a high pitched frequency which lingers atop the mix, making slight shifts. The combination of all these elements is a wonderfully hypnotic track. Starting the album in this way is quite clever, as it seeks to pull the listener into its trance, before the full experience can properly begin.

Then there are a few tracks, like “Stay in your homes!” and “Global Threat”, that incorporate snippets of sound from old films which focused on these end-time themes. All these elements from the different tracks together form an ebb and flow throughout the album, giving the listener all the right cues and periods of time to contemplate the greater experience, to meditate on our own versions of these stories.

Apocalypse is my favorite Sonologyst release to date, no question. This album was crafted using all the same principles and techniques that I am looking for in a well-rounded dark ambient album. The themes, flow, and technical prowess are all working in coordination toward the perfect end-product. I would recommend Apocalypse to any fans of experimental ambient, but also to fans of the more common forms of contemporary dark ambient. Apocalypse really does have a little something here for everyone across the spectrum and it’s presented in a way that shouldn’t alienate those who may like one element here less than the others. Though there are only a few years of releases behind Sonologyst, he again proves why he’s been taken so seriously in this scene of music that can often eat musicians alive, without ever a word of explanation.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Further reading:
Raffaele Pezzella recently contributed his knowledge of music studios to our massive article Dark Ambient 101, you can check it out here.

Sky Burial – Chapel Image – Review

Artist: Sky Burial
Album: Chapel Image
Release date: 1 October 2017
Label: Wrotycz Records

Tracklist:
01. Chapel Image

 

It’s been a while since the last time I reviewed a Sky Burial album. But it’s one of these projects which are difficult to forget about, even when it is quiet about them for a longer period of time, because each release by Mike Page is like an epic journey, like watching the Earth from the perspective of the stratosphere, when you get the bigger picture. Literally and metaphorically.

This time we get only one monumental track lasting 45 minutes. “Chapel Image” came out through the effort of Wrotycz Records from Poznan, Poland. Iwona and Szymon produce about 2-3 releases a year, yet you can always be sure of the high quality and – what’s perhaps the most important – their honest and unconditional love of each and every record they work on.

And what’s not to love about “Chapel Image”? Maybe the cover as I really find this picture rather ugly. As for the music though, once again we get an epic ambient form in equal proportions deriving from the dark branch of the genre, the ethereal and the noisy/experimental one. The music is waving, slowly changing shapes and atmospheres, you don’t even notice when the turbulent “earthly” noise transforms into a spectral journey into the unknown. It pulsates slowly like the cosmos combining the massive drones with the multitude of different sounds and effects, natural and digital.

You may think of dozens of expressions to describe Sky Burial music, but “intimate” or “austere” definitely are not one of these. Michael Page surely knows how to overwhelm the listener with his vision and this album proves it once again.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn

Hoor-Paar-Kraat – The Place of the Crossing – Review

Arist: Hoor-Paar-Kraat
Album: The Place of the Crossing
Release date: 14 January 2017
Label: Chthonic Streams

Tracklist:
01. Part One
02. Part Two

Hoor-Paar-Kraat is one of the musical projects of surrealist painter Anthony Mangicapra. He’s been releasing music for over 15 years on various labels. However, my first encounter with this musician was through this latest release, The Place of the Crossing, on Chthonic Streams.

The sounds of Hoor-Paar-Kraat fall somewhere between the realms of experimental, ambient, dark ambient, noise and neo-classical among probably several other potential tags. Needless to say, with this wide range of genre associations the music is quite interesting throughout the 22-minutes of this cassette release.

There are only two tracks on this album, which are unnamed. The only cue of a separation between the two tracks is the segregation between two sides of the cassette. The music on Part 1 is a gradually progressing aural experience. The sounds incorporated seem to be almost too numerous to fully document. The track starts off in a complete silence that slowly introduces some field recordings of various sounds which amount to maybe something shuffling around on a table. From there is presumably an acoustic guitar which is heavily treated with delay, subtle drones fade in and out of the mix, and a plethora of other natural and/or synthetic instruments come and go. There seem to be tape-loops making up at least some portion of the foundation of this track, though the experimental nature of the track makes it hard to fully settle on any one concrete conclusion. There is a bit of a lull in the middle of the track, before it gradually picks up intensity in the second half; harsher drones becoming the dominant element.

Part 2 starts off abruptly with the sounds of classical music being heavily manipulated, likely by means of manually spinning a record, forward, backward, slowly and then much faster and back again. These manipulated classical sounds continue on for several minutes, at times feeling like something that could be comparable to the vinyl manipulations of The Caretaker. By the time we reach the middle of the track, these classical manipulations have faded and been replaced by something much more electronically/digitally oriented. Strange noises, likely originating from some sort of synthesizer effects provide a base for the soundscapes with vocals being played in reverse just beneath the surface of the mix. Like the previous track, as we move toward the end the sounds become harsher before slowly fading back into silence.

While it is necessary to use words like harsh and noise to describe some of this music, these elements never move into a territory which would become overwhelming. The beauty of The Place of the Crossing is its ability to be at once heavily experimental and occasionally noisy without ever taking it too far. Restraint is used perfectly to keep the sounds right on this threshold without ever going too far into the harsh noise or chaotically experimental territories. Though these elements create the entirety of the album, it still feels like an often relaxing and always interesting musical experience.

The physical release of this album is presented beautifully by Chthonic Streams in the form of a simplistic yet elegant looking cassette accompanied by an autographed art print and single sheet of high quality paper which presents the albums credits. These are all delivered in a black portfolio box.

The cassette seems to be the perfect format for an at times noisy and experimental release of this sort. The manipulations of the soundscapes presented by Hoor-Paar-Kraat will quite likely leave the listener a bit concerned on the first play-through as there are sections where the music literally sounds like the tape is being eaten by the tape player. I find this to be a clever and entertaining element of the product. Its as if the musician is breaking through that fourth wall, giving them the ability to further mess with the mind of the listener.

As my first foray into the works of the Chthonic Stream label, I find this release to be a pleasant listen. It has enough diversity of sounds to keep the listener thoroughly entertained on an active listen, while simultaneously never pushing the boundaries so far as to be a complete disruption on a more passive listening session. The physical release is well thought-out and seems to be masterfully prepared. I would certainly recommend this to listeners who dabble in experimental music. The album is just experimental enough to be a novel experience, without ever going so far as to sound chaotic, a balance which is often missed on these sorts of endeavors.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Rafael Anton Irisarri – The Shameless Years – Review

Artist: Rafael Anton Irisarri
Album: The Shameless Years
Release date: 25 August 2017
Label: Umor Rex

Tracklist:
01. Indefinite Fields
02. RH Negative
03. Bastion
04. Sky Burial
05. Karma Krama
06. The Faithless

Rafael Anton Irisarri releases a monolithic exploration of hominin calamity.

Ambient music falls under a distinct spectrum of effect. Some artists evoke alternate mental spaces, others provide a space for listeners to reconcile themselves to the present world, and many accomplish a bit of both. New York’s post-minimalist composer Rafael Anton Irisarri has traversed several ends of this spectrum, but his latest effort comes as an austere acknowledgement of the human experience in all of its dismal magnitude. The Shameless Years stands as one of Irisarri’s most honest and passionate releases to date.

It’s hard to avoid falling into despair when looking at the world’s current state of affairs, but Irisarri has no intention of denying any unhappy realities. Through gargantuan dream symphonies, The Shameless Years imparts a coming-to-terms story over-arched by lamentations about mankind’s regression into an audacious era.

These six tracks remain shrouded in murky soundscapes, non-linear structures and dynamic plateaus. However, “Indefinite Fields” is immediately the modulative might of The Shameless Years. Spellbinding refrains navigate through a maze of oceanic white noise, gently pushing along synthetic hypnotism and seismic chord changes. The following “RH Negative” further front-loads the album’s melodic qualities, capturing the desolation left in the wake of intolerant outlooks. Irisarri stacks layer upon layer of rumbling sub-bass and distorted guitar strains on a cinematic lead as clanking percussion pushes it to an overwhelming climax of melancholic splendour.

Though the meat of The Shameless Years revels in nebulous gloom, Irisarri still wears his heart on his sleeve as he grapples with his finality. “Bastion” heralds the album’s descent into droning immensity, simultaneously pulverizing and assuaging the senses with its blend of refined arrangement and aural oblivion.

Irisarri’s vast orchestrations partly spring from the recognition that he has now outlived his father at only 40 years of age, the resulting textural cushion allows listeners to ride a transcendent crescendo towards profound acceptance of their limitations within a chaotic universe. “Sky Burial” returns to melody as quasi-choral inflections soar above suffusive meanderings, but Irisarri stays true to form by never fully locking into a form. His amorphous notation gives a cosmic perspective on existential turmoil.

The Shameless Years arguably reaches its most impactful territory with two collaborative pieces with Iranian ambient storyteller Siavash Amini. Though contrasted in their approaches, these songs raise an overpass linking two countries separated by violence, war and fear. Amani and Isarri are united by their middle-eastern heritage, yet the path between Iran and New York has become marred by horrific adversity. Their tandem effort shines a light of dismay and empathy into a wounded world — embodying the groans of the afflicted and the ache of those who would intercede.

“Karma Krama” juxtaposes angelic swells over cavernous feedback walls and abrasive static undertones, spotlighting the plight of the disenfranchised and the negligence of the privileged like a train-wreck happening in slow motion. Every layer forms a more detailed portrait of the struggle to preserve innocence, and its culmination signals the full realization of pandemic sorrow in a time where nothing is sacred and life is cheap.

Massive upsurges acquire a softer touch during the final and longest track. A fragile melody ushers “The Faithless” in, and out of its 13 minutes, offers the most vulnerable cut on the record. Distant noise-scapes and eerie bass gradually give this moving line buoyancy within its subterranean atmosphere. The song surfaces from the depths with deliberate grace via inconspicuously added drones, suspending itself over a foundation of shimmering arpeggiations and murmuring sound collages. After the final percussive clicks echo out, listeners are left to ponder their sonic journey.

The Shameless Years feels endless until it’s over, mirroring the harrowing dichotomy between alarming rapidity and agonizing sluggishness that defines the human experience. Glorious arrival points last forever until they fade in the same way the slowburn of reticent ruminations seems indefinite until unforeseen escalation whisks it away… and it all ends before one has time to truly comprehend what they just experienced.

Multiple listens and a continuous internal dialogue about the subject matter are required to fully appreciate the calamitous odyssey this album harbors within its sprawling sound collages. Its exploration of mankind’s frailty and failures compasses astride a conciliate raft of abstract sublimity. The Shameless Years is not only a bulwark of post-minimalist music, but a stunning account of the deepest insecurities of Rafael Anton Irisarri and his most lofty appraisals of stricken generations.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Leonard Donat – Deer Traps – Review

Artist: Leonard Donat
Album: Deer Traps
Release date: 30 June 2017
Label: Blackjack Illuminist Records

Tracklist:
01. Fog Horn Deer Trap
02. …And Then It Materialized
03. Alteglofsheim Night Pedal
04. Forest Fire

Alexander Leonard Donat is best known for his project Vlimmer. Vlimmer is a genre bending project which touches on dark ambient, darkgaze, darkwave, indie and krautrock among other things. His latest release Deer Traps is released as Leonard Donat also on the Blackjack Illuminist Records label, where most of his works can be found.

Deer Traps takes a significantly more subtle approach than albums under the Vlimmer name. The album is decidedly lo-fi, giving it a sort of warm rusty feel that could almost touch on the emotions conjured by The Caretaker and the like. Yet, contrary to the comparison, the actual sounds beneath this hissing and cracking are presented in the most minute of detail.

The opening track, “Fog Horn Deer Trap” is a beautifully somber experience. The hiss never subsides through the progression of the track, but serves as a contrast to the other, more polished sounds. There is a repetitive piano section that adds a significant portion of the emotional charge. Field recordings of birds chirping in the not-so-far distance add even further to this inviting nature. And yet, beneath this beauty and comfort lies a layer of brooding drone-work, almost harsh in its mildly high pitched register. The combination and contrast of these sounds makes the perfect recipe for fans of dark ambient. There is a pervading sense of darkness, always lying just beneath the surface, like a disturbing memory or unwanted task which keeps mockingly presenting itself.

While the opening and closing tracks fall short of the seven minute mark, the middle two tracks are both between thirteen and fourteen minutes a piece. This long form center of the album is fitting for the sounds Leonard Donat is creating. While there is always plenty happening, and a variety of instruments/software being used to create the soundscapes, the music manages to hold a passive element, which overpowers any sense of activity. In this way, the music takes on a timelessness. The balance between activity and passivity make for a versatile album, giving listeners the ability to use it as an atmosphere enhancement, or to close one’s eyes and fully focus on the music.

The packaging of the album seem to be quite representative of the project as a whole. The cover-art is a simplistic piece of art, in execution, yet it holds enough mystery to allow the listeners’ minds to ponder its greater significance. The release is presented on ultra-limited edition cassettes (only 15 copies), which all have been hand-painted with the word “trap”. There is also a CD version, again hand-painted. The CD comes in a handmade sleeve, along with two separate art photos.

I have enjoyed the previous works of Alexander Leonard Donat as his Vlimmer project. But, the active and slightly rock leaning nature of its style keeps me at arms distance as a reviewer. This latest release was a pleasant surprise which I found myself returning to over and over, especially on long nights with my face buried in a book. The music should be particularly interesting to fans of more active forms of dark ambient as well as those who love to witness the various attempts at originality by the often-audacious experimental genres.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Rosalie Mulder – Interview

Interview with: Rosalie Mulder
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Rosalie Mulder is quite the unique dark ambient artist. At the age of 17 she has managed to release her debut album on the Minnesota based Dark Winter label. Dark Winter has released some memorable albums since founding back in 2002, with releases by well-known artists such as Alio Die and Steve Roach. In recent years their output has slowed considerably, but the quality has remained consistent. Rosalie Mulder started her journey with dark ambient several years ago, experimenting with music for the fun of it in her father’s studio. Chords of Chaos is the culmination of these experimentations. When speaking with her, it is quite obvious that she is still a young artist, with a whimsical approach to her output and just beginning to find her place in the music world. However, the sounds on Chords of Chaos are quite experimental and interesting, it seems that as her experience progresses in this field, we will almost certainly see some more amazing albums coming from her in the future. So without further ado, let’s hop into the conversation with Rosalie!

The following track is “Chords of Chaos” from her debut album.


Michael: First off, congratulations on your debut release! It is not everyday that someone is able to make their first full length release on a label at such a young age! Can you first tell us a little bit about the concept for Chords Of Chaos?

Rosalie: The concept was kind of vague. I tried to give the right feeling to the music.  The feeling I felt was like a dream or another world and it seemed a good concept for this album.

Michael: Each track on Chords Of Chaos is ten minutes in length. What was the reasoning for doing it this way?

Rosalie: Oh you noticed… I heard around 10 min would be a good length for a dark ambient song. I am weird.

Michael: Ah, so you decided on this from the very beginning?

Rosalie: Yes, when I was finishing the first track, “Yoru”.

Michael: I see that you have used a variety of live instruments on this album including: lap harp, guitar, flute, drums and your own voice. Can you tell us a bit about how you learned to play such a wide range of instruments?

Rosalie: Oh I didn’t say I play them well, just making random cool sounds I guess. Like, I even played some weird flute, really out of tune, but it still worked out. We have a lot of instruments at home to use.

Michael: When did you first start taking interest in music?

Rosalie: Around age 12 I guess.

Michael: How long have you been listening to dark ambient music?

Rosalie: Well, I don’t remember. My dad played it a lot when I was a kid.

Michael: Did your father teach you many of the techniques you used to make this album, or are these ideas that came to you on your own, after hearing his and other music?

Rosalie: Well he kind of taught me how to use the software, when he played dark ambient and other stuff so I learned what it was. Then, some years after that, I experimented with sounds and it ended up becoming this.

Michael: How long have you known that you wanted to make an album like this?

Rosalie: I don’t know, I just started making songs, selected a few and made it into an album.

Michael: How long did the whole process take once you started writing and recording?

Rosalie: No idea. I took my time. It took a few years, with breaks.

Michael: What was your favorite instrument to use on Chords Of Chaos?

Rosalie: Oh, the little harp was fun. I have no idea how you are actually supposed to play it, but it made nice sounds.

Michael: What is your favorite piece of equipment in your studio space?

Rosalie: I use a laptop to produce and record the music. There is a studio but I like to make music around different places.

Michael: What were some of the places or emotions that you drew on to make this album?

Rosalie: I don’t know, I tried to produce some kind of feeling in the songs.
To show my idea of an interesting atmosphere, like dreaming music in a way.

Michael: Do you listen to dark ambient other than your own and your father’s music? If so, who are some of your favorite or most influential artists?

Rosalie: Hmmm, I listen to a lot of uh stuff… I haven’t really heard my father’s music in years, hehehe. I remember it being good though. I have listened to Abelcain in the past, though more the breakcore-ish stuff. I dont really listen to others in the style much.

Michael: Did you create the art for Chords Of Chaos, if so what was your motivation behind it?

Rosalie: Oh yes I made it. Well, the motivation was just trying to make images that fit the feeling of the album and my style.

Michael: Do you create music in different genres? Or, are you only creating dark ambient style music now?

Rosalie: I’ve tried some other stuff too, like programing a metalish song and trying to learn to play it on my actual guitar too. Now I don’t even know what to call most of it. I’ve been experimenting a lot.

Michael: Do you have plans for writing another dark ambient album?

Rosalie: Now that Chords of Chaos is finished, I’ve started working on a second album.

Chords of Chaos is available from Dark Winter as a free download here.

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