Tag: Review (Page 1 of 14)

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

Cadabra Records – The Call of Cthulhu – Review

Artists:
Andrew Leman (Spoken Word)
Theologian (Soundscapes)

Album: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
Release date: Spring 2018
Label: Cadabra Records

Cadabra Records has effectively carved out a niche for themselves with their H.P. Lovecraft vinyl series. It might seem strange to essentially buy an audiobook without the convenience, but their pressing of Lovecraft’s 1929/1930 work Fungi From Yuggoth takes the story’s effect to unimaginable heights. These projects aren’t mere reading. They’re gripping, haunting works of art in and of themselves.

Andrew Leman’s utterance of Lovecraft’s words is harrowing enough in and of itself, but the inclusion of post-industrial legends Theologian was a true stroke of genius. Their nebulous soundscapes embody Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown to a degree no other artist could hope to reach. Given how great Fungi turned out, it only made sense of Cadabra to unite the same artists once more to tackle Lovecraft’s magnum opus—The Call of Cthulhu.

A palpable aura sets into place right when the needle hits the wax, and only tightens its grip on the listener’s senses. Listening to this thing in the dark at high volumes is profoundly nightmarish, as the speaker and the musicians work to magnify the dreadful feeling The Call of Cthulhu elicits. The chemistry between Leman and Theologian is unprecedented in this type of media. Their respect for the source material is evident, as each sound and word resonates at the core of Lovecraft’s chilling narrative.

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While Theologian’s input on this release doesn’t stray far from amorphous noisescapes, their sonic tides rise and fall in synchronization with the story’s emotional crescendos. As Leman gets more impassioned, the soundscape acquires more layers of paranoid sound. The result gives a dumbfounding fervor to protagonist Francis Wayland Thurston’s descent into madness. Lovecraft always made a point to detail the mental fallout experienced by his protagonists after beholding the Great Old Ones, which this recording mirrors as Leman’s tone of voice gets increasingly agitated.

Leman and Theologian’s respective contributions were obviously made to be mutually exclusive, but this project keeps both the reading and the music compelling. Leman’s reading would be captivating without Theologian backing him up, just like Theologian’s finely-crafted ambiance could transfix by itself.

Theologian made a good call to avoid trying too hard to evoke each plot-point as it happens. The musician instead supports the overall atmosphere, working tirelessly to up the ante as the chilling narrative takes its course. There are a few nuanced additions to drive some of the most terrifying moments home. When police official John Raymond hears the ritual drums that lead him to the Cthulhu cult’s terrifying procession, a very quiet, but deliberate rhythmic pulse creeps into the aura.

Instead of trying too hard to musically interpret the story, Theologian intuitively creates a head-space for the listener. It almost works like subliminal messaging, preparing the ears and mind for Lovecraft’s words. This release forces listeners to contend with monsters beyond comprehension after being whisked away to Lovecraft’s macabre world.

For vinyl lovers who haven’t read Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, this is the perfect introduction. For anyone already familiar with The Call of Cthulhu, this provides a re-experience like no other. This album’s immersive ambiance and expressive reading is nothing short of spectacular. It takes nothing from the source material, only adding to its impact as a seminal work of horror and weird fiction. Cadabra may well have outdone themselves with this project.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an exclusive full album stream of Live at Mir!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

Arktau Eos – Erēmos – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

Dahlia’s Tear – Through the Nightfall Grandeur – Review

Artist: Dahlia’s Tear
Album: Through the Nightfall Grandeur
Release date: 16 October 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. Encroaching Shadows Beckon to Chase the Fleeing Light
02. The Keeper of Broken Dreams and Tattered Spirits
03. Forlorn Whispers on a Moonlit Path
04. The Frozen Echoes of the Endless Moor
05. Bitter Silence of Desolate Steps
06. Drowning in Delusions of Grandeur
07. Lamenting Memories Long Past in the Remnants of Darkness
08. Drifting into the Void Grasping at Fading Starlight
09. Lost in the Crystalline Enigma

Dahlia’s Tear is a dark ambient project out of Stockholm, Sweden by sole member Anile D. Dahlia’s Tear debuted in 2005 with Harmonious Euphonies For Supernatural Traumas Mesmerising Our Existences in Radient Corpuscle and was followed up in 2007 with My Rotten Spirit of Black. Yet, these two releases remained quite elusive, and have only recently been uploaded to the personal Bandcamp page of Dahlia’s Tear. Therefore, my knowledge of the project starts with their masterpiece Under Seven Skies, also from 2007 and released on the now defunct Thonar Records. The strength of Under Seven Skies  would lead to Dreamspheres in 2012 which was released on the legendary Cold Meat Industry.

This all seemed to be leading toward Dahlia’s Tear becoming a first-class name within the dark ambient genre. But, after their one-track inclusion on the Cryo Chamber compilation Behind the Canvas of Time in 2012, Dahlia’s Tear disappeared for the next six years. Each time I listened back to Under Seven Skies and Dreamspheres I would think of that track on Cryo Chamber, and hope that one day there may be a new album by Dahlia’s Tear released through that label. Dahlia’s Tear did, indeed, keep in contact with Cryo Chamber throughout these years, and the long-awaited follow-up to Dreamspheres has finally arrived!

Though plenty of time has passed, the core of the Dahlia’s Tear sound has remained intact. Those familiar with Dreamspheres and Under Seven Skies will find many of the elements they loved are still being incorporated on Through the Nightfall Grandeur. Each track is distinctly musical, in comparison to many dark ambient releases, on Cryo Chamber or otherwise. Drones are constantly morphing and shifting. Piano arrangements feature often and distinctly in the mix. The female voice is incorporated throughout the album, taking the form of short, spoken word passages, (more in line with Dreamspheres than with the vocal performance by Carline Van Roos of Aythis and Lethian Dreams on Under Seven Skies).

One of the most moving elements of the Dahlia’s Tear sound, for me, has been its blending of the musical, dreamy, light-hearted elements with harsher industrial field recordings and tones. Again, this aspect of their sound is still intact, and further honed. This contrast is perfectly displayed on tracks like “Drowning in Delusions of Grandeur”, where the piano, female whispers, and distant chants, all play beautifully off one another, creating something that is at once familiar and warm, but equally harsh and remote.

The opening track, “Encroaching Shadows Beckon to Chase the Fleeing Light”, shows off the use of field recordings and subtle drone to create a dark but vibrant atmosphere. We get a real sense of the evolution of Dahlia’s Tear with this one. While, the following track “The Keeper of Broken Dreams and Tattered Spirits” seems like a direct continuation of the styles incorporated on Under Seven Skies. It is nice to see how this musician manages to retain the magic of these previous releases, while also moving into new terrain.

The cover-art for Through the Nightfall Grandeur seems to also nod to the artwork from Under Seven Skies, with thick fog and clouds rolling across the mountainous landscape. Though here there doesn’t seem to be such a connection to alien technology as was on display with Under Seven Skies. While the cover-art was created by Simon Heath, the album was not mastered by him, as is almost always the case with Cryo Chamber releases. Instead it has been mastered by Jeff M. in the U.K. The vocal performances, as well as words, on the album have all been contributed by one Michelle Rippy, who also contributed to Dreamspheres in 2012.

Dahlia’s Tear has always been one of my favorite dark ambient musicians when I’m in the mood for something more musical and more active than most dark ambient releases. For anyone familiar with Dahlia’s Tear, I think you will likely agree that this album is equal if not superior to his previous output. For anyone new to the sounds of Dahlia’s Tear, I highly recommend this dark ambient project. I can’t overstate my pleasure that I can cover something new from them, when I was often unsure if I’d ever hear anything new from them ever again. It’s also great to see that they’ve found a home on Cryo Chamber, where their music will certainly now become familiar to many of the more recent fans of this genre.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Haft Teppeh – Yume – Review

Artist: Haft Teppeh
Album: Yume
Release date: 19 March 2018
Label: Autarkeia

Tracklist:
01. Hedonic
02. Sibylline
03. Help Me Sleep [eternally]
04. Where Children’s Dreams Go To Sleep
05. Arterele Viselor/Hipnoza
06. Yami Ni Maboroshi
07. The Practice of Solitude
08. Anomalie
09. Wails of the Oblivious
10. Lucarna

Haft Teppeh is a new dark ambient project out of București, Romania. Quietly released through Autarkeia, Yume almost passed my notice. Immediately upon hearing the opening track I realized this was not an album to be missed. For me, the beauty of Haft Teppeh is in their ability to delve into the waters of several different dark ambient styles flawlessly. But one thing that stands out, is their similarity to the general atmosphere of early 2000s dark ambient musicians from the Scandinavian area.

The albums themes lie in several areas, which may or may not be clashing with each other. (Or just misunderstandings on my part.) The first relevant factor is Haft Teppeh itself, which seems to refer to an ancient site near modern Khuzestan in Iran. Haft Teppeh appears to have been in use during the middle Elamite period. Many of the ritual elements in the album, as well as the similarities to a project like Herbst9, would certainly make sense within the context of this connection.

The other relevant factor is the allusion, in track titles, to sleep/hypnosis/prophetic vision. On “Anomalie” we hear a meandering drone with a backdrop of strange, glitchy, almost otherworldly, noises. This eerie soundscape is complemented by a passage being spoken in a sort of dreamy half-whisper. This track gives me strong vibes of a combination between Cities Last Broadcast and Hymnambulae, as well as much of the Aural Hypnox catalog.

Combining these two ideas, we could imagine that Yume may be representing the story of a mystic tapping into their sibylline powers to connect with the distant past. The combination of ritual elements with things much more subtle helps this picture, we witness the ritual preparations, and then we slowly move further into this lucid hypnotic state, picturing ourselves in distant times and lands, far from our actual reality.

Putting questions of interpretation aside, one can come to this album with no sense of context and thoroughly enjoy every moment. Haft Teppeh is a well honed dark ambient project, which seems incredibly polished for a debut. I have already made references above to some of the projects I would compare with Haft Teppeh. Still there are other incredibly dreamy tracks, like “Help Me Sleep [eternally]” and “Where Children’s Dreams Go To Sleep” which could almost hide convincingly among the works of Kammarheit. As this is the third project by Pär Boström which I’ve mentioned here, I am willing to assume Haft Teppeh are quite the fans of his various musical works. We can also see some possible nods to the aesthetics of Aural Hypnox in Haft Teppeh‘s use of initials instead of artists’ full names.

In further comparisons, “Yami Ni Maboroshi” opens up with a subtle synth/drone which I immediately associate with some of Angelo Badalamenti‘s work on Lost Highway. But this connection only holds for a split second before the track fully reveals its ritual elements. This one is a highly meditative track, with the relaxing drones and gentle percussions clashing against the occasional high registered tone or momentary field of static. It all melts perfectly into something that gradually moves further into the realms of raison d’être, and here again, Haft Teppeh do honor to the connection.

As a debut, Yume is a triumph. Haft Teppeh are creating music which absolutely astounds me to imagine it might be their first foray into dark ambient. I am almost, but not, convinced that there might be some well-known dark ambient musician hiding behind the initials “HT”. Yume is currently only available in cassette through Autarkeia.org or digitally on the Haft Teppeh bandcamp page. An album like this really deserves an expanded release, in CD or vinyl, and hopefully we will see that. But, regardless I must assume they are already hard at work on whatever might come next. With a debut like this one, I really can’t wait.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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