Tag: Soundtrack

Danny Mulhern – Reflections on a Dead Sea – Review

Artist: Danny Mulhern and London Contemporary Orchestra
Album: Reflections on a Dead Sea
Release date: 10 November 2017
Label: 1631 Recordings

01. Ganfuda
02. Captive
03. Night
04. Libya
05. Clandestine
06. Undercurrents
07. In the Hands of Strangers
08. The Dead Sea
09. My Child’s Name is Hope
10. Libya (Instrumental)

The cross-pollination of classical and ambient music is nothing new, as exemplified by more minimalist strains of the former coincided with the latter’s atmospheric entrenchment. Their shared evocative nature also gave them common ground in film scores, which Danny Mulhern’s newest outing proves as the London-based contemporary composer blurs the lines between modern classical and dark ambient to a magnificent effect.

Originally conceived as the score for a short film released last year called The Dead Sea, which follows the story of Libyan refugees caught trying to enter Europe, Reflections on a Dead Sea is the product of Mulhern’s collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Two violinists, a violist, a cellist, a harpist and a pianist join ranks and wash over the listener with arresting austerity.

The longest and most formed track on Reflections, “Libya” demonstrates Mulhern’s concern for modernized production within his orchestral pieces. Over a ritualistic chant, the song’s swaying lines find support from a sampled bass pulse and intentional use of white noise. This combination between traditional and synthetic sounds captivates with its gushing crescendos, yet remains intimate in its lurking dread. In fact, the album’s conclusion reprises this instrumental maze, proving its re-playability while emphasizing its instrumental strength.

Though certainly minimal, Reflections diverts from ambient conventions with its relative brevity. Five of these songs fall short of two-minute mark, none rise above five minutes and the album itself clocks in at 27. While those looking for something to soak in might find this underwhelming, Mulhern proves that length isn’t the only means of effectively transporting listeners out of a state of mind. Mulhern’s ensemble gives every track a unique stamp of musicality, pulling the album out of nebulous gloom and molding it into something undeniably memorable.

Whether it be the immense soundscape created by Oliver Coates’ cello and Vicky Lester’s harp in “Night” — along with piano interplay between Katherine Tinker and Mulhern — or the subterranean swells and thuds in “Clandestine,” these shorter cuts create their own vibes while bolstering the emotional weight of longer ones. Time limits certainly don’t stop “Undercurrents” and the title track from finding their respective footing in purposeful atonality, tremolo trills, and gargantuan drones (“My Child’s Name Is Hope” even pulls off a convincing arrival point in just over a minute). Of course, it goes without saying that the longer cuts allow Mulhern to truly shift reality for the listener.

Amorphous phrasing and chords envelop the listener in “Ganfuda” as the tonality of each instrument gushes through speakers and pulverizes the senses, while densely arranged cuts like “Captive” submerge the listener in monolithic textures. As it consistently avoids convention, the core of Reflections remains one of stark darkness.

“In The Hands Of Strangers” represents the most uplifting point of the record, but it still features an overarching sense of melancholy. The movie it bolsters certainly imparts beauty within suffering, and this song embodies this quality spectacularly. Harp and piano provide a melodic and modulative nucleus from which the other musicians blossom into heart-rending progressions. Though the tale he tells is marred with tragedy, Mulhern’s music still finds room to impart aspiration to the listener.

Minimalism and atmosphere are nothing new to contemporary composers like  Danny Mulhern, but Reflections on a Dead Sea bridges the gap between dark ambient and modern classical in ways not often heard on either ends of the spectrum. Rich compositional potential commingles with introspective sonic platitudes, yielding a profoundly stimulating experience.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Mortiis – The Unraveling Mind – Review

Artist: Mortiis
Album: The Unraveling Mind
Release date: 15 March 2017
Label: Omnipresence

01. Virosus – Silentium
02. Hollowed
03. Submit
04. Submit (Flux)
05. The Unraveling Mind
06. Redeemer
07. Submit (Subdued)
08. Surge
09. Zotheca
10. Thrall
11. Virosus – Amentia

Over the years Mortiis has become a very relevant figure in the industrial / post-industrial scene. Releasing some of his first albums through the Cold Meat Industry label, Mortiis was one of the pioneers of the label and the scene. While his music has made several huge shifts in content and style, his fan-base has more or less stayed consistent through the years. Always managing to pick up new listeners as others drop out.

Mortiis started his career in, what one might consider, the worst way possible. Joining the group Emperor in 1991 as their bassist, by the end of ’92 he had already been ejected from the band. What came next was quite unlikely in the grand scheme of things. Mortiis released a handful of albums over the next few years which would leave the record industry scratching their heads in confusion. Mortiis delved into a style which he called, dark dungeon music. The sounds were seemingly elementary in their depth. Using little more than some basic synth Mortiis managed a sound that was at once unique, basic, and dark.

While he may have left this style of sound behind following the release of The Stargate, almost two decades later, there would still be a massive following of his early (Era I) albums, and a whole genre of music blooming with Mortiis as a de facto trailblazer. What is now known as dungeon synth has been revived in a big way. Many labels are cropping up all over the world looking to get involved in this new wave of interest. With the cassette as their format of choice, dungeon synth fans are proud of their collections beyond the imagining of outsiders. Many of these outsiders still scratch their heads in confusion at what draws hordes of fans to this genre.

For the last twenty-ish years Mortiis has retained and gained popularity with a more generalized industrial rock sound. His goth meets Tolkien image and his creepy yet catchy vocals have done him well over the years, and it would seem that he has never looked back in regret upon this massive change in direction.

The Unraveling Mind hits us as sort of an anomaly even within the career of such an anomalous artist. The album is fully instrumental, but there are plenty of instruments and a fully developed industrial sound. And yet sometimes these sounds will slow to a crawl and mirror most closely to something that could be considered dark ambient. While this isn’t the norm for Mortiis, he seems to navigate this territory with just as much confidence and skill as he has in any of his other endeavors.

Part of the reason for such a different album comes from its original intended use. The Unraveling Mind was created as a soundtrack to the film Broken (2006). While the film used some of the music, many of the tracks never saw the light of day. Eleven years later, it is finally getting a proper release.

The Unraveling Mind is available in the digital format. But, the pride of this release can be seen in its vinyl pressings. There are no less than 5 variants produced, with a host of purchase options, including 5 test pressings and 13 copies which include original art by lauded dark artist Stanislav Krawczyk. The remaining 150 copies are divided evenly between red marble, clear yellow and dark blue. The first 50 red variants are hand-numbered in Mortiis own blood!

The music itself is unsurprising when considering that it was meant as a soundtrack to a horror film. There are some tracks like “Redeemer” which are quite upbeat with industrial drum tracks and distorted guitars. Some tracks, such as the opener “Virosus – Silentium” take on a more dark ambient vibe, coming close to something that could almost resemble a more active track by Atrium Carceri. “Surge” is one of the most subtle tracks on the album, with much of its focus on atmosphere and little attention to “musical” content. The rest of the album will fall somewhere within these extremes.

The Unraveling Mind is highly enjoyable and entertaining from beginning to end. Leaving me a bit surprised that Mortiis hasn’t put more attention into this area of his sound, which seems to fit him quite naturally. This certainly is not the usual Mortiis fare. Whether you are a fan of his Era I work, his later albums or neither, The Unraveling Mind is certainly worth a listen. I thoroughly enjoyed this side-step of Mortiis and would be pleased to hear him create more music in this vein over the coming years.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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