Tag: Drone (Page 2 of 2)

Ajna – An Era of Torment – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

Jarl – Hypnosis Colour – Review

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

Tracklist:
01. Hypnosis Colour

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

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