Tag: ritual ambient (Page 1 of 4)

Guest Sessions: Black Mara Records – Dark Tribal Mix

Black Mara Records has been one of the most interesting labels to emerge in the last few years. Only releasing music since 2015, Black Mara immediately stood out because of their attention to releasing the music of top-notch artists. They also have drawn much attention for their focus on beautifully realized physical releases. Each release has its own style and packaging. Special editions come with everything from handcrafted incense to leather-bound books.

It is with much pleasure that This Is Darkness offers you a mix crafted by the man that runs Black Mara Records, Дмитрий Федощенко! Enjoy the mix, and if you hear something you like please support the artist with a download or purchase of one of their exquisite physical releases!

You can find links to each track’s album on Bandcamp below the Mixcloud player!

If you find value in what we do here at This Is Darkness, please consider sharing this article on your social medias!

Cheers,
Michael

01. 00:00 Sol Mortuus – Muv-Anki
02. 09:00 Creation VI – Mountain Roots
03. 14:50 Nubiferous – Witching Rings
04. 19:35 Paul Minesweeper – Solid Heaven
05. 22:35 AFFECTVS & Lamia Culta- Sama Atar
06. 24:06 Северный Лес – Отречение
07. 25:20 Purba – Ritual Two
08. 28:07 Ad Lucem Tenebratum – Autarky
09. 30:53 Troum – Aerugo

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

VRNA – La Vecchia Madre – Review

Artist: VRNA
Album: La Vecchia Madre
Release date: November 2018
Label: Old Europa Cafe

Tracklist:
01. Of Great Silence
02. Ritual of Self-Burial
03. Empty
04. Cenere
05. Campi di Polvere
06. La Vecchia Madre – Ritual of Awakening

La Vecchia Madre is not streaming online,
but you can hear some other music by VRNA below:

VRNA (Urn/Ossuary), occasionally labeled as Urna, is the industrial/ritual/dark ambient project of Gianluca Martucci. Martucci has been creating music under this guise out of Italy since 1998. Starting his career with releases on Slaughter Productions, VRNA has been a solid, but under-the-radar, project which has caught the attention of those with discerning ears for two decades. Tattoo artist by trade, Martucci uses VRNA as his bridge into more mystical realms. Referring to the music as “…reflect[ing] the vacuous psychedelia of an ancient mind casting spells in a modern world” we can see that the sounds created here are intended to work on a higher level than that of a passive-listening ambient release.

The album is incredibly dynamic, at moments slowing to a meditative lull and others reaching moments of utter chaos and frenzy. The overall quality of the production seems to deteriorate at moments, writhing in raw energies before returning to a perfectly balanced state. Percussive elements range from dispersed single beats to fully realized tribal dance rhythms to droning silences. As a ritual ambient piece, it takes the listener through a full experience, seemingly able to direct states of consciousness in strange ways, if one were to properly open themselves to it.

“Of Great Silence” starts with a mid-high range oscillating airy drone. Male chants enter the mix after a few moments. The chants slowly fade into a distorted oscillation, mimicking the dronework. “Ritual of Self-Burial” is simultaneously unnerving and serene. It seems to convey a sense of destructive action with perfectly calm intent. This feeling is certainly reinforced by the track title. This is quite an amazing track in comparison to other similar attempts at this style. It really showcases Martucci’s natural grasp of ritual, industrial and ambient music and how they can all converge in the hands of the right aural alchemists.

After the chaos of the previous track, we move into “Empty”, another highlight of the album, which keeps a subdued level of energy. We are able to envision ourselves in some dark catacomb, witnessing an ancient rite. Wind whirls through the chambers as the chants and incantations echo off the dank stone walls. One can almost smell the combination of torch fuel and frankincense wafting through the chamber, burning their nostrils. As the track moves toward it’s close a clean piano piece enters the mix as the surrounding sounds all descend back into distorted chaos. The moment is reminiscent of some of my favorites in the works of Dahlia’s Tear, but the theme, setting, and therefore also the effect are quite different.

“Cenere” descends the furthest into chaos. The track mainly consists of a repeated vocal chant which is highly distorted along with an array of drones which create a sort of sonic assault upon the senses. Deep reverberations seem to usher in a powerful and malign force.

“Campi di Polvere” starts calmly, a lonely guitar riff plays over an airy drone. It feels like a nice meditative calm amidst the intensity of the surrounding tracks. “La Vecchia Madre – Ritual of Awakening” returns to the oscillating high-pitched industrial drones. There are words spoken over the drones using heavy distortion and delay to create a demonic sort of sound which intensifies into screams and growls over a slowly pounding drum. As the track progresses toward its close, it descends further into a distorted chaos. In seeming conclusion to the entire ritual/album the sound fades out, being replaced by a more primal style of tribal music. A single chanting voice prepares the scene for the aforementioned tribal dance rhythms which are joined by a number of other chants, male and female included here.

This won’t be an album for passive listening. One should really dedicate themselves to the experience of this one in order to fully and properly appreciate it. Released on Old Europa Cafe, La Vecchia Madre comes in an almost cloth or leatheresque textured digipak. As it’s a good album to put your focus toward, I would definitely recommend the physical for taking on driving excursions and the like.

VRNA has been involved in a number of noteworthy releases over the last few months, a few of which include their split with Holotrop, Enkoimesis, and the brilliant compilation Sons of an Older Cosmos. Both of these were through Qualia. There are certainly a number of other previous releases from this artist that are well worth discovery. If you are a fan of ritual ambient that isn’t afraid to take things into intense aural territory, you should find a lot to love on La Vecchia Madre. Those that prefer their ritual ambient subdued and meditative will have a harder time with this one, but could still catch a few of you pleasantly by surprise, as it did with me.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Desiderii Marginis – Vita Arkivet – Review

Artist: Desiderii Marginis
Album: Vita Arkivet
Release date: 22 October 2018
Label: Cyclic Law

Tracklist:
01. Capsule
02. The Scattering
03. Passing Bell
04. Vertigo
05. Eulogy

“Long awaited new material by one of Sweden’s most revered dark ambient acts. ‘Vita Arkivet’ translates from Swedish as ‘The White Archive’ and is an official document detailing ones funeral arrangements. In death our existence is whitewashed, the slate wiped clean. We start all over and we bring nothing with us where we go. We lose the agency of our own memory and leave it for those left behind to attend to, to continue our story, to write our eulogy. Vita is also the Latin word for Life, so the meaning could also be ‘The Life Archive’. White is the colour of the casket lining, the plaster death masks and the walls of the chapel, it is the colour of the first and last pages. What is kept in between the covers of our life archives? This record is a personal reflection and manifestation of that process, the loss and the great detachment from life, from others, and from ourselves.”

Desiderii Marginis has been one of the leading names in the dark ambient genre for the last two decades. In 1997 their debut release, Songs Over Ruins, took listeners deeper into a territory which had been recently traversed by raison d’être. A style which included a serene, yet troubling, combination of industrial field recordings, choir/chant vocals and various ritual instruments including bells. This combination of sounds gave listeners a different idea of how to look at religious works through dark ambient. Where previous artists like Ain Soph, Zos Kia and Korpses Katatonik often included ritual elements like bells and bone-instruments, particularly Desiderii Marginis and raison d’être took this concept into a new and more refined direction.

Early albums like Songs Over Ruins and Deadbeat held this sort of ‘sacral ambient’ focus, but by the mid 2000’s Desiderii Marginis was delving into different sorts of soundscapes. My two personal favorites, That Which Is Tragic And Timeless and Seven Sorrows, were fully incorporating the use of guitar (often acoustic) as one of the main elements of the project. The sacral fell to the wayside, with a focus more on sadness and isolation. Procession and Hypnosis seemed to be a nice blend of the original sacral style combined with the newer depressive guitar works.

Vita Arkivet is a return to that original sacral style, which Desiderii Marginis initially became so well known for using. The opening track “Capsule” is quintessential Desiderii Marginis, the industrially tinged drones sweep across a sort of quasi-religious, post-apocalyptic soundscape. Following the logic of the album’s theme, this track could be a sort of ‘time capsule’ into the history of this musician. We get a feeling of his previous works returning to the surface. “The Scattering” and “Passing Bell” are reasonably relaxing tracks, which unfold into more complex works as they progress. “Vertigo” has a darker feel to it, there is a greater sense of death and the confusion that might arise during it’s onset.

“Eulogy” starts with the chiming of a bell or singing bowl. It seems to indicate the beginning of something more ritualistic and less personal than the previous tracks. This track is also quite peaceful, but maintains some of that darker vibe from “Vertigo”. I get the sense here that this could be the artist’s preferred actual eulogy. A marking of the end of a life which is filled with equal parts light and darkness. A life concerned with the encroaching industrialized world upon nature. A call for peace, understanding and serenity in a confusing and destructive world.

Desiderii Marginis quietly unveiled this album digitally on their Bandcamp page a few months before the official release. Cyclic Law later would give the album its proper launch. There is a CD version as well as two vinyl variants, black or clear-and-black splatter. I have a copy of the clear/black splatter and it is gorgeous, I highly recommend getting ahold of one of them before that 100 copy edition is sold-out.

I was quickly impressed with Vita Arkivet, it encompasses all the things I love about the entire discography of Desiderii Marginis’ works. Sometimes when an artist has been in the business two decades and they release something like a “Eulogy” album, I get scared thinking this might be their ‘swan-song and departure’. I hope that isn’t the case here, Desiderii Marginis hasn’t become one of the most well known and highly respected artists in the dark ambient genre for nothing. They have decades worth of fantastic releases and live performances to keep followers quite content, but I’m sure there will be plenty more fantastic soundscapes for this artist to visit in the future.

As usual with Desiderii Marginis works, I consider Vita Arkivet to be a must-have for dark ambient listeners. This is a well-honed release by a veteran of the genre. The fact that Frederic Arbour of Cyclic Law decided to give the album a 2-variant vinyl release is a testament to the trust and esteem the community has for this artist. If you haven’t previously browsed their works, I highly recommend you start now with Vita Arkivet and then work your way backward through the hours and hours of wonderful music Desiderii Marginis has shared with us over the years.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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

Arktau Eos – Interview

Credit: Arktau Eos

Arktau Eos are one of the most distinct and respected groups in the ritual post-industrial scene. They have been among the top-tier acts in many of the most revered festivals in the scene over more than a decade. Arktau Eos, like the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective as a whole, exudes an air of authenticity and primal energy which is unrivaled by most, I would passionately argue.

There haven’t been a large number of interviews over the years with anyone from the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective, though the ones available are certainly worth seeking out! So, it is with great respect and privilege that I am presenting you with this highly in-depth interview with Arktau Eos, who also have authority to, and do, speak on matters of the label at large herein.

In this interview we will be discussing the future of Arktau Eos, their greater relationship (or lack thereof) with music, politics and religion, their current views on physical, digital and video formats, analysis of Eremos and its context in the Arktau Eos discography, proper setting/atmosphere for deeper listening/understanding of their music, and quite a bit more!


Michael: Arktau Eos has been an essential group in the ritual ambient scene for more than a decade. Do you see yourselves on the same trajectory, following the same ideologies and aesthetics as when the group was first formed?

Arktau Eos: First, thank you for your kind words. We are certainly still on the same trajectory. Aesthetics evolve, ideas are fine-tuned, our technical know-how improves, but as for fundamental changes – there have been none.

Perceived changes usually relate to matters nearly wholly external. Being something of lone wolves and outlaws, we have, for instance, gradually drifted apart from categories such as ‘ritual ambient’ or ‘dark ambient’. Granted, those terms are not entirely without merit and many of our listeners fall into the demographic; no disrespect is intended. Yet we have searched for a slightly better fitting description, using ‘elemental music’ on occasion, in reference to its primal origins, suggesting a step aside from the dominion of chronology to seek the eternal, while simultaneously recalling the Paracelsian tria prima and similar formulations: everything has its base in a few active elements from which things of great complexity may nevertheless be composed by skilled hands, aided by knowledge of nature’s mysterious ways. Then again, we can agree with Alexey Tegin from Phurpa, who is adamant that Arktau Eos – like his own group – in fact has nothing to do with music per se.

Michael: Where do you see the future taking Arktau Eos? Should we expect another decade of releases?

Arktau Eos: Without any doubt. After all, Arktau Eos is a part of our respective life works, a point where our mutual interests and goals converge in a partially public context. We acknowledge Death as the grand initiator whose presence drives us to continue apace. This is not a statement of some inherent morbidity – we laugh too much to pass for the most ardent death-worshippers – yet it holds true in many senses, the basest one being that we realise the limits as to what can be accomplished in this lifetime at best. One can only hope it is enough to create a sustained awareness in areas of transition, including the final one that awaits us all. To this end, our records are travelogues and notebooks, quick sketches of eldritch spaces in mind or elsewhere (is there a difference?), cryptic but meant to communicate keys of access to others via suggestion and deep, universal symbols: beyond textual means, beyond sound even.

Credits: Costin Chioreanu

Michael: What is the current line-up of Arktau Eos? Is this still a fluid roster, keeping the core members A.I.H. & A.I.L., but interchanging other members from album to album?

Arktau Eos: It has never been a fluid roster really. We have returned to the original Arktau Eos pact, a duo formation, and intend to keep it that way. If we require the expertise of additional musicians or artists, they will be invited as guests of honour and lavished with fine wines, champagne and Cuban cigars, but typical ‘band’ dynamics are usually just a hindrance to the actual work at hand, and to be avoided.

Michael: Your last release Catacomb Resonator as well as its predecessor Unworeldes were released on vinyl. Your newest album Erēmos has returned to a CD-only format. Does each release dictate its own physical characteristics (cassette/CD/vinyl), or do outside influences (market/pricing) dictate the choice?

Arktau Eos: A combination of both. CDs will in all probability remain the label mainstay. Rather sadly, vinyl is becoming increasingly infeasible for us. So much is good about vinyl, but the odd frequencies and lengthy tracks present lots of problems mastering-wise and reliable pressing plants are few. Catacomb Resonator is a case in point. While it turned out decent and benefits from the vinyl sound, the process of getting there was taxing to the point of ridiculousness – the endless travails of its emergence included inspecting and sending back every single copy of the entire run! Cassettes are less finicky. Genuine tape saturation and hiss usually work wonders for our sonics anyway.

As a side-note of potential interest to some readers, it remains a distinct possibility that we pushed our luck too much with Catacomb Resonator. Its third song or side (‘The Third Canticle’ of the liner notes), the real core of the record, is merely implied by hidden motifs on both sides A and B, residing soundlessly in-between them as a sort of ‘charged absence’… perhaps this artificial tension overloaded the aura of the album, playing a part in its troubled manifestation. This matter cannot be explained in plainer words, so we’ll leave it at that.

To get back to the original subject slightly: contrary to expectations the recent vinyl boom did not benefit any of the Aural Hypnox artists even marginally, so frankly, a release must justify its appearance on vinyl exceptionally well for the format to be even considered. Such are the realities as we speak, however disappointing to the vinylophiles among us.

Some Aural Hypnox customers have remarked that a CD is an easy (!) way to bring along Arktau Eos for walks in the woods and mountains. In fact, portability is the only sensible reason for download codes we have ever come up with; perhaps we will relent and add them to the physical releases sometime in the future as a gesture of good will towards those few folks inclined to take our music to accompany their private pilgrimages.

Credit: Robin Levet

Michael: You’ve worked again with the artist K.T.L. on the artwork for Erēmos. Is K.T.L. a part of the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective, creating music under one of these projects? Or, is this someone from the outside world you’ve sought for collaborations?

Arktau Eos: Our collaboration came about the most natural and hassle-free way possible. Timo Ketola, or K.T.L. as he is known in the Hypnox circle, is A.I.L.’s friend since the ‘90s and has been more or less clued in to Arktau Eos’ ways of working ever since the release of Mirrorion. Having vast experience of metaphysical and artistical subjects consonant with ours, K.T.L. adapts easily to our peculiar whims and is a rich source of ideas himself. He is mainly known as a visual artist, a highly talented draughtsman and painter, who in recent years has also been apprenticing in the art of tattooing. However, A.I.L. and K.T.L. did perform together as boreal electro-Behenian duo Astrolithos in Salerno and Rome back in 2017; K.T.L. did percussion. The Astrolithos set was demoed to an advanced stage, but there hasn’t been a suitable opportunity to finish it.

Most pertinent is that we will be working with him again for the 2019 Blow Up festival in Helsinki; with a bit of luck, this also means another new release from Arktau Eos. In a way, we continue in the spirit of the Origin of Fire event in Stockholm in late 2017. At Origin of Fire, Welt, Ketola, and S.A. Hynninen exhibited their work, while Arktau Eos, Stephen O’Malley, Aluk Todolo and Corps provided the evening’s sonic backbone. A 96-page exhibition catalogue was released that night including a foreword by Bobby Beausoleil. It is well worth getting if still available.

Michael: Erēmos contains field recordings from the North Ostrobothnian Woods in Northern Finland, as well as the “untamed steppes of Mongolia”. Was the idea for Erēmos conceived unexpectedly during your travels to Mongolia in 2014? Or, did you travel to Mongolia with the creation of this album in mind?

Arktau Eos: No, the concept of Erēmos is not tied to these travels originally. It was conceived in late 2017, when we were finishing Catacomb Resonator, its distant relative. The recordings were drawn from our archives because they fit and enhanced the concept. It was not premeditated at all. We have unused recordings all the way from our early days, and often they just reappear when needed. A.I.L. also did additional recordings in solitude at a remote Tantric Buddhist initiation temple in Mongolia – with permission, we might add: the gifts of the spirits are unexpected and numerous! Those recordings are yet to be used. They need a context, something more ritualistic than Erēmos could convey, whereas the rationale for using the field recordings on Erēmos is tied to the polarities these remote places – the Finnish woods and the Mongolian steppe – represent. While both are potential locations of retreat, they are in many ways opposites. The eternally blue skies and the openness of the steppe is contrasted with the dank, dark, forbidding nature of the Finnish woods, the open air ovoos with the minuscule cell of a solitary monk etc. The vision that unfolds when listening to Erēmos is an unspecified ‘desert’, that is, a mind-scape of extreme retreat which manifests according to the individual, not necessarily something that has a physical presence or counterpart. Fittingly, after an absence of a few years, solar-Apollonian elements have also crept in, most notable in this sense is “Pacts of Stone and the Sun”, recorded during the Summer Solstice.

Credit: Jeanne Saint-Julien

Michael: Also on the topic of release formats, will there be plans for more full-length video releases in the future, similar to Taiwaskivi and R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA by Halo Manash? Or, do you now prefer just doing individual music videos, similar to the recent Templum N.R. “The Unseen Tailor”?

Arktau Eos: Individual videos seem to be the way forward. The bigger issue here is not the format or length but the actual content: for instance, R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA was fine for its time, but the focus of Aural Hypnox video productions has since shifted. Instead of depicting ritual customs, our interest right now is in their after-effects, in painting impressions of what it means to do a ritual and what sensations it evokes – and for ‘ritual’, please take a broad view and read also meditation, summoning, prayer, etc. The problem with ritualistic videos is that they are very much tied to a certain moment. Watching them after the energies have departed might satisfy someone’s curiosity for procedural minutiae, but that is neither here nor there. The power and intent are already elsewhere.

Michael: It’s been stated in past interviews that Aural Hypnox seeks to remain separate from any specific religious doctrines. Is this also the case specifically within Arktau Eos? If there are any universal beliefs followed within Arktau Eos, what would they be?

Arktau Eos: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that while we do not avoid any specific religious doctrines, we tend to steer away from their most common or vulgar expressions. Alternatively, you could say there is an Arktau Eos filter at work. While recognizing the immensity – perhaps impossibility! – of the task, Arktau Eos attempts to reach beyond the obvious appearances to deeper ur-currents that feed the present religious, magical, or mystical expressions, remaining untainted by political agendas or intellectual fads. One must learn the mystery of the mask and the masked to do so without impunity, with open heart and discerning intellect. In our home studios, we are constantly surrounded by markers of this enigma; wooden idols, thangkas, icons, nkisis, and so forth, which may or may not leave their imprint to what we do – but at the very least their presence draws our minds back to the work whenever they start to drift toward everyday worries, which have no place in our studio-laboratory environment. While we shun shifting beliefs or paradigmatic approach to religion as a folly of the rootless, we refrain from proclaiming a single doctrine of truth; we leave preaching to others, and in general tend towards detachment and the apophatic. Power itself does not gain from being drawn towards the human; it is richer without limitations, some of which are instantaneously in effect, should we desire to address it.

Credit: Gavin Semple

In a practical sense, to remain on the same page regarding Arktau Eos, we assume a few working hypotheses which pertain more to cosmological and ontological rather than religious aspects. A few delineations follow, which may be of interest to the few who care about such matters. Most of these general ideas are nothing new: visualizing the vertical dimension as comprising of three distinct realms, understood as the underworld, our world, and the celestial and stellar domain. Man’s unique role may well be joining the superior with the inferior as Hermetic-derived traditions insist, yet sometimes it feels like we are lightning conductors and not logical operators in doing so! The universe appears to express harmony and correspondence, and analogical thinking enables us to correlate its contents and consolidate some of the seemingly conflicting world-views and maps of reality, while the axiom of the inner being the outer and the within being the without is a Gordian knot best split by the blade of sudden insight, not intellect. There is life before birth and life after death; even biologically speaking we return to the elements through the work of worms or the agency of fire. Some dreams appear to arrive from beyond these dramatic realignments, and they may even eradicate the boundaries shaping that which we in the wake world identify as ourselves (Ioh-Maera is heavily concerned with this process). Arktau Eos as an entity appears to stand motionless at the edge of twilight, Janus-faced, yet it walks the route of the return and the widdershins way at the same time, continuously realizing their unity as a point afresh in the eternity of NOW.

Michael: Arktau Eos, like Aural Hypnox as a whole, focuses on the mystical and spiritually connecting to the natural world. Do any members hold strong political views/beliefs which dictate the direction of the project? Put differently, do you see the current global issues, particularly focusing on the environment, as an important element in your artistic output? Or, do you try to stay focused on your own lives and remain separated from any greater political/cultural dialogues?

Arktau Eos: We make some conscious choices in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment, but we are not activists or especially politically orientated. To those who argue that no act at all is without political undertones, we may appear conservative: after all, we value the survival of old beliefs and traditional handicrafts. On the other hand, our sonic output obeys no rules at all. Arktau Eos sessions are devoid of political discussions. While we leave politics, and environmental politics in particular, to those more eloquent and passionate about them, for what it’s worth, it should be clear to anyone who has ever held an Aural Hypnox artefact in their hands that we want to create things that are of lasting value, forsaking throwaway produce and culture, and view purely utilitarian preying on the environment as short-sighted and negative.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: If you do see a need for concern, do you consider the output of Arktau Eos to be a way of reconnecting humanity to the natural world?

Our interest in this direction lies in the interactions of man with specific places in the natural world, the portals and power-zones, sites of attested theophanies and curious photic phenomena, unusual geomagnetic and geographical regions, mountaintops, caves, holy springs and lakes, nemetons, etc., all of which inspired our ancestors to marvel, worship gods known and forgotten, build shrines and tumuli, and erect megaliths based on stellar and solar alignments. Churches upon Mithraeums, chapels upon spots of pre-Christian apparitions… the layers are many and all are fascinating.

The otherworld is never but a figurative step away, but these liminal locations appear to amplify the catacomb resonances, the sense of the otherness, at times causing the veils of separation to unravel forcefully. Perhaps they are there to compartmentalize our experience, for who can withstand the full incursion of the greater reality unprepared? Beyond those veils certain sites shine as beacons to which flock entities that may bear little or no resemblance whatsoever to human life. Whether the impromptu sabbatic revels ensuing from encounters with such non- or un-beings still count as engagements with the natural world is obviously a matter of debate!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Our age lacks the framework for comprehending such experiences and casually relegates them to the category of the supernatural, now used pejoratively, stigmatizing unusual phenomena by equating them with hallucinations or glitches of brain-functions. All in vain hope that this would somehow nullify the nagging unease brought on by them displaying characteristics we are accustomed to associate with ourselves and related species, such as intelligence and independent will. We are not opposed to hard sciences and we value critical thinking, but merely wish to point out, as Shakespeare had Hamlet state to Horatio, that “there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. We have sent probes to Mars, which is all great, and even the depths of seas are becoming familiar to scientists, although their hold on imagination has not let go. And probably never will, so primal is the strata in which the idea of the abyss, tehom, resides, welling up as the waters of Genesis or earlier creation myths like that of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Yet, even today much on this planet remains little known, just consider the vastness of deep biosphere and how it defies expectations with its strange lifeforms: microbes living hundreds of thousands of years, for instance. Try, then, to explain the complexity of our imaginative faculty or of consciousness: the shoreless ocean or, indeed, abyss, the evolution of which spans geological epochs!

Some of our innate sensitivity to the numinous itself – the capability for apprehending pure awe that carries no moral or ethical baggage – has been lost, perhaps irrevocably. The common man has his senses dulled, his mind distracted by the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’, as if there would ever be an end to the chain of questioning. The culprits contributing to this sad state of affairs are numerous, but we could start with urbanization, light pollution, unnatural pace of life, over-reliance on technology, and the forceful shifts in our way of thinking since the Industrial Revolution, not to mention imperious scientism rife among the myopic and petty types. Religions and supposed experts on spiritual matters are not without fault themselves, having often accrued ways of conceiving the divine in terms unduly influenced by social and sociopolitical patterning. It is a precarious balance, to be sure.

In our own small way, we attempt to reverse the damage, cultivate an understanding of sacred sites within Arktau Eos, and walk their precincts with reverence. This is a reconnection, but alas! of a kind that will never be popular. Perhaps one must have a Gnostic sense of unease to seek out the forbidden and hidden to begin with. Few are truly called.

Credit: Arktau Eos

Michael: Aural Hypnox has previously unveiled Mount Hypnox, a line of hand-crafted incenses which could be used in connection with the label’s releases to further connect the listener to the aura of the music. Would you have any recommendations for the best incense blend to better connect the listener to the new album, Erēmos?

Arktau Eos: Erēmos calls for something uncomplicated. Locally available tree resins and the scent of a campfire are enough. Further down the line, we will probably release an Arktau Eos incense blend of more complexity. It should be clarified here that while we often use incense live, it is to add an extra dimension to the proceedings, an appeal to the olfactory senses to deepen immersion, and not to appease someone’s desire (fixation) for ritual as such. Immersion is vastly more important live than ceremony. The live shows should be more akin to a prolonged dream than a routine ‘ritual’ – at least they work better viewed that way.

Michael: Do you have any recommendations to listeners on the best way to enjoy this new release? Should it be enjoyed casually? During meditation? During one’s own rituals? Is there a right answer?

Arktau Eos: The gist of it is, indeed, that there is no correct answer. Over the years we have heard back from many listeners and have been pleasantly surprised about the ways people have deeply engaged with our albums. The knowledge that our records have been used in the rituals of certain magical orders and Neognostic enclaves is also gratifying in that it speaks volumes of their applicability and capability to communicate in such highly charged settings. Nevertheless, Erēmos is so unambiguously focused that a suggestion is hereby offered: it just might be best suited to lonely wanderings and meditations, whatever form they take. Trust your instincts. And by the way, we have no objections to casual enjoyment of our musical endeavours either. Your choice. Your responsibility, as ever. This is one area in which we have quit being elitist bastards. Working on the rest.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: Arktau Eos has recently performed at the L’Homme Sauvage event in France. What was the event like for Arktau Eos in comparison to some of your previous events. Were there any fellow artists from the line-up that you found particularly impressive?

Arktau Eos: L’Homme Sauvage is an excellent event, a whole community selflessly coming together to create something of greater good. It was our fourth time playing in the mountains (Stella Natura in the US twice, Funkenflug in the Austrian Alps, and now this). Rather conspicuously they all number among the highlights of our live ‘career’. Perhaps we have an affinity to mountains? At L’Homme Sauvage, we watched one of the bands struggle with power cut-offs earlier in the evening, but although stressful to the organisers, in the end the tension just seemed to heighten the collective anticipation and atmosphere. With bonfires lighting the area and a lone hurdy-gurdy resounding in distance, a truly unusual atmosphere took over, and when everything finally worked out as it should, people seemed to appreciate everything on-stage with heightened fervour. The organizers made a wise choice in having Visions play last, since his drone-heavy set helped that atmosphere linger on long into the night instead of being dissipated by traditional band-type sounds, as could have easily happened.

We had acclimatized to the Pyrenees, mentally preparing for the gig the entire preceding week by presenting ourselves to the powers that be on solitary peaks and other significant places, such as the many Cathar castle ruins dotting the landscape. We also spent some time with director-shaman Richard Stanley and witch Amanda, then residents of the village of Montségur, whose expert guidance in the region was most illuminative. Standing before the pog of Montségur, in full moon’s light in the dead of night, immersed in the profoundest silence punctuated by an owl’s hoots, remains one of the most powerful experiences of our recent travels. It is hard to relay without resorting to clichés since it is so archetypical: without warning – as gently as the first snow brushing your face yet as decidedly as a tidal flow – something entirely else came over and the landscape was transformed into an eerily beautiful faerie realm of timelessness. An extreme calmness remained although one’s sensorium was madly tingling owing to the presence of that which is beyond – and more than – human, leaving in its wake a curious nostalgia, or longing… And that is all that can be said, except that intuitively you feel certain that this has been experienced over and over again, century after century, by many folks, us being merely the last in a long line. Probably there are those who at that very interstice have decided to walk away from the life as we know it for good and now reside in that lambent ever-night permanently, barely remembering their former selves.

Our last time in Stella Natura was another momentous mountain spectacle from the beginning to the end, and to tell all would require pages and pages. Perhaps another time. As for the climax, we played in the early morning hours before the first light of dawn and it was actually damned hard to find our way out of the imposing Sierra Nevada woods and back to the trails after our set! A disastrous snowstorm had struck the day before and only a handful of people, the truly hard core, had stuck it out for our set, sipping magical potions infused with ingredients gathered from botanicas of San Francisco, drawn into that strange, cold void exhaling the breath of the earth and the intoxicating scent of pine resin deep in the woods. Together we formed a closed circle set apart from the rest of the world, in sway of total darkness except for the hues of spectral red bathing the stage, our drones and cymbals echoing through the massive canyon carved by the Yuba River nearby. Those gear-geeks looking for the ’best natural reverb’ on Internet forums, we declare the search over; but you can’t put it into a pedal, sorry!

Back to France and your question. Unfortunately, we did not get to see that many of our fellow performers at L’Homme Sauvage, being away on our own excursions under the mountains, exploring tunnels in darkness of which time itself flows in abnormal directions! Of the ones that we managed to hear, we enjoyed the tribal noise act 若潭 / ruò tán and the folk-goth of Traum’er Leben, both well-versed in their craft, and Mütterlein, who sounded very powerful. And as is natural in such rustic surroundings, the experimental folk stylings of La Breiche were more than fitting! Our friends Hexvessel are always good on-stage, and we gladly accepted their invitation to bring some of the Arktau Eos hexcraft onboard for a rendition of “I am the Ritual” to cap off the musical side of our trip.

Credit: Gavin Semple

Michael: You also recently performed at Death Cult Rising III in Barcelona, along with long-time label-mates Zoät-Aon. Were there any special moments from this event you’d like to share? Was it nice to see a Zoät-Aon performance after quite a lengthy silence from them?

Arktau Eos: Death Cult Rising III was another great festival and line-up. Always reassuring to see organisers put real effort into what they do, and the sound was fantastic. Highly recommended. This urbane setting – a club resembling a scene from a David Lynch movie complete with a masonic floorboard – was a nice contrast to the rustic festivities that soon followed it in form of L’Homme Sauvage. For ourselves, it was interesting to compare how our basic set took different directions with the slightest push, transforming itself to suit the surroundings in both cases. Let us hope 2019 will turn out equally fulfilling regarding live appearances!

As for Zoät-Aon, it was and is excellent to see Jaakko Vanhala set the old beast into motion again. We have both assisted him live at one point or another (A.I.L. accompanied him for the last two shows), and he fully deserves the credit and laudation he has acclaimed throughout the years for creating his original, highly technical yet feral brand of dark ambient. A running Hypnox house in-joke calls it ‘in-your-face ambient’.

Michael: Speaking of Zoät-Aon, I wonder if there are currently any plans to release another album as Arktau Aon?

Arktau Eos: No plans exist. The whole concept would need to reworked, as we cannot possibly re-create the youthful fire and spontaneity of the original sessions. It’s a miracle they survived and were recovered from our archives in the first place!

Michael: I wonder if you would be interested in detailing any of the process of creation for Arktau Eos? I’m particularly interested in how the drones and other synthetic elements are created in association to the live elements such as percussion, chanting, etc. Do you plan these rituals out in advance, creating the synthetic elements to be utilized in the live ritual setting? Or, do you create these synthetic elements intuitively and extemporaneously during a live ritual recording process?

Arktau Eos: There is always an element of intuition involved. We are not that big on presets, and enjoy tweaking sounds live, come what may. We always ensure there is room for improvisation, the possibility of taking the set in unanticipated directions. Certainly, much is planned and rehearsed, but should the situation call for it, a trip beyond in the spirit of joyful abandon will be seized with no remorse. We will never be a sterile live act that simply attempts to recreate studio work on-stage. What we can bring along creates natural limitations and the lack of second takes guarantees certain rawness and lack of refinement, but that is not necessarily a drawback.

When crafting our sound in the studio, there is no set work-flow. The only hard-and-fast rule these days is that it should immediately evoke that unmistakable presence of otherness to which one responds at gut-level. Synthetic, organic, digital, analog – while we have our preferences (vintage when possible!), it does not matter in the end, unless we want to involve some element or a self-made instrument for a distinct reason. We are not Luddites or attempting to recreate hypothetical prehistoric music, nor hold any pretensions to that effect, so there is never a question of authenticity in that sense – playing music with only sticks, bones and stones, to fulfill someone’s idealized, absurd notion of original ritual music! Catacomb Resonator was 90% vocals, Erēmos relied on other things… and what we work on right now sits right between the two albums, subject to change as always.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change. We treat the synthetic parts as at least half-sentient, evolving things, animated by the subtle interrelated alchemy between everything that goes on in the studio. Electricity is an organic element as much as are fire and wind. Directing control voltages through analog gear is the act of mesmerizing the machine; electromagnetism is the kuṇḍalinī of the circuits!

Therefore, we also cherish and utilize to the full the moments when old or malfunctioning synthesizers and effects decide to embark on their own trajectories, bringing about unexpected changes. This goes in tandem with our interest in the romance and mystique of ‘transmissions’, whether supernatural or shortwave! Intention, if correctly formed, eventually pulls everything together. The filaments of the spider’s web reach into the unknown, carrying resonances from afar. Some of our synths involve the operator becoming part of the actual circuits, further fulfilling a mystic conjunction of flesh and metal. Tactility is a must: you will not be seeing Arktau Eos with a laptop on-stage anytime soon, perish the thought!

Credit: David Arranz

Michael: The ritual ambient genre seems to be growing every day. Though many of the musicians creating within this genre don’t seem to have nearly the depth of seriousness which musicians from Aural Hypnox consistently present. Would there be any certain musicians outside the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective which you would recommend to followers of your works that are looking for the same level of dedication and authenticity?

Arktau Eos: To be honest, we do not wish to assume the mantle of arbiters regarding these matters: time will always tell. Let us see about dedication in five or ten years. Many from the old school have proven their dedication repeatedly and compared to them we are the newcomers. All hail and honour, you know who you are: acceptance by Arktau Eos is hardly needed! As for authenticity, the shallow ones are effortlessly told apart, although there is no pleasure in the exercise: those desperately striving for recognition, the pathologically self-important, the ones vacant-mindedly copying sigils from grimoires they do not grasp in hopes of impressing other dimwits, and so on, ad nauseam. All of them united by wallowing in the bitter waters of their smug self-complacency, while failing to recognize the vessel of crystal-clear stellar nectars when it is freely passed forth… You know the drill. Waste of energy, though fools may strike gold, once! More importantly, for the rest, the sincere ones we extend our well-wishes and a friendly word: just know how ‘authentic’ you want to become, because when things get real, they inevitably bring on danger, personal sacrifice – and your ego to the firing line. Those with escapist fantasies are not cut for such trials. The abyss will gaze back, unwavering.

Michael: Thank you very much for this interview, I am fully aware that these aren’t granted often, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you gentlemen!

Arktau Eos: Thank you, it was a pleasure answering your thought-out questions! We appreciate your time and interest, wishing you the best of luck with This Is Darkness.

Arktau Eos Links

Helixes Collective Official Site
Aural Hypnox Official Site
Arktau Eos – Facebook
Aural Hypnox – Soundcloud
Aural Hypnox – Vimeo

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

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

Endless Chasm – Saṃsāra Eternal – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 5

In episode 5 of The Inner Sanctum I share a few personal thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft, and talk about a new compilation dedicated to the master writer himself. From there on I discuss a diverse and surprising dark horror ambient album, and then give a quick demonstration of the Tibetan singing bowl. A brief glimpse at some of my dark ambient related cassette tapes is featured and then followed by a full review of a masterful dark ritualistic split album released on Noctivagant Collective.

Enjoy the darkness!
Joseph Mlodik

Episode Contents:
00:00 Intro
00:30 H.P. Lovecraft
04:39 In Tenebris Scriptus
12:51 Moloch Conspiracy
18:59 Tibetan Singing Bowl Demonstration
21:40 Intermission
22:10 Dark Ambient Tape Collection
34:11 Corona Barathri/Emme Ya
47:52 Ending
48:46 End Credits

Links:

In Tenebris Scriptus – Lovecraftian Compilation
Moloch Conspiracy – The Cave of Metaphysical Darkness & Lights
The Null Spectre – Lord of Shadows
Northaunt – Barren Land
Susurrus Ananis – The Shadowless Shining
Noctilucant – Crumbling Cities Echoing Their Terror
Corona Barathri / Emme Ya – Misterium Evigilationis Leviathan

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