To some extent, this particular review is like coming full circle. Back when I first started The Dungeon In Deep Space in August of 2019, my very first review was the second album in the Planetary series by Ruptured World called, ‘Archeoplanetary’. I’ll admit that – although it was a great album – my review was pretty lackluster, probably due to the unforeseen direction of this blog. Now, nearly four years later, I’m extremely excited to review Ruptured World’s latest offering, ‘Xenoplanetary’. This appears to be the forth and final installment of the Planetary series and if that’s the case, it concludes this epic story in a magnificent blaze of glory. Although not your typical Dark Ambient album, Ruptured World has expanded the audial palette to include hypnotizing, electronic beats and remnants of dark noir jazz. With that – and including a story that is masterfully narrated – this album has already reached S-Tier status (for me at least), and boldly catapults the Dark Ambient genre to searing new heights.
Wasting no time in showcasing the new sound described above, “Emergency Thought – Cast Distant Messaging” slowly fades in with a mechanized, electronic beat that is more reminiscent of a sound that you would hear in a smoke filled Jazz club than with a typical upbeat percussive style. A looping keyboard chop plays a somber melody while droning soundscapes provide a textural backdrop of mesmerizing beauty. Sporadic sound bytes of communication frequencies and radio transmission acts as a prerequisite for the storyline and after a short break, that’s exactly what we get. The Macrae family legacy begins to unfold as a short narrative contributes to the preface for the rest of the album. “Tenebrous Wetlands” commences with a continuation of the narrative as a slow blend of drones and elongated keys softly plays in the background. More communication anomalies can be heard and the drones continue to expand as the song unfolds. About halfway through, massive synth tones create a dreamy space of haunting atmospherics and obscure melodies. “The Cruel Darkness” is where this ominous story takes a menacing turn. While the narrations continues on with this compelling story, the music feature another killer drum beat, alongside an atmospheric ride through spacious drones and harrowing synth effects. As this track continues to slowly build, a sense of angst begins to take over. Layers of keyboard chops and industrial modulations intensifies, albeit in a looping pattern. “The Telekinetic Amassment Of Being” start with the perpetuation of Phoenix Macrae’s mission with a strange twist on the spoken word delivery that includes voice manipulations, echo effects and eerie loops. As the story unfolds, immense drones proceed eloquently and take over as the focal point of the track. As this sound modulates at a steady pace, soothing drum textures and harmonious synth play a darkened groove that only Ruptured World could pull off in this type of musical adventure. This combinations creates a trance induced pattern that is imposing as well as easy to get lost in. With an eager enthusiasm, the entertaining escapades of Phoenix continues to play out on “Enter The Labyrinth”. A chaotic blend of radio transmissions unfold, as it provides cryptic clues for this ever evolving story. In the meantime, peaceful synths produce an evocative drone while looping keys evolve expressively. This track is really serene and it’s overall alluring tones make this one of my favorite songs on the album. Throughout the song, narrative elements can be heard but this time, they take a backseat to the mesmerizing and melodic intonations. “The Magnitude Of Luminescence” continues with a realized arrangement of amazing storytelling and an array of communication signals. As the mission continues, obscure effects begin to alter the transmissions, while effervescent drones slowly make their way into the arrangement. The inclusion of field recordings and synthwave-styled compositions adds a new element to this already impressive album. The layers of electronic arrangements seem to continue endlessly before abruptly coming to a conclusion. “The Daze Of Foreboding” begins with calming drones that can easily be interpreted as the dawn of a new day. As the continued radio transmissions slowly fade away, a jazz-like drum pattern begins to take shape. A consoling synth melody sounds more like a new wave song structure but the combination with the rest of the electronic elements are so addictively satisfying. The main key pattern also sounds like an alternative take of the keyboard melody from the first track. As the album winds down, “The Exhibition” concludes the narrative portion of this accomplished offering. The unforgettable spoken words exhibit an exhausting odyssey of family resilience and exploratory happenings that are unlike any other Dark Ambient recording I’ve ever heard. This eight minute track is mostly made up of these compelling narrations, while distant soundscapes produce an eerie atmospheric vibe. Only within the final few minutes, do we hear an increase in instrumentation, as it fulfills a sonic voyage to be remembered. The final offering is “The Agony”. Although only being just under two and a half minutes in length, it’s one of the most ominous compositions on the album. Heavy use of reverb and inaudible vocalizations enhance the listening experience for this bleak dirge that features elements of classic synthwave and industrialized drones.
Ruptured World is one of the most compelling artists in the Dark Ambient genre and the inclusion of abundantly used spoken word is both unique and rewarding. For a majority of Dark Ambient releases, the listener is able to interpret the music into their own story. However, with the Planetary releases, we are treated with the best of both worlds. With the forth installment, ‘Xenoplanetary’, Ruptured World has defied the odds yet again by adding to the musical ferocity, both elements of haunting jazz beats and looping keys. It goes without saying that this is the most exploratory of the Planetary releases and easily my favorite. This is surely a series that will be enjoyed for many years to come, and at the same time, I’m eager to hear of new adventures that Ruptured World will explore in the future. ‘Xenoplanetary’ is a Dark Ambient album of the year contender so don’t pass this one up. Click on the link below to experience this amazing album and story.
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For the past several years, Ajna has been on fire! The Dark Ambient producer has consistently released great albums spanning sub-genres such as isolationism, drone, hauntology, and other experimental aspects of electronic music. Whatever is on the radar for any particular album, you can rest assure that the results are beyond reproach. Recently I was fortunate to have a few email interactions with the mastermind behind Ajna to get a greater viewpoint of the music, influences, the ardor behind the album artwork and everything in between. The results are embedded in this congenial interview with Ajna and on display is an endless passion for music, photography and spiritual wellbeing. Hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
1. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. Over the past year or so, Ajna has become one of my favorite Dark Ambient artists. Can you tell me how this project came about? Also, Ajna is such a cool name for a project of this magnitude. Does the name have a significant meaning to you?
Thank you for the opportunity, Dave! The pleasure is mine. I appreciate the kind words. Well, at the time, throughout 2007, I was getting heavily back into Dark Ambient and Drone music. I have been listening to Dark Ambient since the late 90’s/early 2000’s, that’s when I was first introduced to the Cold Meat Industry and Malignant labels but it was during 2007 when I was getting very heavily back into it, mainly because I was at a place in my life where I wanted to change my lifestyle. I spent more time in nature and away from the bustling cities, I also started practicing Kundalini Meditation, and I’ve been a practitioner since then (almost 16 years now). Dark Ambient and Drone music really went well with my new spiritual life as I feel that it goes perfectly with nature, solitude, deep thinking, meditation, esoteric books etc and eventually this inspired me to create the Ajna project early 2008. Ajna is considered the 6th chakra, also known as the “Third eye”, it works as the center for intuition, self-realization, imagination, consciousness etc. This is why I felt that Ajna was the perfect name for the project.
2. A lot of your earlier albums were very minimalistic and leaned more toward Drone than Dark Ambient. Some of my favorite early works are ‘An Array Of Black Clouds’ and ‘Anatomy Of A Nightmare’. How do these albums represent your audial experimentation up to that point?
Well, as mentioned before the project started in 2008 but I did not become satisfied with my sound until 2011ish. I created this type of slow, drifting, isolationist drone sound one afternoon and it was like finding the Holy Grail, lol! I had finally found the Ajna sound. So, yes, a lot of my earlier works were much more drone and minimalistic, at the time I was very fascinated with shaping and crafting dronescapes in various ways and as time went on, my works have progressively got more complex, little by little.
3. On those earlier albums did you use a variety of recording gear as compared to recent recordings?
I have always used a combination of hardware and software but I used less back then as compared to now. But even nowadays, I am not a big gear collector, I am more of a gatherer of sounds, I like keeping things simple. I like using everything I currently have to the fullest advantage. If there is too much choice of equipment in the studio it becomes too overwhelming for me. Ultimately, I think it’s about ideas and not how many synths you have. That’s how I feel anyway 🙂
4. One thing that is consistent throughout all of your recordings is the amazing artwork/photography used. Are these your original photos?
Thank you for the kind words, Dave! Yes, they are all original photos taken by me (aside from Black Monolith). I guess I can say that Music is my first love and Photography my second. I feel that the atmosphere of my photos goes well with the music I make which is why I have used my own photos for the artwork most of the time.
5. Speaking of photography, do you get inspired to write music after taking a particular photo?
Yes, of course. Photography shoots are always inspiring for me, the particular atmosphere, the mood, the setting, the weather, etc. All of these things inspire me to create music and yes, sometimes I hear drones/sounds in my head with particular photos. I seem to get the same feeling while watching certain films too (the ones with great cinematography), like Lynch, Bergman, Tarkovsky, etc. Ultimately, Ambient music is very visual for me and it goes hand in hand with Photography in my opinion.
6. I noticed that early on you started collaborating with artists such as IOK1, Dronny Darko and Onasander (to name a few). How was it working with a variety of uniquely experienced artists, and did this help shape your own sound moving forward?
I cannot say that it helped shape my own sound but I have definitely learned a lot from my collaborations. Although I am very picky with whom I collaborate with, it’s fascinating to see other artists’ creative process and how they sculpt the sounds compared to how you do it.
7. What’s been your favorite collaboration effort so far?
I do not have a personal favorite but the ones that are most memorable to me are Black Monolith (w/Dronny Darko), Canidia (w/Onasander), and Anamnesis (w/IOK1). Black Monolith was a very special release at Reverse Alignment, it was actually 3 different releases combined into a 2CD album and it seems to be a real favorite amongst fans, everything just clicked with that one. Canidia (released at Winter-Light) was an interesting collaboration especially due to the fact that I used to listen to some of Maurizio’s projects while I was back in High School (Typhoid, H.P.P). I was getting really into Rhythmic Noise in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and here I am collaborating with Maurizio 20 years later. Pretty wild. Anamnesis, was a 4 track EP released at the Kalpamantra label, and I really loved the sound that David and I created on this one, very haunting, nightmarish and surreal. My isolated dense drones mixed with David’s more Industrial/Ambient sound worked really well. You can find an extended edition of Anamnesis on streaming platforms.
8. In my opinion, 2018’s ‘Lucid Intrusion’ really started to develop the modern Ajna sound. Where does this album rank as far as a shift in sound?
Yes, absolutely agree. ‘Lucid Intrusion’ was the real stepping stone for me, it was the big shift to a more active obscure dark ambient sound with much more layers going on as opposed to my more linear sound in the past. This was the real quantum leap as it was my first release on Cyclic Law. When I got back into Dark Ambient in 2007 (as mentioned before), Cyclic Law was my absolute #1 go to label at the time for Dark Ambient music (and pretty much still is today). So, it was always a dream of mine since the day Ajna began to release at Cyclic Law and 10 years after the project began, here I am releasing at my favorite label. It’s a really a great thing to be apart of a label that was so inspiring to me and it’s surreal that some of my favorite Dark Ambient artists such as Raison D’etre, Kammarheit, Svartsinn, New Risen Throne, Desiderii Marginis etc are now my label mates. It’s truly an honor!
9. I can’t compete this interview without mentioning ‘Mors Ultra’. This was one of my favorite Dark Ambient album of 2022 and is THE definitive collection of Ajna tracks. What was the thought process going into the making of this album?
That’s so great to hear and I am really happy you enjoyed the album! Well, the concept just kind of came to me one day. I am a big fan of esoteric, occult, metaphysical (etc) books, I love digging deep into mysteries and spirituality, I really cannot get enough of it but also at the time I was very fascinated with reading about Near Death Experiences. I read many accounts of it, hearing people’s different stories and perceptions about it and then suddenly the idea for the album just came to me.
10. This album is quite long as well – which is right up my alley. Was this done on purpose or were the creative juices endlessly flowing?
Well, yes it’s quite long (hah) but initially ‘Mors Ultra” was two separate albums. Disc 1 was recorded/composed throughout 2019 and Disc 2 was recorded/composed throughout 2020, which was the first year of the pandemic. I had a lot of time on my hands, everything was shut down at the time, I transitioned to remote work, spent a lot of time in nature and meditating so I got really busy in the studio in 2020 especially. So yes, the creative flow was just there all the time, I sent over disc 2 to Cyclic Law late 2020 and then Frederic suggested the double album idea and I was totally into it.
11. You recently released an extended, remastered version of your first album, ‘Nordic Drifts’. What led to the decision to release this milestone effort?
I wanted to do something special with “Nordic Drifts” since it was the first EP that I’ve ever released back in Summer 2012. I suppose you can say that it’s somewhat of a 10th Anniversary release (even though it’s a little over 10 years now). It’s always nice to revisit old tracks once in a while and I will be doing the same for more releases in the past and some unreleased material as well. I find it very interesting because some of my fans/listeners prefer my earlier sound compared to my new sound and vice versa. Everyone has different tastes.
12. Do you have plans to remaster/revisit any more of your earlier releases?
Yes, definitely. I really enjoy revisiting old work once in a while and I do plan on remastering/revisiting old works and I may even release some EPs/albums that are unreleased or tracks only exclusive to my Soundcloud. I’ve also been getting some requests for a re-release of “Inevitable Mortality” since only 50 copies were made. Hopefully, that can happen sometime in the future as well.
13. Do you have more releases lined up for 2023? If so, will there be any exciting collaborations?
Another solo length was completed this past Autumn and sent to the label but I do not know the time or the date of the release as of yet. No collaborations in the works at this time.
14. You’ve had an extensive career as a Dark Ambient artist. Have you thought about branching out to other genres of music, even if for just a one-off project?
I actually have two side projects. My one project Segment.fault is another Ambient project but has a more musique concrete/hauntology approach. The soundscapes are also loop based and have this lo-fi feel to them. I hope to have a physical release one day, I revived the project in 2020 and have released a couple of albums on bandcamp. My other side project is called Ghost Peripheral (formerly called Intrinsik) and this is the one project that’s actually beat oriented. The genre is a mixture of Glitch and IDM, I released many tracks on my soundcloud back in the day and only have 1 self released EP but I have not worked on the project in about 3-4 years. Maybe I’ll revive it one day.
15. Your Ghost Peripheral project sounds very intriguing. Do you think you’ll release a compilation album of earlier works (that were on SoundCloud) on Bandcamp one day?
You know, I’ve thought about this several times and it’s really not a bad idea at all (thanks for reminding me Dave, hah!). I may do this one day and perhaps sometime I’ll also make new material with that project. Who knows what the future may bring…
16. I want to thank you once again for your time and for gracing us all with a comprehensive catalog of music. Do you have any final thoughts for those that will be reading this interview?
The pleasure is mine, Dave! Thank you very much for choosing me for an interview. This is not a common thing for me but I really enjoyed answering your questions! To the dark ambient/drone artists getting started out there, remember to always be yourself no matter what, don’t follow the trends or hype, if you remain patient, passionate and resilient good things will happen. Thank you for taking the time to read!
I’m really excited to finally be publishing this review. Reality Scruncher is a new Drone/Dark Ambient project by jack-of-all-trades blogger, Casey Douglass. In case you’re not familiar, Casey always takes an impressive dive into all things obscure, including music, films and books. Speaking of books, Casey is also an accomplished author with many tales of horror and menacing bewilderment under his belt. Now, he is taking on the audial channels with his first Dark Ambient album, ‘Deep Space Impingement’. Thirty seven terrifying minutes of celestial modulations and deepened voids spread across five impressive tracks. How does this intro album stack up against the rest of the genre? Let’s take a deeper dive and find out.
Sinister lead off track, “Hope Into Terror” gradually comes into full perspective as it adjusts with audial bends in and out of earshot. With each louder intonation, it’s apparent that a horrific scene of deep space terror is abound. About halfway into the track, the wavering radiance declines as a mechanical drone – akin to a vessel drifting about in the far reaches of space – produces a mesmerizing sound with bits of chilling effects throughout. Toward the end, the tone grows louder as a doomed final destination becomes imminent. “Constricted Temporals” epitomizes the droning technique as a deep, hypnotic modulation emits an articulate and muffled sound. This track is nearly twelve minutes of eerie soundscapes that slowly builds with layers of ambient pitches that resemble the darkest areas of space where boundaries cannot be identified and the nearest celestial bodies are nowhere in site. This track represents nothingness and the imposing frequencies that it produces as a total sense of anxiety completely unfolds. “Shimmering Spectral Anomaly” continues the epic droning but with a wobbling effect of ominous proportions. As the timing continues to fluctuate, one begins to question the horrors of a possible cosmic impact that is bound to expire all life form in its path. As the song nears its completion, loud revolts form synth pads come into play, providing a level of audial defiance that could change the impending course of this unfolding terror. “Quantum Monstrosities Frolic” is another gigantic undertaking as the drones are presents with more reverberations and tonal distortion. This creates a malevolent sound and is also the pinnacle of horror for this album as a whole. There are some assorted sound effects throughout but are used sparingly, as this track is a true image of nightmares. The final track on the album is, “Suicidal Infinity”. Complete with hollow drones and industrialized soundscapes, this is the ravenous ending that I was hoping for. Most of the audial extremities occur slightly in the background, allowing for the white noise-styled drone to continue as the lead character for this song. The bits and pieces that do occur in the background sound like distant storms and interferences that could become closer as time continues. Suddenly, a loud, glaring alarm begins to blast away, as it warns of a distressed energy that is inbound, ready to infiltrate all forms of communication. As the warning fades away, we’re left with the icy cold sound of endless drones and the realization that nothing is more terrifying than the deep explorations of space.
‘Deep Space Impingement’ by Reality Scruncher is an absolutely amazing Dark Ambient effort and it truly captures the essence of deep space drones and the emotions that come with it. Minimalistic tones with sparse use of sound effects is the combination that is right up my alley and it works very well for this debut recording. I hope that Casey continues his recording career under this moniker and produces more Dark Ambient albums in the same vein as this one. I highly recommend checking out this album if you’re into cosmic drones with horrifying consequences. Please click on the link below and download this bleak but entertaining musical experience.
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For some reason, trees seem to be synonymous with all things spooky and evil. Whether it’s a darkened forest in a horror movie, or the ruffling of leaves in an evening breeze that has us looking over our shoulders for something creepy, trees create a space of frightening imagination with limitless potential for purpose. For Halloween, trees portray a gruesome shadow in the night that causes goosebumps and chills when not expected. Remember the tree in the original Poltergeist film? They also create a blockade for hiding behind so that you can jump out and scare your friends while trick or treating. Whatever the case may be, trees serve more of a purpose than the ecology for their existence. Like trees, music provides the same escape by enticing an imaginative spark for which you can escape from reality. That’s exactly the case for these twelve chilling albums. They are the soundtrack for the season and so much more. Please enjoy these summary reviews and show your support for these artists by downloading their killer albums. Happy Halloween!! 🎃
1. Lamp & Dagger – This Tape Is Haunted Too!
Lamp & Dagger is back with their second spooktacular collaboration, featuring a handful of ominous artists that aim to frighten your very existence. From Sombre Arcane’s psychedelic massacre to a modicum of Dark Ambient soundscapes from The Night Keep that feature morbid field recordings and samples. FVRFVR offers a chip tune spectacle that is part crypt hop and part nostalgic cinema. Whispering Mirror offers a droning canticle full of gruesome modulations, while Halm conjures up some disgusting field recordings to create a gruesome scene of terror. The final track by Spectral Manse proposes a climactic ending with eerie narrations, malevolent haunts and lots of dark melody that penetrates deep in the psyche, proving that the sequel is just as damning as the original offer. I’ll never get enough of these compilations so I’m already looking forward to Halloween 2023.
2. Guild Of Lore – Night Of Halloween
Dungeon synth stalwart, Guild Of Lore, steps beyond the realm of Winterstead, leaving behind the Medieval intonations to embrace a world of 80’s-influenced synthwave with elements of cinematic horror. The results are a fascinating blend of B-horror movie anthems full of ghoulish field recordings, theatrical samples and rhythmic patterns that scream the elements of classic horror film soundtracks. “Lurking In The Shadows” is a prime example of ample beats, darkwave undertones, and retrospective synths, while “The Festivities” is done in the style of a skit, with spooky narrations, haunting screams and bleak atmospherics. This is an album that’s not just enjoyable during All Hallows’ Eve, but can provide eerie entertainment throughout the year, and for many years to come.
3. Erythrite Throne – A Shade Of Melancholy In The Shadow Of Death
If your not listening to Erythrite Throne on All Hallows’ Eve, then you’re either very much afraid or have already been bitten by a post-apocalyptic zombie. In the case of the latter, perhaps ‘A Shade Of Melancholy In The Shadows Of Death’ has become the perpetual soundscape for your existence. Expertly fusing classical synth tones and the occasional blasts of tasty percussion, this is another magnum opus from the master of Dungeon Synth music. Just as the title suggests, this album is a bit more lugubrious than other Erythrite Throne albums, but that’s what makes this project so special. Especially on Halloween, this is some classically creepy music to enjoy on this malevolent night.
4. Aleksis Tristan Shaw – Crooked Teeth
The ever so cleaver Aleksis Tristan Shaw once again keeps us on our toes with a musical endeavor that defies genre categorization but is presented just in time for Halloween. These three tracks showcase beautiful, yet twisted piano melodies with a dreamy, atmospheric production. Just as the album cover suggests, I can only imagine a blurry figure sitting behind the ivories and playing these dirges to conjure up the spirits of ancient past, allowing them to provide frights once again. Although each track is different, they each have a thematic element that maintains a dark but elegant mood. A full album of these ghastly sounds would be awesome as well.
5. Wodenwyrd – The Teutoburg Massacre
Wodenwyrd presents a rather unique recording as a short narrative is read over obscure backing tracks that fusses Dungeon Synth, Dark Ambient and synthwave. Read over a series of Acts (seven in all), the story summarizes the first battle between German forces and the Roman Empire around 9 AD. As compelling as the story is, the music fits perfectly and produces a brooding gray background for a malevolent narrative. There are three stand alone tracks that serve as an intro, intermission and outro and they explore more nostalgic territories such as 80’s cinema and dreamy effects. In all, this is a fantastic album and I wouldn’t mind having a series of recordings in this style.
6. Born From Pain – Begotten (1989)
Just in time for Halloween, Born From Pain delivers another compelling motion picture re-score. This time, 1989’s horror/fantasy film, ‘Begotten’, becomes the object of creativity as the quest for Dark Ambient obscurity reigns supreme. Over seventy two minutes of ethereal order becomes the pallet for rediscovering this film in a more sinister light. The film itself, is supremely bleak and a boldly obscure statement for cinema at the time of its release. If your a fan of cult filmmaker, Maya Deren, then you’ll have a good understanding of this film. As for the music, Born From Pain masterfully captures that essence with gloomy soundscapes and haunting effects that will lead to nightmarish outcomes in itself. Another fascinating adventure that I can’t recommend enough.
7. Scott Lawlor – The Livestream Series, Volume V
Scott Lawlor, the king of spatial Drone music and a jack-of-all-trades Ambient musician that never stops working and has enough released material to create the soundtrack to your very existence for years on end. On Halloween of last year, he produced a five hour livestream special that will be digitally released on Halloween this year. Spanning eleven tracks, this colossal of an album, flows like a never ending experiment through celestial voids and dark passages, as enigmatic effects combine with baneful textures to create the realm you’ve always dared to travel through. Each track presents a malefic journey through dark regions of the subconscious, bringing a terrorized reality to the forefront of the mind. Good luck getting through all five hours of this but enjoy the breathtaking adventure along the way.
8. Orcchasm – OrcChasm!
Orcchasm is truly unique experience, as we encounter a variety of musical intonations during this thirty one minute endeavor. From creepy ambience and whimsical synths to bazaar arrangements and nonstop frills, this is a musical adventure that is equally enjoyable and fulfilling. From grandiose, Medieval incantations to light, flute fills, you never know what direction the music is headed. However, hold on to your witches hat and broomsticks because this is a venture that won’t want to miss. Each track flows seamlessly into the next, showcasing a story of dark dungeons and numerous escapades. “Groping For Wild Hogs In The Dark Paphian Abyss” is my favorite track and it truly represents the musical prowess of this album as a whole. Don’t pass up on this warm journey into the wildly unknown.
9. Pumpkin Witch – The Return Of The Pumpkin Witch
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Halloween favorite, Pumpkin Witch. However, after finally rising from the Orange tomb of seasonal vegetation, they’ve returned with their most enigmatic spectacle to date, ‘The Return Of The Pumpkin Witch’. Eleven spooky anthems that provide an audial bludgeoning for almost forty four minutes, these progressive haunts are just what the doctor (or vampire or serial killer) has ordered to infiltrate your Halloween playlists. From distorted, doom-laden guitar tones and retrospective drum beats to hair raising electro sequences and synthwave tactics, this is the album that checks all the blocks for horrifying entertainment. Tape hisses and reverberated production efforts create a sinister ambiance that drives the mail in the coffin (no pun intended) for this masterful recording.
10. Ammothea – My God Is The Moon
Ammothea, the ambient-infused post metal project by Glacial Anatomy, is truly a riveting encounter that satisfies the pallet of those that enjoy the multi-genre experience. Soft, careening vocals, doom metal riffing and dreamy production yields a hypnotic effect, so that you can sit back, close your eyes and indulge in your own trip. These five tracks disperse almost sixty four minutes of playing time but, it’s over before you know it due to being completely lost in the mix of these alluring intonations. “Depth” and “My God Is The Moon” are standout tracks that incorporate a more upbeat approach without diverting away from the haunting gray that the entire album discharges. This is an extremely impressive release and I’m already looking forward to more from this artist.
11. Whöreplay – Whöreplay
A good dark wave tune goes hand in hand with the Halloween season, given its close ties to Gothic romanticism, vampires and grim landscapes. It also has provided bleak, atmospheric backdrops for scenes in classic horror films such as ‘Silence Of The Lambs’. This two track spectacle from newcomer, Whöreplay, fits right in with all of the aforementioned. Although only five minutes long, the artists wastes no time setting the listener on a collision course with haunting electronics, reverberated vocals, and a dreamy production. These tracks slice through like a jagged dagger, leaving a spot of coagulated blood for the creatures of the night to feast on.
There is no better time to come together for delivering a darkened dungeon synth experience than Halloween. Unsheathed Glory and Ozeregroth combine their talents of Medieval summonings to render a five track split album, culminating in twenty four minutes of effortless canticles set to the gloomiest night of the year. Not only does each artist produce two tracks of their own, but they collaborate on the daunting self title track. Although each artist delivers contrasting tones, they mesh together very well and and flow transparently with ominous accord. This is one of my favorite Dungeon Synth collaborations of the year and I hope these artist get together again in the future, to produce more music like this.
Additional forest photos courtesy of Carlton Whittle Photography. Please follow him on IG:
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Kalamine Records has been delivering stunning releases on its Bandcamp page since 2019. The online label from Bordeaux, France specializes in Dark Ambient, Noise, Experimental music as well as a vast array of obscure genres that migrate well off the beaten path. Producing top quality material on a regular basis, it’s difficult for me to schedule these albums for a normal review as I simply don’t have the time. However, with the introduction of this column last month and the multitude of spectacular albums that Kalamine Records have put out as of late, the timing was right for me to pick ten of these albums for summary reviews. I hope you enjoy this article and please check out Kalamine Records at the links below.
1. Mono Hideout – True Lord
‘True Lord’ is a thirty three minute session of adversarial ambience that depicts a dystopian atmosphere of chaos and evil. Although these tracks are shorter than the typical Dark Ambient intonation, the urgency of soundscape buildup and dismal drones fuel a fire of angst-laden heresy that are compelling as much as they are effective at providing huge, atmospheric settings. From celestial & spirited pieces like “Harpocrates” to sinister and minimalistic drones of “The Snake Himself”, Mono Hideout has fabricated a world of dark malevolence.
2. Helecho Experimentar – OU.. OU.. Sintaxis
Helecho Experimentar combines ominous sound effects, samples and controlled noise on the brilliant release, ‘OU… OU… Sintaxis’. Commencing with a thirty six minute opus that forges a tumultuous passage through layers of obscure musical stanzas, this album presents a relentless impression of restrained noises and hasty modulations. Truly a unique recording, this will soon become an addictive listen as the effort to notice additional peculiarities throughout, are inevitable.
3. Mora-Tau – The Five Sutra
Mora-Tau has quickly become one of my favorite Dark Ambient composers and his ever-growing catalog of consistently great recordings is something to be proud of. ‘The Five Sutra’ is another paradigm of esoteric compositions that slowly portrays a story of tragedy through elongated drones, repetitive synth manipulations and a deep venture into angst-filled arrangements. This collection of retrospective anthems provide almost two hours of listening pleasure, allowing the listener enough time to mediate in its thought-provoking sound.
4. Eijra Woon – Leïla
‘Leïla’ is a compelling offering of Dark Ambient, drone, noise, glitch and a touch of EDM, all wrapped up in a audial adventure that is both seductive and thought provoking. Haunting samples and various spots of vocalizations complete this mesmerizing collection of sonic objects that will leave the listener in a relaxed state at times, as well as emitting bouts of angst during other times. These twelve tracks ebb and flow into various emotive states and the harrowing soundtrack that ensues, is sonically unparalleled. Upon completion of this sixty five minute opus, the listener may become paralyzed with emotional shock and drenched in sweat from sheer survival of the audial jolt that took place.
5. HEL – Innocently Wicked
HEL incorporates a plethora of vocal manipulations to establish a baseline of obscure ambient for showcasing a provocative blend of harmonizing textures and meaningful poetry. This anomalous recording also includes a variety of field recordings and effects to round out this massively peculiar effort. Taking a cappella to extreme realms, HEL emits an uncompromising take on enigmatic, yet experimental music. Highly recommended for those that are brave enough to indulge in uncompromising reaches into evanescent realms.
6. Christian Fiesel – Barren Land
‘Barren Land’ sounds like a dismal exploration into mystical territories during the cultivation of 70’s or 80’s progressive-influenced synthwave. Vast wastelands are brought to light with soothing orchestrations and mesmerizing drones, as tranquil modulations produce a landscape of effervescent bliss and slow-moving sequences. This one hour long track is a lot to consume, but is equally rewarding and ominous sections fuse together in a single instance, as if wandering various rooms in a mansion, searching for clues to a portentous and puzzling storyline. One thing that remains constant throughout is the vibrant drones that seem peaceful and resonant.
7. Philippe Simon – Amarante
‘Amarante’ is a colossal offering of minimalistic Dark Ambience that stretches beyond the imagination and pushes the boundaries of atmospheric synth music. At almost eighty minutes in length, these seven tracks produce a transient environment of electronic music that combine Berlin School, drone, space ambient and quirky effects with resilient results. As these long players unwind, a deluge of celestial textures tell a haunting story of abandonment and foreboding solitary confinement. These songs are equally soothing and enthralling to say the least and once you begin this epic journey, it’s hard to stop. Enjoy this sonic masterpiece and the reward is well worth the endurance.
8. Wasatch Front – I Walked Up Stairs
‘I Walked Up Stairs’ showcases a fascinating blend of Dark Ambient, industrialized soundscapes and contained noise. This is not one to relax to or have on as background music. Wasatch Front demands your full attention to the oblivion contained within these five tracks to fathom a true understanding of the audial depth that they collectively offer. Each track takes a grueling approach to the intricacies of obscurity as the listener ascends a staircase into the unknown. As the music breeches the subconscious, a perilous adventure awaits. However, be forewarned; what goes up, must come down.
9. Hostile Surgery – Into A Cold Light
‘Into A Cold Night’ contains six protracted anthems that extend to almost eighty minutes of playing time. These masterful drones mirror a creativity of malevolent proportions as they represent a barrage of hostile actions that can only be portrayed in nightmares. From deafening modulations to wavering sound effects, there is a certain demise that becomes paramount when indulging in its menacing grasp. Although each of these tracks produce a unique listening experience, the results for all of them is the same- dark, brooding ambience with rugged atmospherics that will leave the listener is a gloomier state than before listening to this massive recording.
10. Glamourie – Imaginal Stage
‘Imaginal Stage’ may just be one of my favorite recordings from Kalamine Records. It combines dark and light ambient with a touch of acoustic folk music and even some forest synth and there is so much variation on this album, it’s hard to grasp within a few listens. However, upon multiple listens, you’ll begin to experience a decaying, yet soothing journey into assorted realms of audial reassurance. On the downloadable version of this album, each track is combined with a beautiful, mystical painting that truly represents the soundscape that affectionately makes its way through the speakers (or headphones). This is such a delightful album and I highly recommend this for those that need a peaceful, meditative source to accompany them in their life excursions.
I was first introduced to the wonderful world of Mora-Tau by way of his 2020 album, ‘The Light Of the Winter’. Something about it was very nostalgic…very haunting. Upon further probe into his Bandcamp page, I discovered an alluring and eclectic cosmos of improvisational recordings that are addictive and more importantly conceptualized based on a specific theme – particularly around horror, nightmares, worlds end and retrospective subject matter. Needless to say, Mora-Tau has become one of my favorite Dark Ambient producers and I couldn’t wait to have a conversation with him to find out what makes this project so unique and special. Hope you enjoy this interview.
1. Thank you very much for this interview opportunity. Mora-Tau has a rather short recording history but has left quite an impression on my. How did this project start for you?
As you pointed out, I only started publishing my work around 2009. I was born in 1959 and I will be 63 this year, so it’s not a long career.
For about 10 years, from the age of 15, I listened exclusively to progressive rock. I now listen to a wide range of music genres, including jazz, avant-garde music and club music, but most of it came through progressive rock. Even punk rock.
The most influential artists at that time were Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield, Steve Hillage, Gong, Popol Vuh and of course King Crimson. Well, this is a very conventional list.
I started working under the name ‘mora-tau’ around 2008. I had been creating music before that. But I was satisfied with just playing them for my friends. I didn’t do any live performances. I had no formal musical education, so I’m not very good at playing an instrument. So I couldn’t even imagine the day when I would be playing in front of other people.
In 2008 or 2009, I discovered the music publishing website jamendo.com. By registering on that site, I was finally ready to release my music to the outside world. It was then that I named myself ‘mora-tau’. The name comes from my favourite 1950s horror film The Zombies of Mora-Tau (with my favourite actress Allison Hayes playing the bad girl, who turns into a zombie at the end).
Around the same time, an acquaintance invited me to perform at his shop (which was a bookshop) for almost the first time in my life. That was a lot of fun! And that was the start of my live career.
I consider myself ambient music, drone music and experimental music at the moment. I feel that these three genres are often balanced and mixed in one piece.
It was only after 2000 that I started to listen to this music seriously, in other words systematically and consciously. Before that, I was looking for my own music, imitating what I had heard. So it wasn’t until I started performing live that I got the style of music I was aiming for.
The first music that made a big impact on me was Eliane Radigue, a pioneer of electronic music who manipulated an ARP2500. I found the drone music she produced to be very simple, but with immense depth.
Another hero of mine is Morton Feldman. When I met Feldman, who produced very long, very slow music (sometimes over five hours of music), that music melded with Tangerine Dream, Harmonia and Eliane Radigue in my mind and became a big part of my own style It has given me suggestions.
This is ‘the origin of mora-tau’.
Wow, it’s a very long answer! I’m sorry.
2. I’ve noticed that on the liner notes of many of your recordings on Bandcamp your work mainly consists of improvisations. Do you typically have a plan of what you are going to play before recording or is it completely improvised?
I record almost all of my compositions as completely improvised performances. On very rare occasions I may write a musical score, but it is a sketch for memory.
However, in the last few years, I have often decided on a scale only at the beginning of a performance. Especially for live performances, I always decide on just the scale. Sometimes I move on to another scale during the performance, and sometimes I just finish it. The reason why I decide on it is simple. I don’t want to make a mistake in front of the audience :-).
Recorded performances are edited using DAW software. Sometimes it is just the same thing as played, with a few tweaks. In most cases, however, editing is essential. Balancing between tracks, noise reduction, sound quality adjustment, etc. are always done. The song is then cut into several parts. Sometimes I’ll delete parts, sometimes I’ll change the order, and sometimes I’ll layer completely different tracks that were previously unreleased. Sometimes I create a piece by layering several tracks that were recorded at completely different times and have different tempos, tunes and tonalities.
Once I have finished recording, I change my mind and think: ‘This is all just material’. And in the editing process, I emphasise an improvisational sensibility. I rarely work in advance. My style is as improvisational in the editing as it is in the performance itself.
3. You have quite a few live recordings from Bar Lynch (in Utsunomiya, Japan). How do you prepare for those sessions and how is the audience response to your work?
Lynch is a very small bar in a narrow alleyway; it overflows when 20 people arrive. The sound system for live shows uses the shop’s audio system. Otherwise, artists bring their own amplifiers.
I always have about three synthesisers available, with the necessary effectors connected to them, and record them on a mixer/recorder, a ZOOM R-16. The output from that is then input into Lynch audio.
So the sound quality is by no means top-notch. But because my recordings do not go through the shop audio, I can guarantee the same quality as studio work. Many of my customers listen to me while they chat. No, they are not listening? But some of them listen intently, clap seriously and ask questions after the performance. Yes, about one person every six months.
My turnout is very low, only a few people at most gigs. Sometimes there is only the master. On those occasions, I play around with phrases and developments that I think the master will enjoy. Of course, I never play to the extent that the whole structure collapses, though.
4. I lived in Japan for almost 24 years and really loved the music scene however, my only electronic concert experience was seeing Merzbow live in Tokyo a few times. How is the Electronic/Ambient scene in Japan these days?
Sorry, I actually don’t know anything about the music scene in Japan. I live in Utsunomiya-City, which is 100 km north of Tokyo. The famous Shinkansen bullet train will take you to Tokyo station in an hour, but I rarely go outside my area. I’m like Rapunzel living in a tower.
I keep up to date with new music through streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube and CD shopping, but so far I haven’t found the Japanese scene to be very interesting.
5. You’ve made several recordings for International labels such as Church Of Noisy Goat (Brazil) and Kalamine Records (France). How did those endeavors come about?
Both labels approached me through them. I never approached them myself. I think they liked something about the music I was making and invited me.
6. Do you plan to release anymore albums with those labels, and possibly others?
Neither of the two labels has a specific release schedule. I send my work to them about four times a year. Then I ask them, “If you like it, will you release it?” I have never had anyone say “No”.
I will continue to regular releases, where possible. However, there is no fixed schedule. If invited by another label, I’ll see what they’re up to and think about it. Of course, my basic attitude is “anyone, anytime, is OK”.
7. As for your music style and influence, how much of it is influenced by Japanese culture, folklore and spiritual meaning?
The deepest part of the psyche must be inseparably influenced by it. For example, many of the phrases I play unconsciously have a Japanese melody.
But it’s rarely conscious. Before making track, I watch a film or read books, looking for something to inspire me. If I’m inspired by something Japanese then I’m strongly influenced by it. I’ve never been aware of any other influences beyond that.
Of course, consciously or not, ‘Japan’ is firmly rooted in me. When I improvise, I am very conscious of this. Such as when I play the ‘Japanese phrases’ I mentioned earlier. Perhaps I am imprinting ‘Japan’ more deeply in my mind through improvisation.
8. One of my favorite albums by you is called ‘Swirl’. It has a very retrospective and minimalistic vibe to it. What was it like to record this album and what is the meaning behind this amazing music?
Thank you very much. I like that album very much too.
At that time, I was thinking of putting my impressions of the B-Movies of the 50’s to music. The theme is “guidelines for music production” for me. The light of the lighthouse. A guide to the completion of the work.
This is the case with most of my work. I say to myself ‘Let’s start to make music inspired by “The Thing”! ‘. But when done, it can be The Thing, but it can also be “Quatermass Xperiment”, or “Frankenstein”, or “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas”. You must have been disgusted at how lazy it was.
Shortly before making ‘Swirl’ I bought an analogue synthesizer with a sequencer. And I wanted to use it to make endless music. That’s how I started with my technical interests.
It’s all about how to combine different approaches: adjusting parameters to make small changes, changing effects in real time, using delays to layer sounds from other equipment. “Swirl” is the result of this research into how different approaches can be combined to create long ambient pieces of music. It’s the honest answer. I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you.
9. There is another album called ‘Still Here’. In my opinion, this is one of your darkest recordings. What was the main focus behind this album?
This one, contrary to ‘Swirl’, was made with technology I already had at my disposal.
First, there was ‘Story’, which I wrote in the liner notes. How can I live in a world where the world has disappeared and no one can hear me? This was expanded upon in Still Here.
At the same time, I was obsessed at the time with the image of a ‘world on the brink of destruction’ as depicted by J.G. Ballard. I felt that I was living in a terrible world, in a time when I was trapped. To express this, I partly used contemporary musical techniques such as atonal and whole-tone scales. I think these techniques also promote darkness.
10. One of your latest albums is called ‘Brave New World’. However, in the liner notes, you state, “There is No New World Anywhere”. How does that tie in to the music on the album and what is the meaning behind this recording.
Mmm… When write it like that, it seems to express a deep philosophy. But there’s a bit of deception there.
It started from my own feeling that “there’s nothing new in this album. Every part of it is a repetition of what I’ve done before”.
Of course, I don’t always try new things in all my work. I think it’s fine to use only familiar techniques of expression, if the resulting work is emotional. That’s why I can write “There is no ‘new world’ anywhere.” It’s a self-deprecating joke!
The music for the album was done, I thought “This album is GOOD!”. But I couldn’t think of a title. At first I thought of “fragment of memories”, but then I thought it sounded like the title my past albums. After a few days of deliberation, I decided on the current title as a kind of compromise.
11. I’m really interested to learn about the equipment you use for recording? Can you please share your setup to the fans?
The main equipment is listed below. This is where we choose and combine the equipment for our gigs.
Analog Synth: Moog Sub Phatty Arturia minibrute Behringer Crave Pico System Erica Synth
Effector: Delay BOSS DD-20 GIGA DELAY tc electronic Flashback2 JOYO D-SEED II
Reverb BOSS Digital Reverb RV-5 Behringer RV600 Reverb Machine
Looper BOSS Loop Station RC-3 tc electronic DITTO X4 Looper
Multi Effector ZOOM G2
12. Other than Bar Lynch, do you play live gigs at other venues?
Yes. Since last year I have been playing at ‘Igno…. . book plus’ (an antiquarian bookshop) every three months or so. There are also a few live music venues where can play. All of them are in Utsunomiya city.
13. Do you plan to release any physical media of any of your albums or will you stick with digital releases?
I actually released a CD a few years ago under the title “the old village”. 300 copies were made and over 200 are still unsold. I don’t think releasing any more CDs. It’s too costly. I would like to release a cassette tape.
14. I’m always looking forward to hearing new music from you. What do you have planned for releases in 2022?
Thank you very much. In 2022 I’m aiming to release an album every month, hopefully one that You will like.
15. Thanks again for your time and for sharing your musical journey. Do you have any final thought for those that will read this interview?
I was born in 1959, so I don’t think I’ll have another ten years to be an active musician. Nevertheless, I don’t want to stop playing music and I hope to go deeper into it. If you don’t mind, I would be very happy if you could stay with me for a while longer.
It’s almost mind numbing to see how great the Dark Ambient genre has not only grown, but expanded in sound. It seems as if harsh noise and industrial ambience is coming more into existence and coupling with the bleak intonations of Dark Ambient soundscapes and drones. The albums in this list represent change, growth and also homage to the influences of modern day Dark Ambient music. I hope you enjoy these summary reviews as much as I did putting them together.
1. The Owl – Beyond The Vastness Of Infinity
The Owl specialized in noise terror and monstrous modulations that are presented in a controlled chaos offering. ‘Beyond The Vastness Of Infinity’ is an improvised endeavor that plays on the decline of normalcy and the abruptness of ataxia. Rigid guitar tones set against the strident sounds of industrialized soundscapes and eerie narrations set a precedence of tonal despondency. As mesmerizing as it is turbulent, this albums is just another gem in the vast The Owl discography.
2. Aleksis Tristan Shaw – Loud Nothing
Multi-talented, multi-genre artist Aleksis Tristan Shaw, once again dabbles in the world of Dark Ambient music with the twisted oblation, ‘Loud Nothing’. Combining the forces of demented horror sounds, spacious soundscapes and drifting drones, this is a compelling story of electronic proportions. Elongated drones provide a hypnotic state while supernatural subtleties and sequences keep the listener from completely going under with hints of smoldering tension. At times, spacey, and other times downright grim, this recording is a full offering of Dark Ambient amusement and is fascinating to say the least.
3. Crepuscular Entity – Zwolf Bagatellen
‘Zwolf Bagatellen’ is an exercise in harsh frequency delivery and the chaotic amplification of audial discord. Consisting of twelve tracks of white noise, with belligerent modulations, this is a test of determination and surviving the true grit of noise ambience. Filled with abrupt soundscapes and extreme reverberation, this album is a massive overdose of music that is meant to overtake the sense and infiltrate the mind. Listen at your own risk but prepare to be amazed at the indulgence of extreme electronic music.
4. Drone Islands – Volume I / II / III
‘Drone Islands – Volume I /II / III’ is a massive collection of ambient magnificence, containing beautiful audial offerings from an array of artists. This album combines the work of all Drone Island releases to include, ‘Land Rising’, ‘The Lost Maps’ and ‘Stellar’. Some of the biggest names in the Dark Ambient community lend their services to this recording such as Ashtoreth, Kammarheit, BlackWeald, Taphephobia, Alphaxone and Infinexhuma. These types of collective albums are a real treat, as you get a cluster of unique musical achievements in a single album. This is an exemplary collection that must be heard.
5. Long The Night – Illusion
‘Illusion’ is an assemblage of beguiling drones with cinematic-like production. Although starting out with a light ambient vibe, the mood swiftly changes on track two, “Untold Mind” and a belligerent tone is thrusted into this space ambient endeavor. These songs sequentially crescendo into a mammoth-like sound and slowly fade out into oblivion before shifting to the next moment of surprising moments. There are moments that are influenced by the Warhammer 40k sound, while the majority of the album is like a dark space excursion. This is an excellent album that fits right in with some of the top names in the genre.
6. Pavor Nocturnus – Bosch
Pavor Nocturnus specializes in flowing light drones that are delivered in an obscure pallet of ominous soundscapes, torturous industrial sounds and peaceful samples and field recordings. All fused together, this is an eerily harmonious endeavor that will be pleasing to fans of multiple Dark Ambient sub-genres. ‘Bosch’ is eclectic blend of soulful modulations that don’t have a particular flow (from track to track), but works very well in the overarching concept of the album. This is an amazing recording that I cannot recommend enough.
7. Sij & Textere Oris – Reflections At The Sea
Sij & Textere Oris is one of the most fascinating Dark Ambient collaborations on the Cryo Chamber label roster. Although only having released two albums on the giant label, they are both top quality endeavors that are unique in their own way. On latest effort, ‘Reflections At The Sea’, soothing drones are met with enchanting vocal melodies and theatrical reverberations that produces a theatrical-like sound. From piano chops to random sound effects, this album is put together magnificently and will warrant multiple listens. This is definitely one not to miss.
8. Melanohelios – The Durance Machine
In my opinion, Melanohelios doesn’t put out music often enough. There is something very addictive with Melanohelios albums and I can’t quite put my finger on it. However, I can say that what you’ll get with each album is an exclusive listening experience – one just as good as the next. On ‘The Durance Machine’, there are two tracks of mind-melding drone work that lasts the better part of thirty six minutes. While listening, you’ll find yourself drifting between peaceful experiences and terrifying moments that flow together with extreme transparency. This is another alluring album from such a reclusive entity.
9. Marco Pianges – Somewhere
Dark tones and blistering keys set the backdrop for this escapade of quality electronic tracks. With a plethora of samples and soundscapes, this short album is a cacophony of aggressive moment and angst-filled resilience. The genius aspect of this album is the malevolence hidden in the peaceful details – like a field of beautiful flowers in the dead of winter. Even with just twenty minutes of playing time, this five track album is a beast to contend with and will surely please all fans of Dark Ambient music.
10. Northumbria – Isolering
If you’re a fan of Dark Ambient music, you should at least be aware of the haunting entity known as Northumbria. With a list of unrivaled albums on the Cryo Chamber label, the stringed duo often ventures out independently and continues to produce quality ambience. On 2021’s ‘Isolering’, we’re presented with four ominous tracks containing nearly seventy five minutes worth of mesmerizing intonations. These extended efforts take the listener down a blackened path and instill a relentless blend of lethargic tones and reverberated modulations that are simply paralyzing. In my opinion, this is one of their best efforts and the mood that it sets is quite compelling.
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There are many things in life that we take for granted on a daily basis. Even something as simple as subtle noises and sounds becomes less observed as we pick and choose which signals to process for an action or reaction. Of course our minds are programmed to react to daily nuances such as vibrations of a text message coming in on our cellular devices, a car horn as it signifies the moment of possible incident, an alarm clock as it pulls us out of our indulgent, hibernating state or even voice communication by our family, friends and coworkers – sometimes a complete stranger. However, there is another underlying tension, the ambient rumbles of reoccurring instances that we take for granted or don’t even pay attention to all together. There is true significance behind the droning sounds that are often terrifying, annoying and even chaotic that we subconsciously ignore, but they are there for a reason. The sounds are derivative of processes and movement that have a deeper meaning, indirectly executing the underlying fabric of society that nonchalantly pass us by. It’s these very things that are represented on the latest Colonial Skywave album, ‘Evening On Earth’ that are now brought to the forefront of the mind in order for us to understand – and even appreciate – their significance. Eight tracks of masterful droning in its most minimalistic state, yet so full of life, that it truly needs to be heard to be welcomed as a productive part of society.
“Stars On The Ground” slowly crescendo’s into a looping hiss of a mechanical nature, almost as if a gear were stuck in a failed rotation and continued with repeated attempts to proceed with its forward movement. As the nuance perpetuates, a grazing hum comes into focus, easing the tension of the core commotion while inducing a meditative form. Just as the listener eases into this dynamic configuration, these sounds begin to defuse and ultimately fade into oblivion. “Keylapes” proceeds down the dark path of heavy machinery and the purr of high speed cycles, proving the successful syntonization of synthetic equipment. Random bursts of manufacturing effects adds a layer of cyclic activity that may seem random, but is the result of melding productivity and arduous combustions that creates a uniquely resonating sound signature. “Fairway” presents another heavy, arduous drone with looping chugs of industrial strength apparatuses, carrying on with the tedious task of unmistakable agitation. As this motion eternizes, it’s apparent that a malevolent force is strong at work. With no decrease of movement in site, it slowly fades away into obscurity, even though the harshness continues to plagues the airways that it surrounds. Continuing on with the looping essence is, “Off At Dawn”. Industrial dreariness is replaced with digitized intonations with the penchant for coding errors and computerized alarms instead of machinery malfunctions. The sonic apprehension of looping buzzes gives the impression of abnormal functionality, but the abhorrent continuation of the main sounds signify error override, as the collusion of systems advance without a care in the world. “Areas Of Drifting” commences with the synchronizing strum that is very reminiscent of a full scale orchestra coming into unified harmony after much needed adjustment to playing a single tuning note. Instead of everything comes to a halt – at the request of the conductors triple baton tap – the notes are held in alliance, while relaxation overcomes the listeners whim. Next is “Lonely Tolls” and it’s exactly what I’ve envisioned with the given track title. An interstate toll booth worker, laboring through the dreadful night shift, where the constant flow of traffic has been replaced with the languid resonance of emptiness and distant sounds not normally observed. The tolling of cryptic bells declares a mysterious warning of unforeseen events. A steady volume of rain hits the roof of the tool booth like an intrusive static, adding to the ambience of the other sounds. “Forth Selector Stepping” slowly seeps in like daybreak, where aberrant sound of the night seize and give way to an endless vacuum of light despondency. Bridging the gap of the known and unknown, this track acts as the medium for what’s left behind and what’s yet to occur. The final track on the album is “After Dark”, a deep, meditative drone that suggests a particular crepuscule of dead air and distant exertion. Although one doesn’t overpower the other, there is a sense of struggle beyond the threshold of existence. This track summarize the entire album perfectly as this compelling drone embodies the journey of noises and sounds crafted by mankind (and natural occurrences) and wraps them up in a coercive bleakness of axiomatic energy, despite the situation.
In conclusion, the sounds we take for granted are a beautiful thing and relative to life on Earth as we know it. Often mistaken as meaningless nuisances, they are simply the collateral return of a productive and mechanized society. Colonial Skyway again produces a magnificent soundscape of representation and blissful moments of droning endeavors. ‘Evening On Earth’ is a societal soundtrack to a world of underground chaos that is often overlooked, yet needed for perpetual existence. This meditative offering is one of my favorites of the year so far and provides me with a pleasing dose of hypnotic artistry on a regular basis. Don’t hesitate to check this one out if you’re into minimalistic drone music. Click on the link below to support this one of a kind experience.
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World renowned author and playwright – Leo Tolstoy – once stated, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” I couldn’t agree more, as we often listen to music that matches our feeling and/or emotional state. At times, music frequently instigates a particular feeling that allows the listener to drift into an ardent state of explicit emotions or imaginative foundations. One such compelling artist that provokes those very sentiments is Throne Of Knowledge, a Dark Ambient/Winter Synth project that presents an impactful sense of mystical feelings through cold and somber drones. On the latest album, ‘The Return To Unity’, three extended tracks of space ambient and winter synth tones fuse wonderfully to create a hypnotizing atmosphere of otherworldly experiences.
The haunting opening track, “The Return To Unity”, showcases a sequence of looping melodies, perpetual drones and celestial atmospherics that promulgates an alluring sense of bliss across twenty seven minutes of playing time. This is an extraordinary track that implicitly serves as a soundtrack for meditative sequences. If you’re expecting a lot of change ups, soundscapes and explosive moments, you’ll need to seek that type of music expression elsewhere. However, if a relaxing, and introspective experience is what you’re vying for, then look no future than this beautiful track as it sincerely provides that moment of reflection that is much desired. Next up is the sixteen minute long endeavor, “Aura”. Even more minimalistic than the first track, this will invoke a period of mental solitude through bleak drones and the occasional soundscape that depicts instances of awareness and contemplation. If the first track is the one that takes the listener to an altered state, then “Aura” is the track that locks the listener in for the duration of this pensive experience. The winter synth tones are prevalent throughout this track as the atmosphere is cold, dry and full of gray colors and sounds. The final song on the album is “The Observer Effect”. Although considered a bonus track, this is the third and final installment of the meditation experience as it’s the one that slowly pulls the listener back to reality. This near sixteen minute long track contains more key rhythms and is presented in a quicker pace than the previous songs. Although the gloomy drone is still ubiquitous, it’s used more in the background than in the forefront, allowing for the harmonies to take over and draw the listener in to a refreshed perspective of life and happenstance. Having this bonus track on the album makes perfect sense as it completes a sonic adventure of mindfulness and prospective gain.
This third chapter of the Throne Of Knowledge collection is an exceptional work of art that tells a wordless story of nature and peaceful existence. Although firmly rooted in Dark Ambient, there are underlying tones and themes that give this adventurous piece endless meaning and also a home in other genres such as Winter Synth and – in a way – Atmospheric Dungeon Synth. I highly recommend this album for a relaxing experience, so please check it out at the link below and enjoy this highly effective masterpiece.
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I almost don’t like putting together these year-end Top 10 lists because it’s so hard to pick 10 albums out of the hundreds or thousands of Dark Ambient releases in a given year. However, at the same time, I do want to show my respects to the albums that held the highest entertainment value for me, thus equating to my FAVORITE Dark Ambient albums of 2021. I really hope you enjoy this list as much as I had putting it together and if there is anything that strikes your attention on here, please check them out and show your support for these amazing artists. Without further a due, I present to you my favorite 10 Dark Ambient albums of 2021.
10. Blackweald – 666 Minutes In Hell
What better way to get this list started than an album consisting of nearly eleven and a half hours of diabolical Dark Ambient. ‘666 Minutes In Hell’ is that album and just the length alone is downright captivating. As for the music itself, this is some of the most sinister Dark Ambient I’ve heard in a long time and the endless supply of field recordings and soundscapes are enough to make an actual trip to hell seem like an endless endeavor. This is a very creative album that sets a gloomy atmosphere and only Blackweald could pull this off with such a grim attraction.
9. Xerxes The Dark – Soundtrack To The Blind Owl
Xerxes The Dark continues his string of impressive releases with the Industrial-styled, ‘Soundtrack To The Blind Owl’. One of his most chaotic and abrasive releases yet, this album is not to be taken lightly, as the amount of discord and pandemonium contained within can be alarmingly harsh if not expected. However, for me, I love this type of audial chaos and for nearly fifty three minutes, XTD thrashes the listener through a gauntlet of maniacal sounds and glitches by way of synth and guitar manipulation. Definitely check this one out if you’re into the more extreme side of Dark Ambient music.
8. Dead Melodies – Fabled Machines Of Old
For the past couple of years, Dead Melodies has been one of the busiest and most consistent Dark Ambient artists around. From amazing solo efforts to haunting collaborations with the likes of Zenjungle and Beyond The Ghost, he has amassed quite the discography of varied material. ‘Fabled Machines Of Old’ is another prodigious notch in his belt with a ferocious blend of Dark Ambient tones, haunting acoustic guitar passages and the warm embrace of dark noir styled jazzy impulses. The result is an album full of assorted & gloomy characteristics that are extremely fulfilling and a breath of fresh air for the Cryo Chamber label.
7. Mora-Tau – Wellcome Back, Nuclear Summer
Mora-Tau has quickly become one of my favorite Dark Ambient artists with his brand of exhilarating improvisations. Releasing a magnitude of albums on his own Bandcamp page, as well as several other labels, it’s hard to pick a favorite album – especially since they are all so amazing. However, one that I keep returning to the most is the dispiriting ‘Wellcome Back, Nuclear Summer’. These four tracks describe a dismal scene of a bleak, post-nuclear atmosphere of nothingness and regrowth. Using an assortment of synth effects and drones, Mora-Tau is like a voiceless narrator for a scene filled with disaster and radiance. I’m so glad that Mora-Tau exists at this point in time and I highly recommend checking out his whole discography, but starting with one of my year end favorites, ‘Wellcome Back, Nuclear Summer’.
6. Wampyric Solitude – Echoes Of Undying Darkness And Bloodshed
Dungeon Synth maestro, Wampyric Solitude has not only created one of my favorite Dungeon Synth albums of the year, but he’s also produced one of my favorite Dark Ambient album, ‘Echoes Of Undying Darkness And Bloodshed’. Expecting another Dungeon Synth masterpiece, I was both shocked and blown away by the sounds of menacing drones, ominous atmospherics and apocalyptic styled soundscapes that decays from within. This is bleak adventure that I can’t stop listening to and I would to love to hear more of this type of dynamic caliber from Wampyric Solitude in the very near future.
5. Dahlia’s Tear – Adrift On The Edge Of Infinity
Anyone that is familiar with the works of Dahlia’s Tear can agree that there is a recognizable sound throughout the impressive discography. However, it’s the Cryo Chamber releases that finds the artist at his best and the post-apocalyptic presentation is as doleful as it is hypnotizing. Just when you think you’ve heard the magnum opus effort by Dahlia’s Tear, along comes another album of equal or better quality. ‘Adrift On The Edge Of Infinity’ is a driving force of intensity that exudes melancholic proportions with a haunting soundscape. I eagerly await new albums by Dahlia’s Tear and this one was no exception and it surely doesn’t disappoint.
4. Sydalesis – Living Machine
‘Living Machine’ is a masterclass in Berlin School styled Dark Ambient music. This mammoth recording hosts 14 tracks of lenitive, atmospheric anthems that expands beyond two and a half hours of playing time. Mixing ambient music with Berlin School sequences has become one of my favorite styles of electronic music and I tend to get completely mesmerized by its output. ‘Living Machine’ elicited that exact result from the initial listen back in April until now. This album remains a fascinating experience and it – unfortunately – didn’t get the attention that it deserved. I highly recommend checking this one out immediately.
3. Hilyard – Division Cycle
The albums that Hilyard produces for Cryo Chamber are just different – in a great way. He seems to pull out all the stops when making music for the giant label and ‘Division Cycle’ is my favorite Cryo Chamber label release for this year. An excellent blend of Space Ambient and minimalistic droning, this album was an immediate hit and greatly surpassed all of my expectations. Subtle soundscapes and industrial undertones generate an atmosphere of endless tranquility, darkened by blissful aggression. This is one of the most meditative albums of the year and I still can’t get enough of its bleak embrace.
2. Delmak-O – The Colony
I must say that ‘The Colony’ was quite a surprise upon initial listen. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. However, what I got was one of the most impressive Ambient albums that I’ve ever heard. Fusing Berlin School sequences with Space Ambient drones, otherworldly soundscapes and a Sci-Fi conceptual story, this album is a masterpiece from start to finish. This is one of those albums that you can blast in a pair of good headphones and be taken away on an astral adventure without any care in the world. A very enjoyable album that brings a much needed variety to the Dark Ambient community.
1. Sumatran Black – A Taxonomy Of Grief
I’ve been a Sumatran Black fan for a few years now and equally love the other projects by the same artist, Black Box Memories and Atasehir. Even though the output of dystopian style Dark Ambience has been quite impressive, ‘A Taxonomy Of Grief’ is light years ahead of previous efforts. For nearly two hours and twenty minutes, the listener is treated with a melancholic blend of mesmerizing synths and mournful soundscapes that depicts a gloomy reality of dealing with personal bereavement and loss. Each track completes a cycle of majestic aplomb through soothing arrangements that are insanely breathtaking. Because of these alluring intricacies, ‘A Taxonomy Of Grief’ is easily my favorite Dark Album of 2021.