Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

Gizeh Records – 26th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘File under: Avant-Garde, Drone, Dark-Ambient’, says the press release. And yes, the nine pieces on Göldi fell, an album limited to 175 hand-printed copies on CD are indeed darkly ambient drone-fests, rich in atmosphere and the rumbles of distant thunder. I spend many long hours listening to music of this ilk, and while I do enjoy it, I sometimes struggle for new descriptors, and often find myself gradually drifting in a way that means I have no significant emotional response to detail. And yet this is most definitely not ‘background’ audio: it’s mood-influencing, and the creeping fear chords and unexpected interjections and the trembling sawing scrapes contrive to jangle the nerves and leave the listener on edge. Yes, I’m glancing over my shoulder, pausing my typing to listen to determine if the sound I just heard came from the speakers of an intruder on the stairs, someone in the back yard.

The strings drone and drag into scraping metallic contrails that melt into undifferentiated sonic melanges, and this is an album that creeps and crawls, spreading dark energy like dry ice around the ankles as it plunders the gut-twisting fear-chords and unsettles from beginning to end.

At times mellow, delicate, and at others uncomfortable, scraping sinuous and dissonant, this is a deep and contemplative work that elicits reflection from the listener. At this particular moment, I’m reflecting on time – specifically, time when I had time to stop, to think, to spend afternoons simply listening to music and / or reading a book. It feels like a long time ago. What happened?

For all the darkness, I can’t help but be amused by the press write that states ‘Several Wives lie in the darkened corner of a room. Paintings torn, forgotten against the wall. Dead rhythms seep through the floor. Everything is tired. Everything is jaded.’

It’s funny because of the band name. it works in that it conjures a most visual and vaguely surreal image that’s entirely incongruous with the music itself. Plus, as anyone who’s married will likely tell you, one wife is more than enough, and the prospect of several is even more terrifying than the shrieking, wailing cat, string crescendo that howls and mewls the challenging finale of ‘The Blinding of Delilah’. There’s also an element of if not outright humour, them flippancy about some of the titles: ‘that dream you had’, ‘that other dream you had’, and ‘Her on the phone’ are casual-sounding and contrast with the weighty, atmospheric drones that creep and crawl around among the looming shadows of their own casting.

Göldi fell is a difficult album, but for all of the right reasons. None of it feels easy or comfortable. And nor should we want it to. It’s healthy to be unsettled, unnerved from time to time, to be dragged out of that tiredness, that jadedness.

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Treading that line between elevated art and unnecessarily loftiness and pretension… It’s a challenge. It’s not always easy to differentiate parody and sincerity, not least of all because we exist in a world in which real-life news resembles Brasseye and The Day Today. Irony is dead, and belief is the enemy in a post-truth society.

So when a press release reads half like a sample from a William Burroughs cut-up whereby Lemegeton Party is described as ‘the narcotic and occluded industrial-ambient debut for the Junkie Flamingos,’ it’s difficult to rate its level of seriousness. And, according to the accompanying text, the album is inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion, [and] is gilded with a neoclassical sheen that alludes to both the divine and the diabolical. Kundalini’s whispered invocations which have so creepily effective in addressing psychosexually abject conditions in She Spread Sorrow are immediately recognizable here. Yet, she shifts the content towards messages of power and strength, even if cast in the shadows of desolation and solitude’.

The chances are – no criticism – that this will go over the heads of many, and returns us to the question of the extent to which understanding the theory behind any work of art should have a bearing on one’s capacity to appreciate it. I don’t believe that it should even one iota. But then again, my own background draws me to note that in their naming, Junkie Flamingos allude to surrealist juxtapositions built on incongruity, something which defined Dada and indicates a strong Surrealist bent.

The detail is that Junkie Flamingos is ‘a project conceived in 2017 by Luca Sigurtà, Alice Kundalini, and Daniele Delogu’, and that ‘Each of these musicians has their distinctive sounds: Sigurtà with his vertiginous electronica, Kundalini best known as the author behind the death industrial project She Spread Sorrow, and Delogu in the bombastic folk of the Barbarian Pipe and. Their collective amalgamation shifts but does not denude each of these aesthetics in the construction of this oblique, sidereal album.’

It’s clear Junkie Flamingos have high artistic ambitions, and ‘Evening of Our Days’, the first of the albums five expansive tracks sounds pretty serious: even a line like ‘you are a small man’ sounds menacing, threatening, dangerous when whispered, serpentine, from the mouth of Alice Kundalini against a rising tide of electronic manging. The backdrop is sparse, but ugly. ‘Shape of Men’, the album’s eight-and-a-half minute centrepiece is dolorous, sparse, and funereal as a single bell chime rings out over a low, thudding bass beat.

‘Restless Youth’ rumbles, grinds and glitches amidst flickering beats, ominous rumbles, hushes, barely audible vocals, and a general radiance of discomfort and disquiet. The lower, slower, and quieter they take it, the more you feel your skin crawl and your nerves jangle. Sitting between ambient and sparse electronica, it’s darkly atmospheric not in the ambient sense, but in the most chilling, semi-human, psychotic sense. ‘The Language of Slaves’ continues on the same path, the semi-robotic, processed vocals creating a distance between event and emotion. There’s no obvious entry point, and this is music of detachment and cognitive dissonance. These are the album’s positives. It isn’t easy to get into, but why should it be? But where Lemegeton Party stands out is in its subtlety, something chronically underrated right now. With Lemegeton Party, Junkie Flamingos steel in by stealth… and then fuck with your psyche. And that’s why I love it.

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Junkie Flamingos – Lemegeton Party

This is it Forever – 12th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, I’m biased. Thomas Ragsdale’s work as one half of worriedaboutsatan and Ghosting Season has enthused me for over a decade now, and his solo work, too, has consistently mesmerised and enthralled me. This isn’t just journo gush: his work is rich and immersive and simply never disappoints. His latest offering, the three-track ‘Under Dwellers’ EP is no exception.

The BandCamp blurb describes it as ‘Three pieces of music paying tribute to the world beneath our own’, and goes on to describe how ‘Acid lines are fed through tape echo and back into a reel to reel machine… Randomised synth arps clatter around unpredictably inside a distortion unit… Crumbling piano melodies faintly cry out over the hiss and hum of modern circuits… Sounds made by a human, but with no control. Music for beneath the grit and surface of our modern world’.

Ragsdale translates all of these things into something more than pitch, more than process jargon, and presents a set of atmospheric, semi-ambient compositions, rich in tone and texture, and which utterly envelop the listener.

There is little point in detailing either the structure or sound of the individual pieces, or much else for that matter. Dark clouds drift and scrape, twist and turn and swell to fill the air. Yet There is depth, and above all a certain intangible grip and pull here. One listens. One reacts. One feels it, somehow, subliminally, a head-tingling, gut-pulling soundwork.

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Thomas Ragsdale - Under Dwellers

Kranky – 19th May 2017

James Wells

‘Atmospheric’, ‘haunting’, ‘hypnotic’… these are the first words which spring to mind while the resonant bass notes pulse long and slow beneath Irma Orm’s uniquely sedate voice, bathed in radiant reverb like a sonic halo. These words are all cliché, the everyday tools of the music writer’s trade, and in being cliché, their power has been eroded over time. But what words are there which truly convey, and do justice to, the depths of the music which comprises Nektyr?

The album’s seven tracks are expansive in every direction: textured, rich, slow in tempo, they gradually unfurl to reveal an enigmatic sonic vastness and deep emotional pull.

‘Morgon’ drifts, fugue-like, the dense cloud of sound utterly immersive and with Orm’s vocal, Jarboe’s most intoxicating work comes to mind by way of a touchstone. Woozy synth tones lurch and sway over a stuttering heartbeat of a drum in the fade of ‘Korridorer’.

This is deep material that reaches into the soul on an almost subliminal level: to dissect its power to the point at which it can be readily conveyed n words would be to diminish that power. This is music which communicates on another level, one which transcends language and as such, renders any critical appraisal in mere words not only challenging, but essentially obsolete. This is music you feel, intuitively, instinctively, and in your core. It’s a spiritual, if not a religious experience. Indescribably moving on a level far below the conscious, it really is quite an album.

 

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3rd February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As a band who really grabbed me by the throat with the release of their ‘Nowhere’ EP in 2015, the arrival of the latest offering from GHXST in my inbox was cause for excitement. And rightly so. To cut to the chase, Perish is a masterpiece.

The EP’s first track, ‘Southern Eye’, carries the refrain of ‘nowhere’ and as such, continues the theme of displacement, of outsiderdom, of not belonging which was core to the aforementioned EP. It’s a fair summary of what GHXST are about, musically, conceptually, and lyrically. Their songs deal with darker themes, and the cover art, which seems to evoke the spirit of Joy Division conveys an appropriate sense of bleakness, but also a certain, ineffable serenity and grace.

On the title track, a rushing guitar grind and reverberating samples are counterpointed by a haunting – and achingly beautiful – vocal that has hints of Alison Shaw of Cranes, only less squeaky, and Toni Halliday. The contrast is what defines the sound, and is ultimately what makes GHXST so special: it’s so rare for a band this heavy to convey so much emotional sensitivity. Theirs is not a sonic expression of nihilistic rage, but of something altogether more nuanced, possessing a heart-trembling beauty, rendered all the more distinct in their execution by the use of a drum machine. As such, they’re in an entirely different league from the few doomgaze contemporaries with female vocals one might name, like Esben and the Witch and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. And on this outing they expand their sound to incorporate elements of blues and country. How does that sit as a genre? But it’s not merely the fact they exist within their own niche: the tracks on Perish: the quality of the songs, and their spectacularly atmospheric execution is something special.

‘Stories We Tell’ achieves a heart-rending beauty while crushing your skull with punishing guitars and pounding, slow-tempo percussion: the guitars grate and grind, each power chord throbbing with a malevolent afterburn. ‘Summer Moon’ presents a surging pop dynamic, a dash of Jesus and May Chain against a Chapterhouse-y whirl of shoegaziness and ‘Waiting for the Night’ is a slow-surging dirge, riven with the crackling pops of Akai snare bursts which shouldn’t work but actually bring a bleak aggression to the droning. Closer ‘No Wild West’ introduces a droning desert blues element, the chugging guitars drifting over an expansive, barren wasteland as Shelley X drawls into a sea of reverb.

This is by no means inaccessible music: it’s music to lose yourself in. The songs themselves are comparatively short – none extend beyond the five-minute mark – but all bear all the hallmarks of true epics, with a sound which is beyond vast.

 

 

 

 

GHXST - Perish

kranky – 17th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s pitched as a ‘compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno’. An Act of Love is very much an album which possesses a haunting atmosphere, with a supple, soft, subaquatic sound dragging the listener into a warm, hushed place of dark stillness where movement is slowed.

The album’s first track, ‘The Present Mist’, sets the tone, and its title is an appropriate summary of the vague, amorphous drifting soundscapes which encapsulate the overall feel of a set the fabric of which is woven from intangibles.

‘About that Time’ builds a hypnotic groove with an overtly dance-orientated beat – that is to say, an insistent bass drum in square four-four time at around 120bpm – while soft waves of sound drift like mist to form obfuscating layers which envelop the senses. A piano rings out into the warm aural webbing and hangs in the air. But the drums rattle and reverberate, echoing across one another: it’s not nearly as ambient or understated as may first appear. And so, while the album does often drift, making minimal demands on concentration, it is not without dynamic or the capacity to withstand a degree of attentiveness. It’s well-constructed and has a flow about it which works well. That flow creates, magically, a certain temporal suspension as time evaporates like vapour over the distance of successive tracks.

Jittering beats, like a palpitating heart, thump through ‘Exuberant Burning’. This is no up-front dance work, but nevertheless, there is a tension, and an excitement which emanates from its dark, cellular landscape. The flickering, pulsing beats muffled and bear a certain resemblance to sounds heard through a stethoscope.

An Act of Love is an album which slowly, subtly, almost subliminally, evolves and unfurls.

 

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Hubro – HUBROCD2576 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

So sad, so haunting. The sliding notes, gently picked, cascade and ripple through the still air, reverb coating them in a vaporous mist. Somewhere between classical and country, the title track opens the album in a quietly moving style: pedal steel, banjo and musical saw all combine to create an air of melancholy, evocative of dappled light, and touched at the edges with a vague nostalgia. A slow, sedate swell gradually builds, a looping motif channelling a lilting, mesmeric melody. Lonesome country vibes drift across the desertscape of ‘Gråtarslaget, but it’s tinged with a hint of eastern mysticism. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition. Rolling piano and slow marching drums drift through the slowcore country meandering of ‘Florianer’, which in turn trickles down into the woozy warp of ‘Røk’.

The sparse arrangements and slowly unfurling motifs make for music – or, in places, something so background as to be an approximation of muzak – which is paired down, stripped back, presenting pieces which are less compositions and more emblematic of the essence of slowcore country. It’s not often that I would suggest songs would benefit from vocals, but these instrumental works do carry a weighted note of absence.

 

 

Geir Sundstol