Posts Tagged ‘Dark-Ambient’

Panurus Productions – 31st March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s always a pleasure to receive a new release from Panurus Productions, although that perhaps says as much about my perverse tastes as anything, since this cassette-only microlabel specialises in weird, obscure, dark and resolutely underground music. And this one’s a double cassette. So perhaps my pleasure is in torturing the self-loathing facet of my psyche, or perhaps it’s just that I’m wired to appreciate the way sound – and not necessarily songs, and not necessarily conventional melodies and structures – can convey meaning and be imbed with a subconscious resonance that taps into emotions by an alternative means. That’s the kind of pleasure I get from receiving a new release from Panurus: a pleasure that sets a certain churn in the pit of the stomach in anticipation of the dark delights it will offer up.

It’s also something of a pleasure to read the accompanying press releases, which are more or less reviews in themselves, brimming with descriptions not only of the sound, but the sensation. Here, we’re promised a work on which ‘pneumatic pulses crunch over electronic drones, as bestial grunts and gurgles wallow in the synthetic murk. Wordless siren calls weave through the textures, shifting between forlorn and beckoning. The vocal sounds of Möbius and electronics 1727 at times distinct and at others indistinguishable, giving us a sonic insight into something we are not meant to see. This is the soundtrack to grainy footage of cult activity – to newspaper clippings of strange happenings and missing persons.’ I feel as if my work is done, even though it’s only just beginning. It’s a challenge: where do you go from there?

Down, is the answer on this occasion. Down. And further down. Burning the Black Candles is a journey deep underground, and begins with a rapid descent into darkness, and a cold, paranoid space. You can no longer trust your senses: the very air will prod you and whisper painful truths and lies as you flinch and question your mind.

The title track leads the listener deep underground to a dark, dank place. Subterranean earthworks grind, slow-moving, tectonic resonance shuddering. Haunting, disembodied voices echo through distant caverns, echoes of lost souls enacting obscure rituals. It drones, groans, moans and grumbles on for a full twenty-three minutes.

‘A Censer Hanging from Chains’ continues in the same vein: so much so that the tracks bleed not one another in a seeping morass of swirling murk. Dank air gusts thick and heavy through shafts and tunnels, a purgatorial labyrinth.

It’s a low, slow, bowel-churning rumble of a drone that forges the fabric of ‘Smoke Slowly Filling the Chamber’: the title is evocative and the sound dense and suffocating. There’s a noise, far away, echoes of shouting, possibly torture, but it soon vanishes, and all that’s left is the buzzing low-frequency flutter. It’s an oppressive, chest-tightening experience, and by the end of its twenty-minutes, it’s slowed to a shuddering crackle, like a failing heartbeat. Then stops.

The final piece, ‘GinruB’, which isn’t quite ‘burning’ backwards is so barely there ambient it’s practically subliminal. And yet it radiates a dark presence that over the course of twenty-five minutes burrows deeper down, and into the listener’s psyche to unsettling effect. It rumbles, it crackles. It burns. Monastic voices and mournful drones rise and reverberate a way off, but the ceremony feels like a lament, a funeral ode, as the end draws closer. And closer. And then… nothing.

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Hallow Ground – HG2001 – 28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Electric Sewer Age began as a collaborative project between Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil) and Danny Hyde, who continued the project together with John Deek, who subsequently passed away in 2013. It’s perhaps only natural that a sense of bleakness, of darkness, of a certain sense of grief permeates Electric Sewer Age, as a project strewn with loss.

Contemplating Nothingness is the third release by Electric Sewer Age, and the second one that Hyde finished alone, following on from Bad White Corpuscle, originally released in 2014, and re-released in 2016.

Contemplating Nothingness is pitched as ‘a lysergic tapestry culled from the deep end of the collective pop cultural unconscious’. It begins with some spaced-out trippy, doodly interweaving drones and some disorientating analogue latticeworks and shuffling electronic judderings providing the backdrop to some reverby, echoic vocals before transitioning into woozy dance territory, a stammering heartbeat bass beat fluttering beneath shifting layers of disquiet which collide with elliptical elisions to dance tropes.

‘Got some bad news this morning / which in turn made my day’, Hyde wheezes in a distorted Al Jourgensen-style vocal on ‘Whose Gonna Save my Soul’. I try not to wince too hard and the grammatical error and instead focus on the dark atmospherics the song conjured. Moreover, this single line encapsulates the contradictions which stand at the very foundations of this album, and the track itself delves into swampy dark ambience, dominated by a rhythmic wash, with Eastern motifs twisting in and out sporadically amidst a lower-end washing ebb and flow while the vocal, half-buried, is detached, distant.

Like its predecessor, Contemplating Nothingness is dark and difficult. Slow beats that land somewhere between heavy hip-hop, trip-hop and industrial drive ‘Chebo’, a delirious drag of chimes and electronic ululations. ‘Surrender to the Crags’ plunges into dark, dank, murkiness, but retains that eastern vibe that calls to mind both The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the otherness of the Tangiers scene in the 50s and 60s as depicted by William Burroughs.

‘Self Doubting Trip’ brings a dark intensity that will likely resonate for many: it’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and stands as something of a highlight in the way it attacks the psyche. You hate yourself enough already, but there’s a slight comfort in knowing your self-flagellation is not unique as you chastise yourself for simply living.

It makes the last track, ‘Dekotour’, feel like an electropop breeze by comparison, the chiming synth tones more early Depeche Mode than anything, but they bend, warp, twist and weave across one another to create a difficult knot of noise, with a thick, gloopy bass rising into the increasingly tangled textures.

There’s a certain nihilism at the heart of Contemplating Nothingness, which extends beyond merely the title and its implications of introverted emptiness, but it’s paired with a less certain and altogether less tangible levity which lifts it above dark ambience and into a space that’s given to contemplation and awakening. While ultimately minimal, there is variety and depth on display here, making for an album that deserves absorption and deliberation.

AA

Electric Sewer Age – Contemplating Nothingness

Cruel Nature Records – 23rd November 2019

No release by a band called corpse tWitcHer was ever going to be pretty. But Bring Your Dead is next level.

The album contains only four tracks, the shortest of which, ‘Opening: The Bird’ is over eight minutes long and pitches some dark atmospherics with low, dank rumblings and mid-range scrapes that twist and taper into a soft fog of ambience with tempered chiming notes ringing out into the mist. It is but an opening, an extended introduction, which paves the way for the speaker-shredding, Sunn O)))-like devastation of ‘Of Bones & Head’ that lands the crushing low drone of guitars like a cement mixer on slow speed, blended with shrieking howl of feedback. This swirling mass of amorphous sound on sound surges and swells for a full eighteen minutes, and while its form is impossible to take a hold of as it shifts and twists, it’s a fully immersive experience. It’s possibly the closest thing to Earth 2 I’ve heard since, well, Earth 2. This is music that packs a suffocating density, and rattles the ribs as well. It vibrates the molecules while crushing the skull. It’s a painful joy, and a joyful pain.

‘A Thorough Necropsy’ grinds out a quarter of an hour of relentlessly heavy, percussion-free sludge that crawls from the speakers and wraps itself around not just your ears or body but your very soul, strangulating and suffocating with its tarry black mass. It’s in the territory whereby guitars melt into a grating morass of noise: struck chords don’t hit but instead billow into a cloud of noise so dense as to choke. There are some anguished, guttural vocals buried beneath it all, I think. It’s the sound of pain beyond words, a charred snarl from the underground. The tempest builds louder and darker around halfway through, and it’s around this point we slip off the face of the planet into another dimension. It’s bleak, but not like death or dying: this is transcendental and bleak and we’re floating in another sphere, buoyed by a sound denser than the Dead Sea.

The final cut, ‘Closing: Sutures’ sews it all up nicely with an expansive rumble of dark ambience that swirls and eddies and billows around in a formless morass of sonic fog. It rumbles around the bowels, the lungs, and the spleen. It sends shivers down the spine and a shudder over the skin. It resonates on a biological, physical level.

Bring Your Dead is heavy, intense, and unsettlingly dark, it doesn’t so much hit the mark as consume it in blackness.

AA

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Gizeh Records / Consouling Sounds

13th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

A-Sun Amissa’s fifth album promises to build on ‘the foundations of previous record Ceremony in the Stillness (2018), incorporating some of the heavier, distorted, guitar oriented themes but this time fuses them with broken, crumbling electronic beats and primal drone movements’.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about how Richard Knox has steered A-Sun Amissa in recent years has been his systematic approach to producing new output: following a gap of fur years between 2013’s You Stood Up for Victory, We Stood Up for Less and The Gatherer (2017), with the assistance of an array of collaborators, he’s released an album a year. This has likely proved integral to the steady evolution and the sense of progression across the last three albums. And this album being almost a completely solo effort (Knox wrote, recorded, and mixed the entire album, as well as providing the artwork) has really focused his energies on pushing himself in all directions across the album’s two longform compositions

The pieces on offer here are underpinned by vast ambient passages that are drenched in distortion and reverb, slowly unfurling before more industrial, kinetic sounds are introduced and heaving guitars come to the fore. As ever, there’s a melancholic dissonance that resonates throughout, repetition is key and moments of dread are paired with shafts of light as these two monolithic pieces unravel themselves over the course of forty minutes.

‘Seagreaves’ begins as a distant howl of dark, whirling noise, scraping, screeding, creating a dark, simmering tension and a sense of foreboding, of disquiet.When it fades out to be replaced by guitar, the atmosphere shifts from menacing to melancholy. There are hints of Neurosis, and also Earth Inferno era Fields of the Nephilim in the picked notes, gradually decaying in an organic reverb. The cyclical motif is pushed along by a plodding rhythm, forging a slow, lumbering groove that builds primarily through plain repetition. Petering out to almost nothing around the midpoint, we’re left with a vast, open and almost empty space. It’s around the sixteen-minute point that everything surges back in for a sustained crescendo, a cinematic post-metal climax that finds the guitars soar while the rhythm thunders low and slow.

‘Breath by Breath’ is subtler still, elongated drones and whispers of feedback echo as if a long way away, before a piano ripples somewhere on the horizon. The atmosphere isn’t strictly tense or even dark, but shadowy, and it’s difficult to attribute a specific sensation or mood to it. When the strolling bass and sedate percussion roll in, layers of metallic guitar noise filters in – quiet, backed off, but harsh. Voices echo from the underworld, almost subliminally. And then: a momentary pause. It’s barely a heartbeat, but everything crashes in with the driving yet deliberate force of Amenra. And from hereon in it’s incremental, but also cumulative in its growing volume and impact.

Knox describes For Burdened and Bright Light as ‘a more immersive, ambitious, adventurous record of conflicting emotions as the theme of the work tackles the contradictions of being human and explores the duality of light and dark, hope and despair’, and not only is the ambitiousness clear, but those ambitions are fulfilled. Dare I – once again – describe a work as ‘epic’? Yes: the scope of For Burdened and Bright Light is vast in every sense, and it does engage the listener’s senses and provokes contemplation through it’s shifting movements, moving not only between mods but also genre forms. The result is not only unique, but powerful and captivating, holding the attention and rewarding patience over the expansive pieces.

AA

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16th June 2019

Of course I was always going to be sold on an album with a title like Southern Phlegm. I mean, what’s not to like? Kadaitcha’s third release straddles ambient, drone, industrial, and power electronics to deliver four tracks driven by throbbing pulsating grooves welded to repetitive, cyclical guitar lines, and rent with the gnarliest, nastiest treble-shredded distorted vocals.

The first, ‘Phagocide’ pumps away for over nine minutes. The guitar and synths form a messy sonic fusion, a thick mass of distortion while wibbling space-rock blasts of analogue send blurred neon arcs through the heavily-grained backdrop like shooting stars. ‘Sewerbound’ is appropriately titled as it plunges deeper into impenetrable murk. It’s dominated by clattering percussion, the edges distorted and decayed, while screeding noise howls a vortex of sonic agony. Frequencies collide to create an endless flux of aural incompatibility. Everything is distorted, dirty, there’s malice in every note. The lyrics are impossible to decipher from amidst the sonic blitzkrieg, but there’s nothing about the delivery that suggests there’s any comfort or kindness on offer here.

Slow, brooding ambience builds an unsettling atmosphere during the opening minutes of ‘Datura’, before the overloading guitar crashes in. It’s got the low-end distortion of Sunn O))), but grinds away at a repetitive motif with the bludgeoning brutality of Swans. It’s a full-on kick to the diaphragm.

Closing off, ‘Vulpine Sacrifice’ arrives almost by stealth, a snaking bassline strolls in slow and slow, a stop/start stammer gives it an almost hesitant feel. Circuits fizz, crackle and hiss all over the place, before the final two or three minutes find the conglomeration of elongated hums coalesce to create something approximating ‘music’, akin to a swelling organ drone. But you couldn’t exactly call this brief moment of musicality that draws out to the fade the light at the end of the tunnel: it’s low, slow, and ominous and seems, if anything, to point toward another darkened door which opens onto stairs leading to an eternal abyss.

AA

Kadaitcha – Southern Phlegm

28th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Piiiisssss’ third LP appeared by stealth, after a two-year hiatus, seemingly taking even its creator, the ever-prolific and unpredictable Dan Buckley, who has more projects, bands and pseudonyms than probably he can remember, by surprise, launching it via Facebook with the announcement ‘Lol I guess we have 3 albums now’. And as if to illustrate the point, that now stands at four just three days later, with the arrival of Enthusiast_ on 2nd March.

This five-tracker is a showcase of Buckley’s comparatively recent move into circuit-making, and if some of his kit doesn’t look especially pretty, then the sounds it makes are even more challenging at times. It’s front-loaded with the epics: ‘1’ is the first of the seemingly randomly-numbered / titled tracks, and is twelve-and-a-half minutes of oscillating loops.

‘II’, which clocks in at eleven-and-a-half minutes ventures into dark ambient territory, whispering and rumbling ominously and quietly, the distant whispers and moans creeping over a mid-range hum resembling a far-off herd of zombies in The Walking Dead. It’s unsettling, creepy… and then echoes of synth hum buzz louder, reverberating into the dead atmosphere. The drone rises to the fore and ultimately dominates everything, creating its own rhythm as the frequencies collide in a slow tidal wash. Sliding down the octaves, it transforms into a fear-chord organ throb that oozes unsettling vibes while a voice, roboticised and barely audible, winds down slowly in the background.

The third track is entitled ‘00000011’, and goes for the out-and-out eerie, with gloopy synths and bleeps and shooting star effects echoing into blackness to conjure an atmosphere that’s pure space-age horror. And if that genre doesn’t exist, then someone needs to make a movie to fit with this soundtrack.

‘Five’ is gnarly, loud, the fucked-up and desperate robotix vocal submerged in a woozy, warping wave of drone, rent with glitches, before it descends into a mess of scratching noise on the circuit-melting closer, ‘Confirmed Sixhavers’.

Piiiisssss marks quite a departure from many of Buckley’s myriad other musical outlet, not least of all his prolonged foray into playing covers revamped as bangin’ donk choons, or the industrial-disco grind of Petrol Hoers, and Alan & His Parents functions well as a standalone piece which showcases one of the many facets of a remarkably diffuse artist.

AA

Piiiisssss

Midira Records – MD044 – 23rd November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

N + [ B O L T ] aren’t the most imaginative when it comes to naming their albums: this, their third collaboration, is, like the two which preceded it, is without title. But then, they’re in the company of The Bronx and Peter Gabriel, and the lack of titles on whose first four solo albums didn’t exactly damage his career. As is often the case with untitled albums, which come to be identified by the prominent features of their cover art, so “die Krähe (the crow)” follows the albums known as “der Hase (the rabbit)” and “das Hörnchen (the squirrel)”.

Since recording the album, [ B O L T ] have expanded to a four-piece featuring two bass players and a drummer, but this captures them still sparse, taut, minimal, and the accompanying text sets the scene: ‘Imagine an industrial area, with big smokestacks and metal architecture, mostly quiet and sometimes interrupted by machine noises and from somewhere you hear the sound of N + [ B O L T ] coming through the walls. This is what you see and hear around the studio in Duisburg (Germany), where the band recorded the album’.

While the album is by no means determined specifically by the environment in which it was produced, said environment is nevertheless a factor, an integral part of the backdrop to its formulation. And so emerges a sound described by the band as ‘black drone’.

It seems a fair description. It’s dark, gnarly, and droney after all. I’ve been around a while and this crushing, low-tempo, low-octave, percussion-free sludge-drone sounds very much like a refined retake of Earth 2. A1 bleeds into the heavy grind of A2, a gritty, cyclical stop/start bass trudge. It never stops: it’s hypnotic, all-immersive. And it’s all about the trudging bass. It’s the album’s defining feature, and if anything, it becomes more prominent, more dominant, as the four pieces progress. Progress is a relative term: it doesn’t go anywhere: it doesn’t need to and isn’t designed to. Its purpose is to trudge, while guitar feedback wraps around like… like… twisting vines, serpentine, wisps of mist.

Time slows and weight evolves over the course of the four pieces: B1 stretches its funereality over some ten minutes, the guitars only bursting in around a third of the way through. It wells to a mesh of pulverising, overdriven noise ad leaves the listener hollowed, drained. It all heads slowly and incrementally down towards the plodding grind of ‘B2’: an epoch passes between each below-the-earth bass note, while guitar feedback strains all around. The final piece stretches out over almost fourteen minutes, and begins with the lowest, lowest of bass grinds amidst a swirl of layered feedback. And it goes on: an eternity passes as a simple double-strike of the same note, so low as to register below the range of cognisance, instead nudging at the spectrum marked ‘subconscious’. And it’s as we slide into this area that the impact of this wordless exercise on weight really registers its impact.

It’s music beyond words, music beyond music. The richness and density, paired with the almost indistinguishable, melted tempo of droning sound without rhythm has an effect that resonates on an almost biological level.

AA

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