Saturday, 17 January 2015

Dark Music Review – Altered Dimensions

Review of Altered Dimensions

Written By Casey Douglass

 


At a time of year when many of us are probably struggling with the altered dimensions of our waists after Xmas, this review brings another kind of dimension into the mix, an intangible and ethereal mingling of the senses that goes far beyond too much cake and pie. Alphaxone’s dark ambient album Altered Dimensions is a dose of something that certainly I need at this time of year, even if few others do. Anyway, on with the review.

Alphaxone is back with a stunning album of smooth frequency manipulation fitting for exploring the concept of altered dimensions. The push and pull of sizzling layers creates a storming sea of resonating bliss, until the dark waves of deep crashes in upon us. Mehdi Saleh (IRAN) is no stranger to dark ambient with 6 full length albums behind him. With Altered Dimensions he reaches a new level of audio fidelity and there is always something subtle in the background as protruding from beyond the physical plane.

I hadn’t had the good fortune to hear any of Alphaxone’s albums until Altered Dimensions. What I experienced upon listening to it was a smooth audio treat that calmly yet firmly gave a soundtrack to my own mind’s wanderings. As I listened, many of the tracks impressed upon me the theme of journeying, such as in shamanism or dreams. As such, many of the track impressions I detail below feature the idea of a traveller breaching different realities in different ways.

The Tracks:

Distances
The first track begins with voices and birdsong that bristle at the edge of your conscious attention. It’s a great lead-in that hints at the mind being drawn away from mundane things and being led to other places. This fades into a pleasing beat that drips into the sounds of someone sloshing through water, a traveller making for some secluded temple on some hidden cave path maybe. The whispers seem to urge them onwards whoever it is.

Human Frequencies
What sounds a little like a distant growl fades into a synth-like tone of tinkling techno-chiming and a deep drone. This feels like a contemplative track that cushions the mind in comforting vibrations.

Passing Through
Static begins this track. It takes on the guise of fabric flapping in the breeze from some strange place, the same air currents carrying noises and sounds from the denizens that live there. It conjured to my mind, a lone traveller making their way through a tight canyon, dozens of flags caught in a blustery wind that just doesn’t reach him/her far below. A deep intonation seems to reverberate from the canyon walls as the secret place, a temple, gate or whatever, is reached.

Midnight Waves
A building up of tones and noises creates an impression of scrambled messages and old CB-radios. A background swell of voice lifts the track and then fades a little to the sound of harsher tones that dance back and forth in the ear.

Aftermath
A high-pitched tone begins this track, shortly followed by an echoing drone, the sound reflecting from deep deep down. Water begins to trickle and a buggy insect-like noise niggles at the ear summoning to mind a large underwater cave system filled with hundreds of tiny lights, flickering and floating out of reach like corrupted titillating fairies. A louder sound emanates further on, maybe the sound of alarm...or lunch approaching. A kind of crescendo is reached when everything evens out and some of the tones die down. Maybe the danger has passed now the inner sanctum of wherever the traveller is going has been reached, or maybe even the evil sprites dare not follow into this place.

Equilibrium
A loudish clang gets things off to a flying start here, the echoes reverberating from ear to ear and setting up a very pleasing sensation. The sound distorts and changes but this audio swaying keeps going throughout, joined by clicks and small noises that add a feeling of movement in another plane to proceedings. This track sent my mind to some kind of other-worldly engine room or physics lab, where strange beings tinker with light and sound in strange apparatus, all with the aim of keeping physics as we know it functioning in the way that we’ve come to expect.

Encounters
Bird song and rustling merges with faint chimes, creating the impression of some forbidden forest, a place that the traveller is free to enter, but may not be free to leave again. This music from the forest between worlds seems to ebb and flow with shriller bird calls and voices, as if two realities are fighting for dominance. A larger sound begins to emerge at the midpoint that seems to overpower all else, a tonal fog rolling in to smother the trees and turn all to darkness.

From the Passages
This track is the complementing one to the very first, the strange other worlds seeming to slide back into each other as the sounds of mundane reality impinge on consciousness once more.

Thoughts

Upon my first listening to Altered Dimensions, I think something intruded and I had to stop after the first three or four tracks. I remember coming away with the impression that it was enjoyable dark ambient but I wasn’t sure it stood out for me in any particular way. Consecutive listenings proved this to be hasty. I think it was because, for me, the stand-out tracks on Altered Dimensions come nearer the end of the album. Aftermath grabbed my attention, Equilibrium rocked my mind to and fro with its binaural sounding beats and Encounters tapped into an interest I’ve had in shamanism and nature sounds for quite some time. I enjoyed the earlier tracks for the smooth dark tones and relaxing vibes they gave me but those three tracks really resonated with me.

As a whole, I give Alphaxone’s Altered Dimensions 3.5/5. I liked how the album eased me in and out at the start and end, and how all of the tracks flowed with detail. It’s certainly a strong entry to the dark ambient genre. I don’t expect to love every track on an album but I think to get a higher score than this I would have to really love more than three. Still, I urge anyone into dark ambient to go and check out Altered Dimensions on the Cryo Chamber bandcamp page here.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Altered Dimensions
Artist: Alphaxone
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written and Produced: Mehdi Saleh
Mastering and Artwork: Simon Heath
Released : 13th January 2015

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