Dark Music Review – The Humming Tapes
Review Written By Casey Douglass
Pär Boström of cult project Kammarheit presents us with his side project Cities Last Broadcasts second album, The Humming Tapes
On this album Pär Boström explores his fascination with old seances and the early 20th century. Reel-to-reel tape recorders and de-tuned instrumentation combined with modern mixing techniques creates an album that sounds haunted, but also careful and nurturing.
Pär has with this work taken yet another step forward in his production skill set squashing any doubt that he is one of the most unique artists in the genre with his unorthodox approach to recording his sounds.
While the album description above makes mention of seances and analogue-recording devices, I must admit that the cover image of the album and the title of this side project: Cities Last Broadcasts, all conspired to set my mind to roaming a sinister and fog laden city. As any long time reader might know, I often make mention of the mental images a piece of dark ambient music might cause in me. Add in the fact that, having watched the last few foggy episodes of Penny Dreadful, and my recent reading of Edward Lee’s City Infernal series (Four books... Hell as a city... you should check them out), I already needed little to send my mind that way. The album track titles suggest smaller, more intimate locations, but the city theme pretty much dragged me through each soundscape, the dark architecture and strange denizens that I thought I could hear insidious in their echoing movements.
The Humming Tapes makes tremendous use of static and ticking sounds, alluding very nicely to the recording instruments already mentioned. The notes, when there are some that can be recognised as piano or some such, are often detuned and mournful, the hissing static backdrop certainly lending the illusion of the listener hearing something from “behind the veil”, gently muffled and twisted by the air in the ear (try saying that when drunk), or just maybe, by a brain that can’t quite process what it’s hearing. The tracks themselves often seem to feature an ebbing and flowing of sound, the pulsing resumption and departure of certain elements working in tandem with the various ticking sounds that occur at intervals, creating a flowing rhythm that is very enjoyable.
As far as standout tracks, there were a few that produced some fine images in my mind, and as is usually the case, these became my firm favourites. The first was “The Sitting”, a track that is a great example of the ebbing and flowing ticking soundscape that I just mentioned. There is a background humming and what could be the whirring of machinery, strange vocals that, for lack of a better way to describe it, put me in mind of some kind of whimpering imp-like creature, maybe heard as the listener mentally walks down a fog encrusted ally, the echoes hanging in the air as something thrums in the darkness beyond sight.
The next track that I wanted to mention, was in fact, the next track on the album: “Anomaly”. This track begins with faint static and the gentle humming of something strange. The image that came to mind was the listener peering through a grimy window into a workshop basement, seeing a clanking mechanical humanoid with its panels open, strange “buddha-like” fairys flitting around humming and fixing as their golden light plays over the pitch black metal. I know, my mind is quite peculiar.
The final track that I wanted to mention by name is “Fourth Floor”, a track that begins with a hum and a popping/crackling sound that put me very much in mind of laying back in the bath with bubbles bursting around my ears. Delicate and not unpleasant. As far as my city analogy goes, I got nothing in those regards here. I just enjoyed a quieter, more gentle track that, with its drawn-out notes, lifted the oppressive feeling inculcated by the ones that preceded it.
The Humming Tapes is a very fine dark ambient album, one that creates dark soundscapes with ease, yet in a quite simple way, seeming to only use a very few sounds compared to some of the more grand and heavily layered offerings that I often listen to. The static, pops and strange distorted vocals really do create an uneasy atmosphere, and one that any horror film would do well to utilise if ever the chance arises. I give The Humming Tapes 5/5, something a bit different for me to listen to and a refreshing look at the themes of séance and unseen worlds. It is also a great album to listen to on a hot and humid night, the heat making the oppressiveness of the album even more pronounced.
Visit The Humming Tapes page on Bandcamp here for more information.
You can listen to "Anomaly" below:
I was given a free copy of this album to review.
Album Title: The Humming Tapes
Artists: Cities Last Broadcast
Label : Cryo Chamber
Artwork: Pär Boström and Simon Heath
Released: June 14, 2016