Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Scott Lawlor’s The Messenger is a dark ambient album that for me, brings to mind the notion of some Luciferian being wending his way into the world to whisper his dark message into the ears of the receptive. Its soundscapes are clean and uncluttered, which is what you’d probably imagine when you hear that it was created with one take improvisations.
Album Description: This album was recorded over a weekend in October of 2015. All tracks, except 4 and 10 were one-take improvisations using only one sound for each track on the Roland fa08 with no overdubs. Track 4 was originally in two parts but I felt that it flowed better as one and track 10 had some additional piano. Track titles from the Messenger at dewinnefol.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/the-messenger/

I’m not sure how unduly the album art might have influenced me, but the streak of light was a theme that seemed to follow me with each track. As an example, The Heart Transcends Desire has specific tones that aided this. This track features a hanging undulating tone that conjured to mind a spinning disc of some kind, catching the light. It also had a tone that put me very much in mind of an old-fashioned alarm clock ringing, which further added to the effect.

Other tracks seemed to give me an 80s B-movie horror vibe. When Flesh and Bone Expire is one example of this, the bone-clinking sounds at one point being joined by the noise an energy weapon might make as it dissolves a human to powder. This track sounds a bit insectoid in places, and I’m sure I heard the thrum of a flying-saucer’s propulsion system at some point.

Playing into the whole “Lucifer” notion I first mentioned at the start, a few of the tracks sound a little “churchy” to me. Stepping Past a Graveyard's Stare is one, the sounds and notes sound sonorous and religious somehow, before things quieten at times into a more whimsical soundscape. It’s a bit like hearing strains of circus music as it reaches you in your coffin, six feet below the earth.

The Messenger is a very dark album that creates some interesting soundscapes with the minimum of fuss. Something all of the tracks seem to have in common is the love of waxing and waning sound, the way things build and then quieten, and then evolve into something similar but different. Some do feature the odd “overload” effect of the sound getting very harsh in key places, but for the most part, it’s a smooth ride.

If you are a fan of dark ambient that manages to be dark and uncluttered, you’d do well to check out The Messenger.

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

Album Title: The Messenger
Artist: Scott Lawlor
Released: Feb 27, 2018

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Dark Ambient Review – The Edge of Architecture

Dark Ambient Review – The Edge of Architecture

Review Written By Casey Douglass

The Edge of Architecture Review

From the moment I first heard ProtoU’s own flavour of dark ambient goodness, I’ve come to view Sasha’s work as an almost guaranteed way to relax. Yes, I can easily lose myself in demonic rumblings and sci-fi energy swells, but, as is mentioned in the album description below, the blend of cold and warm, field-recordings and electronic tones, soothes me more than almost any other. Only the mighty Azathoth still takes prime position in being my go to relaxation track. Anyway, on to The Edge of Architecture:
Sasha further explores the themes of her first collaboration album Earth Songs. While her album "Khmaoch" explored the roots of civilization, "The Edge of Architecture" probes into the future of the modern age. Black gigantic buildings loom over our hubris as we reach for the unnatural with each new brick in the wall. The night reeks of dark fluid as flickering neon lights reflect on wet streets. Winds howl over a jungle of steel and shadows of automated builders creak in the distance. Field recordings blend with deep drone and ethereal overlays on this immersive album. For lovers of Sasha's unique style of cold and warm ambient blended together into an emotional ride.

While The Edge of Architecture’s description and album art hints at darkness, concrete and abandonment, I actually felt a number of tracks brought daylight to my mind, dare I say it, even blue skies. Quiet Sky is the opener, and begins with the terse reports of air-traffic controllers merging into relaxed warm tones. There are doses of birdsong and insects later in the track too. For some reason this track just filled my head with the image of a deep blue sky, and not much else. A feeling of deep emptiness, and this is something that I carried on feeling for the duration of the album.

Any other sounds that emerge, even if hinting at civilization, seem ghostly and more echo-like in the context of the tones around them. I don’t mean they literally seem like echoes, but just suggest themselves as such. As an example, Falling Home, after what sounds like a storm, works in the sounds of children at play. Rather than feeling that they are there though, it felt more like hearing the world through closed curtains, all you can see maybe the sunlight through the material.

I think my favourite track was Glass Fractals as it features an audio effect that I’m not sure I’ve heard before. Each tone is accompanied by the tiny crack a bubble might make as it pops. This gave the very pleasing effect of feeling the notes gently popping into my ears, and I found it quite uncanny. I also enjoyed Hidden City as it felt like a track that was built around the clever use of radio static at its center.

The Edge of Architecture is another high quality entry into ProtoU’s portfolio of layered, emotive dark ambient. The field-recordings and clever use of subtle effects, such as the bubble-popping notes, makes each track a dark caress in a world that has gone to shit, but in which someone cares. I was going to say a bit more but I don’t think I can top that last sentence for accurately saying what I feel.

Check out the The Edge of Architecture page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Glass Fractals below:

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

Album Title: The Edge of Architecture
Artist: ProtoU
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: Feb 06, 2018

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Dark Film Review – Tau

Dark Film Review – Tau

Review by Casey Douglass

Tau Film Review

Smart speakers and other devices are infesting our homes, giving us the impression that we are even more the masters of our domain than usual. Skynet. Sorry, I just wanted to get that out of the way now. While idly browsing Netflix UK the other day, I saw a new film had been added, one that taps into these notions of meat-based master and techno-servents: Tau.

The main character Julia (Maika Monroe) is abducted from her apartment, fitted with a strange glowing implant in the back of her neck, and thrown into a cell with two other unfortunates. She’s a crafty one though, and soon finds a way to set them all free. Then she meets the titular Tau (Gary Oldman), the artificial intelligence that runs and protects the house that she finds herself in, and things go wrong once again. This house belongs to Alex (Ed Skrein), some kind of tech-entrepreneur who doesn’t let notions of morality get in the way of his research. Julia now has to try to outfox both Alex and Tau, or she will never see the world again.

Tau is a film that spends a lot of its time in one location. At the beginning, we briefly see Julia in dance-clubs and her apartment, but the main bulk of the film is her being trapped in the grey walls of Alex’s bunker-like technology-infused home. I do tend to enjoy films that are set this way as I find that it builds an interesting tension, and also allows the viewer time to get to know one location very well. So this was a positive as far as I was concerned.

Alex comes and goes from the house, going about his daily schedule. This gives Julia time to talk to Tau. It is these conversations that really pique the interest. She begins with getting Tau to understand that she has a name, and things soon flow to the trading of information and mutual education. She wants to know what's behind x door and up y stairs. Tau wants to hear more about the things she knows about. Tau himself is a glowing red triangle that shimmers and fluctuates on the wall, but he can also control a fleet of cute drones and a murderous death-bot. These variations on his embodiment, or lack thereof, certainly add more interest to the film than if he was purely wall-locked.

Maika Monroe is great as Julia. She’s an actress I’ve enjoyed watching since I first saw her in It Follows and The Guest. As Julia, she has to be smart and physical, often knocked around, hurt and apparently subdued, but always eyeing the next opportunity to make a break for it. It’s interesting to see how her relationship with Tau develops, and this even serves to shine a light on Alex and his own apparent areas of lack. There is food for thought about how many different kinds of “prison” exist, to say the least. And of course, with any A.I film there are feelings of 2001 about it at times, but Gary Oldman voices Tau in a fine manner.

Tau was an enjoyable watch and I found the 90 or so minute runtime passed very nicely. I did feel some of the CGI looked a little second rate however, particularly the murder-bot at times. It was decent enough, but there were moments when it didn’t really “sit” in the environment that well. I did enjoy the animations of “Wall Tau” however, and the drones were good fun. 

If you like escape-based films with a splattering of technology and blood, Tau is well worth checking out on Netflix now.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Dark Game Review - Agony

If travel agents did a safe trip to Hell, something that would let me take in the sights and not be burnt to a cinder, I'd jump at the chance. Until then, all I can do is read about it or play games set there. Agony is one such game that recently came out, and you can read my full review over on Geek Syndicate at this link.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Film Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Film Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Review by Casey Douglass

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

When the first Jurassic World came out in 2015, it made me remember how much I enjoyed the original Jurassic Park. While it didn’t become my favourite JP film, it nuzzled affectionately into second place, pushing Lost World out of the bed and onto the carpet. When I heard that they were filming another Jurassic World, I had reasonably high hopes for more of the same. While it did deliver the same brand of dino-mayhem however, I do feel that Fallen Kingdom missed the mark.

Set three years after the events of the first Jurassic World, the island on which it all went so horribly wrong, Isla Nublar, has been left to go wild. The thing is, a dormant volcano isn’t dormant any more, and the world looks set to catch the re-run of dinosaurs becoming extinct once again. Some think that this event should be allowed to happen, others campaign against not intervening. The two main characters from the first film, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), find themselves on an expedition back to the island, one that hopes to save as many species as it can.

Things don’t go terribly well. There are machinations afoot, and a bubbling volcano to make things even more perilous. I must admit that the first third of the film almost plays out with as much intensity as the final act in a more traditional film. Sadly, this proves hard for the rest of the film to compete with, the latter acts feeling a little stodgy and constricted by comparison.

The dinosaurs themselves are the real stars of the show, and I wasn’t disappointed with these. The predatory variety were suitably menacing, and the lumbering herbivores suitably lovable. There are a number of scenes in which dinosaurs die, one in particular that really hits in the feels. I think the film does do a very good job of getting the audience to care about these creatures, no matter how alien they can sometimes seem. The film also provides plenty of food for thought about genetic manipulation and the moral issues that arise with it, in more ways than the simply obvious ones.

Fallen Kingdom, for me, roamed the same territory as Lost World, from the “lets go to a wild dinosaur island this time” angle, to the hunter wanting trophies, and the return to civilization aspect in the second half. It did this while holding quite tightly to some of the main plot-points of the first Jurassic World as well. While I was hoping for a film that, at the least, was more of the same, I was kind of hoping it would deliver a little more. Fallen Kingdom is a fun dino film with some interesting set-pieces and moments of humour, but largely, it just made me wish I was re-watching the first Jurassic World film. Also, if this trend continues, I really hope that any third Jurassic World film doesn’t do a rehash of Jurassic Park III, a film that I’ve always felt to be the weakest of the bunch.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Dark Fiction - Apocalypse Talk Radio

Apocalypse Talk Radio

Written By Casey Douglass

Apocalypse Talk Radio

‘Thanks for tuning in! We’re getting reports of a massive nuclear detonation somewhere near Woking. There’s no official word yet, but as always, we want to hear from you if this has affected you in any way. Even if just hearing about it has affected you, get in touch! You can call or text, email or tweet us, but let us know what is happening in your part of the world. We could just wait for official clarification, but we’ll do what we always do when we don’t know and just repeat what we do know over and over. Oh we have a text.
Julie writes that she saw the flash from the supermarket car park as she was putting the shopping in her car boot. She adds that her eyesight is dimming, but she’ll be sure to keep us up to date as her health deteriorates. Thanks Julie, stay safe!
Clive has tweeted to say there was no flash where he was on the outskirts of Paris. Thanks Clive!
We have Michael on the phone. Michael, where are you?’
‘Hi. First time caller! Well I’m not too sure. I got thrown down the street by a massive blast of air, and I’ve managed to hide behind a wall. Everything’s really bright. My skin feels like it’s burning.’
‘What are other people doing around you?’
‘A lot of them are on their backs in the street.’
‘Are they dead?’
‘I reckon so.’
‘How many bodies can you see?’
‘I’d say about twenty.’
‘What will you do now?’
‘I’m going to stay behind this wall for a bit mate. Feeling tired.’
‘Stay safe!’
‘Will do!’
‘There we have it folks, the tales of regular people during what might just be the end of times. We’ll be sure to keep you up to speed with your fellow citizens’ predicaments, no matter how samey it all gets. We might be interrupted by a government announcement soon, but rest assured we’ll soon get back to our usual dull repetitive style, lulling you into a docile sense of acceptance well before the nuclear fallout reaches your location. And now a word from our sponsor...’


The inspiration for this piece came from the recent coverage of the recent issues with electronic card payments. One radio station insisted on interviewing person after person who had been affected, the only thing changing being the shop they had been to and the length of the line at the cash machines outside. It was mind numbing and so so boring. We understand! Card payments not working means we have to use these floppy bits of plastic currency, or those small round hard things that hurt your teeth if you chew them. Hearing the trauma of having a card payment declined over and over is just the very definition of a #firstworldproblem.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Name, Label, Disappointment

The other day I realised that I cringe when I hear or read my own name. It’s not that I dislike my name itself, besides having to grow up telling people Casey could be a boy’s name too, I quite like it. It’s more that I dislike the label, as it points to me.

My Casey-Douglass.com domain name renews shortly, so that’s why my mind has been on name stuff. I don’t know which cerebral jolt helped me put 2+2 together, and come out with “meh” as the answer, but it happened, and I’m stuck with it.

Hearing or seeing my name makes me remember who I am, bringing my sense of identity or self to mind. Sadly, I don’t particularly like myself, so it’s not the most useful mechanism for me at the moment.

I’ve worked on liking myself, but things just don’t seem to take. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance, Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Tonglen, to name just a few things. Nope, even on my “best” days, at most I can feel indifferent to myself.

I think it’s linked to a general lack of confidence. All of the wisdom that says confidence builds with practice at something doesn’t seem to apply to me. When my health issues make it hard for me to even brush my teeth with a steady hand, even the unpaid writing I do ends up squeezing my nuts and making me feel like there’s no real point to doing it any more.

I saw someone post the other day about taking yourself on a date. Well shit, at this moment in time, I’d stand myself up and go and do something fun with someone else. I don’t like feeling this way, but at the very least, I can at least acknowledge those feelings. I guess lying to myself would be even more unkind, so I know things could be worse. Silver linings and all that.