Sunday 29 March 2015

Dark Review - TaoMix

A smartphone app that lets you create your own ambient soundscape to relax to? TaoMix is just such an app and it is very good indeed. Read my review on Amongst Geeks here.

Image © Copyright deMute

Saturday 28 March 2015

Dark Music Review – Shortwave

Dark Music Review – Shortwave

Written By Casey Douglass

Anything to do with hidden messages and secret codes usually grabs my interest. When that interest mingles with one of my favourite music genres, the effect is more than doubled! Shortwave, a dark ambient album from Metadronos & Ager Sonus has caused one such marrying. The album description:
For decades, all over the world, people have been trying to transport information and vital data over shortwave-radio-frequencies, unbeknownst to the general public. Those unknown parties used a multitude of encryption systems to their advantage. This album invites you to get a feeling for the mystery of... shortwave transmissions.
One thing that I really really like about Shortwave is the device of using spoken numbers throughout various portions of the music. Numbers can be ‘beaty’ things at the best of times, but the effect of a voice monotonously reading numbers, or repeating one a few times before moving onto the next, creates a very nice rhythm that manages to mingle with the dark drones and beeping sounds in a very pleasing way. Shortwave, the track, is a prime example of this.

Another track that I particularly liked was Glowlamp Machine. This track makes great use of strange yet child-like melodies, yet they jostle uncomfortably with strong tones and the repetitive intoning of numbers again. The swelling sounds and sweeping droning created an image for me of a boffin in his or her lab, code running down green LED fed computer screens. If you have ever seen the film Pi, you might know what I mean. If you haven’t, seek it out!

Wireless Intercept Station is also a great track. More orchestral in nature and featuring ominous bellchimes and strings like unimpressed bees. Then the distorted and drained-of-life voice of a man begins to speak. A great track.

What you get with Shortwave is a dark ambient album that stays on theme the whole way through, yet each track is varied enough and different enough to keep giving the repeated theme in fresh ways to your ears each time. I give Shortwave 4.5/5. It used numbers in a way I’d not heard before and every time I listened to it, this fact re-impressed me over and over.

Head over to the Shortwave Bandcamp page here for more info.

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

Album Title: Shortwave
Artist: Metadronos & Ager Sonus
Released : 6th February 2015

Friday 27 March 2015

Dark Film Review - Wild Card

The Stath is in another film. This one is called Wild Card, but is it any good? Read my review here on Amongst Geeks to find out.

Image © Copyright Lionsgate

Thursday 26 March 2015

Dark Review - Cities: Skylines

I take a look at Cities: Skylines over on Amongst Geeks, a fantastic city builder and one that just seems to get most things right. Click here to have a read.

Image © Copyright Paradox Interactive

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Dark Distractions Anthology Gets Great Review

My Dark Distractions Anthology Volume One has just received a great review from Dave over on A small quote is:
Unlike some first time authors who rely solely on details of gore and bloody scenarios, Casey Douglass opts instead for story and character progression. And it works so well, you’ll be lost in those characters. Whether it’s a short piece of flash fiction or a medium size tale, you feel as if you’re in the world they are in.
You can read the full review here and read more about my Dark Distractions Anthology Volume One here.

Monday 23 March 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Version 2.0 Now on The Huffington Post UK

The article that I wrote called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Version 2.0 and was published on Geek Syndicate is now on The Huffington Post UK website here. Going to that link and giving me any shares/likes/+1s would be greatly appreciated as it's something that has made my life bloody hell at times. It would be nice to get something nice from it for once!

Saturday 21 March 2015

Dark Film Review - Run All Night

I review Liam Neeson's latest film Run All Night on Amongst Geeks here. A routine but fun in places slice of cinema.
Image © Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment

Friday 20 March 2015

Dark Review - Riddick

I take a look at Riddick, a film that captures the creature scares of Pitch Black with the humanoid scheming of The Chronicles of Riddick. Take a peep on Amongst Geeks here.

Image © Copyright Universal Pictures

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Front Page

Well, my item about Gaming Rituals that was posted on The Huffington Post is now on the front page! Not much to say about that except 'Woo!' You can read the article here if you missed my post yesterday.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Dark Article - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Version 2.0

I've written a small piece about the interactions of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Technology / Geeky pursuits, about how it always catches me out and why it just plain sucks in general. There is hope though. You can read it on Geek Syndicate here.

Article on the Huffington Post

An article I wrote for Geek Syndicate Magazine awhile ago, on Gaming Rituals and habits, has been published on the Geek Syndicate website proper here. It has also, as of today, been published on The Huffington Post, which is something I am very chuffed about!

This wouldn't have come about in the manner it did if it wasn't for Barry and Geek Syndicate. Yes I wrote the thing, but if I hadn't been contributing to G.S, I may never have written that article. It was also through G.S that this opportunity arose. It just goes to show, you never know when something you've written might come in handy in the future.


Monday 16 March 2015

Dark Music Review - Creator, You Destroy Me

Dark Music Review - Creator, You Destroy Me

Written By Casey Douglass

Creator, You Destroy Me
Over the weekend I finally had some time and mental focus to listen to self-taught musician Miguel Gomes’ newest album Creator, You Destroy Me. Going under the pseudonym of Be My Friend in Exile, Miguel makes ethereal ambient drone music that makes use of amplifier distortion and drones of varying strengths to create a mood and effect. On to the tracks:

The Tracks

Archon of the Demiurge
A dark area opens up, filled with distortion and guitar strings viciously plucked, their clanging merging with a background drone. It conjured images to mind of hurtling down an abandoned subway line, the loud noises the well-lit stations, the drone the pure inky blackness of the tunnels proper.

Ultima Linea Rerum
This track starts with the same rhythm as the previous one, but things are lighter and higher. If track one was plunging into the bowels of the tube system, this part is in the open air, maybe fog laden section, cracked and desolate buildings looking down like giant tombstones.

Fever Dream
A faint tinkling mechanical whine underpins a light drone with a gently plucked string melody behind it all. A softer track that might create images of being alone in thick fog with only the milky impression of a distant city’s lights ahead of you.

Control Heartbeat Delete
A clever track that use looping sounds to create a feeling of motion and ‘stuckness’ at the same time. Light drones dance around the main sounds, airy and bursting with energy. It all gets higher and higher, like someones spirit leaving their body and passing up, up through the ceiling and away.

Memories of Childhood, Feelings for the Future
This track starts with some recognisable ambient sounds: distant church-bells, footsteps and birdsong, conjuring images of sunny afternoons bathed in golden light in a city park. Plucked guitar strings join vocal phrases that sound like they are from a PA system. The music is lulling and relaxing, yet the bassy plunges and voice effects hint at something not quite right. It builds into a strong bass rhythm and the pace increases. More sounds of voices and children playing emerge along with traffic and church-bells. Guitar reverberates, jarring the listener amongst knocking echoes and distortion before mellowing a little and becoming clearer once more. A tone that sounds like a church organ toys with the ear before a steady drone begins to grow. A catchy guitar rhythm sounds before things go quiet with just bass notes and tinkling left. This track conjures to mind the possible experience of a happy child playing in the sunlight before stumbling across the view to the churchyard beyond, catching sight and mind of their first real thoughts of death and what lays before them.

Foundation Pit
A gentle track that sounds like cymbals or a gong being gently hit, with a drone along for the ride. Guitar strings echo and clang as everything builds into another “high” track that elevates rather than pushes you down. High-pitched sounds floating in a sea of reverb.

Floating Weightless Back to the Surface, I Imagine Becoming Someone Else
A swelling noise that sounds like a swarm of purple (why purple?) bees filling the air with industry and vibration. Maybe the neurons firing in a brain, a crisis point reached and breached with grit and fury. A harsher drone meets it before strings of guitar battle against the points of motion, a manifestation of desire in distortion.

Distortion and a bass drone plucks at the ear as a swelling undulation pushes through everything, like a face emerging in the static of a detuned TV screen. It quietens to a distorted rhythm and quiet guitar.

I am quite a fan of the guitar/string led side of the dark ambient genre. Any track using amplifier distortion and plucked melodies seems to grab my attention far more than some of the more subtle dark ambient tracks which rely more on ambient noise samples. In Creator, You Destroy Me, Miguel has created an album that is full of tracks that share a sound but all sound suitably different. I must admit that my favourite track by far was Memories of Childhood, Feelings for the Future. Ironically, it featured the most recognisable ambient sounds but I just felt it was a great multi-layered track that was both peaceful and sinister at the same time.

I give Creator, You Destroy Me 4/5, a riveting listening experience but also something that gives your mind free-reign to infer what it wants from the sounds you are hearing.

You can visit Be My Friend in Exile’s Bandcamp page here.

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

Album Title: Creator, You Destroy Me
Artist: Be My Friend In Exile, Additional keys, synths and samples on Track 5 by Tomas Amoretti
Label: Already Dead Tapes & Records
Released: 20th January 2015

Friday 13 March 2015

Dark Film Review - Chappie

I've written a review of Neill Blomkamp's Sci-Fi robot-based film Chappie over on Amongst Geeks. Click here to have a read and see if it is any good. (It is).

Image Copyright © Columbia Pictures

Thursday 12 March 2015

Dark Review - I Am Alive

I take a look at Ubisoft's ageing post-apocalyptic survival game I Am Alive over on Amongst Geeks, a refreshing change from the typical shoot first and ask questions later games. Click here to read the review.
I Am Alive
Image Copyright © Ubisoft

Monday 9 March 2015

Dark Music Review - It Follows Soundtrack

Dark Music Review – It Follows Soundtrack

Written by Casey Douglass

It Follows Soundtrack Cover

It’s rare for me to watch a film and feel that the soundtrack was something that really demanded attention. That’s not to diminish the role of sound in films, it’s just a way of showing how my mind works. I watched the brilliant horror film It Follows a few days ago (you can read my review on Amongst Geeks here) and was immediately struck by the soundtrack. It was sinister, novel and dark as hell. The musician behind the It Follows soundtrack is Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace, a knowledgeable and prolific videogame music creator in the chiptune / 8-bit genres.

I have to hold up my hands and admit that this isn’t a genre of music that I usually listen to, although I can appreciate the work that goes into it. Sounds are designed to sound like (or actually are) played through the retro sound chips of older computers and game consoles, giving them those nostalgia inducing Mario or Metroid type pangs that take you back to your childhood. Judging by his Bandcamp releases at least, It Follows looks like it might be his darkest work of recent times, which is what piqued my interest. While the album isn’t classified as dark ambient, I think it certainly could be.

What you’ll get if you listen to the soundtrack is the mental equivalent of being buffeted at sea. A good number of the tracks alternate quieter booming rumblings and harsh high pitched screeching tones, lulling you and then jarring you moments later. My hands down favourite track has to be Title, partly because the main rhythmic tone arrangement puts me in mind of the famous shower scene music from Psycho. It also has a hook-laden chorus that rattled around my head for at least 24 hours after hearing it.

As with all great albums, there are the lighter, smoother tracks along with the harsh. Jay is one such track, an almost sunlight infused track that is slower and, if not outright tranquil, the sinister undertones are less than other tracks. Detroit is another example of a quieter track, but even though it is less frantic, it still conveys feelings of fear and sadness.

One grandstanding track that features a little of everything is Company. The tone at the start of this track sounds a little like bagpipes being softly abused. It goes quiet and hollow echoing thuds emerge, a high-pitched whining noise grating over the top of them. A deep rumble joins when the whining ends and everything holds its breath. A warped tone sounds over everything again, like a kettle boiling but off kilter and harsh. The deeper distortion behind it sounds a little like horses galloping. The track fades to a kind of ‘electro agitation’ that seems to charge the air, before a quieter tone suggests itself in the silence as it leaves. All goes quiet once more before the quieter tone looms again with a more gentle bass sound. The track ends violently with very harsh sounds distorting and shrieking for the last few seconds. Quite an experience.

Being a soundtrack album, many of the tracks are no more than a couple of minutes long, some less than one minute. This makes sure that no one track or soundscape outstays its welcome and as a listener, this keeps you more alert and interested, even as some of the melody based segments follow the same general scheme.

Even though it appears I’m a pretty easy to please reviewer, partly due to only reviewing stuff that interests me anyway, giving out full marks has only happened a few times over the last few years. The It Follows soundtrack can join the handful of albums that have wormed their way into my mind as I’m giving it 5/5. From a personal perspective, it’s something a little different to what I usually listen to but that still manages to take me to that dark place that I like my more ambient music to take me. The chiptune / 8-bit underpinnings appeal very much to my geeky videogame playing side whilst the drones and bass appeal to my dark world creating fiction side. A complete performance I guess you could say.

If any of what I’ve said has intrigued you, you can check out Disasterpeace’s website here and pick the It Follows soundtrack up for not much money at all. I also urge you to go and see It Follows while its at the cinema, or buy it when it is released for home viewing.

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

Album Title: It Follows
Music by: Disasterpeace
Mastered by: Christian Dwiggins
Artwork by: Midnight Marauder
Producers: Richard Glasser, JC Chamboredon & Stefan Karrer
Release date: 10th March 2015

Thursday 5 March 2015

Dark Film Review - It Follows

I review creeping horror film It Follows over on Amongst Geeks here. A stunning horror film with likeable characters and a great concept. Read the review for more in-depth analysis.

Image Copyright RADiUS-TWC

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Dark Book Review - Mogworld

I take a look at Yahtzee Crowshaw’s Mogworld over on Amongst Geeks, the latest website that I am contributing articles to. Mogworld is a comical fantasy novel that pokes fun at a lot of gaming's tropes and rules. A great read. You can read my review here.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Three Years On - Progress and Strain

My website is 3 years old today. Much like last year, I will use it as a measuring stick to see how far I’ve come, what I might have achieved and how close to madness I came.

I will start with looking at my hopes of a year ago and seeing if they were met. I laid out some very numbers-based goals for number of posts done, Twitter followers gained and site traffic reached. I met some, failed to reach others, but I find myself not really caring as they miss the point. They are just a metric to measure one aspect of what is going on; they shouldn’t be goals in and of themselves.

The biggest thing for me from a writing perspective was finally going self-employed as a freelance writer. The manner in which it came about was incredibly stressful and my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder damn near killed me in the trying, but months on, I am slowly getting a handle on things. I am also getting paid work which is also very helpful but is taking some getting used to.

Dark Distractions Anthology Cover

Shortly after going freelance, I got my Dark Distractions Anthology onto the Amazon Kindle Store, which was another milestone for me. Of course, this site is no longer called Dark Distractions but I liked the name enough to keep it for my writing. I wanted my site address to be relate-able to my own name, especially if people might see some of my writing and decide to Google me.

I have continued my writing for Geek Syndicate and enjoyed the various things coming my way to review. I am heartened to see G.S go from strength to strength and for Barry and Dave to be rewarded with their BBC iPlayer shows and interviews. I also want to thank the site for giving me something to do when other things have seen my mind whirling away in fear and anxiety; it was a great way to keep writing, which was the most important thing for me.

Casey Douglass on Radio 4
Another notable event was being invited onto BBC Radio 4’s Digital Human show to talk about how my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affected my use of technology. It was a great experience and even though not much of my interview was used in the end, I appreciated the opportunity to put into words things that I struggle with on a day to day basis.

One area that has really taken off is the amount of contact I have with writers and musicians who would like me to review their work. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing my dark ambient music album reviews and it is always a great feeling to have music that I enjoy listening to coming to me for a change, rather than having to hunt things out for myself. That probably makes me sound very lazy but I just like to think it’s having a relaxed attitude to entertainment.

My fiction writing has continued in fits and starts, partly due to adjusting to more article and news writing, and partly due to horrendous energy levels and the anxiety it causes me to embark on a larger piece of work. If writing flash fiction and short stories is like gently pootling about in a row-boat just off the beach, writing a novella or novel is like rowing out to sea and losing sight of land for weeks. It’s something I will get on top of but as of yet have not taken steps in that direction.

If the year before last, someone had told me I would have been a freelancer and have a book on the Kindle Store by now, I would have said yes please and taken it gladly. As it is, I’m pleased but it’s hard to feel too cheerful about it. I know intellectually I have done it, but it feels like my heart hasn’t accepted it. I won’t fret about what I’m feeling or not feeling though and will just carry on taking steady steps towards being the writer I would like to be.

Sunday 1 March 2015

Dark Music Review – September Traveler

Dark Music Review – September Traveler

Written By Casey Douglass

September Traveller Album Art
I was very impressed with Sound Awakener's Hidden when I reviewed it awhile ago. Nhung Nguyen has a real knack for using moody strings and harsher sound samples to create compositions that hang in the air like some strange and dark insect swarm, hypnotising and edgy. I was very pleased when Nhung Nguyen asked me to review another of her albums, September Traveler.
September Traveler is a collection of Sound Awakener’s early works in 2011 and 2012 (except "The call is fading"). It is also the soundtrack for Irene Cruz’s exhibition What dreams are made of, which took place in Berlin from 6th to 18th February, 2015. The title September Traveler refers to the journey through moments, total darkness and lost, blurred light. The atmosphere of the music is cold, soft and a little bit dreamy, mostly created by drone elements and field recordings. All sales from this album go directly to support Sound Awakener's recording equipment need. Your purchase is gladly appreciated!

The Tracks:

September Traveler
What sounds like string-based distortion mingles with a high-pitched tone that puts me in mind of fairground music slowed down and played backwards. It sounds like the soundtrack to some strange dream, but a dream that starts darkly and becomes a little lighter and more hopeful towards the end.

Learning to Drown
Looping strains of piano dance and compete with a looming drone in the background. A muted thudding begins in the distance and pulsates below everything as the piano fades and comes back. The result is a track that grows in pace and feels stifling, as if it’s closing around you.

Pale Morning
Chirpy tones tinkle in a light soundscape that feels cold but not hostile in any way. Maybe a morning frost glinting in weak sunlight. Something dark does feel like it is coming closer as the track goes on however.

The shade you’ve become
Muffled voices and distorting electro-sound moves from ear to ear. Harsher piano and string notes add an element of discord as the background sound begins to take on the guise of an angry bee. It rattles and hums as reversed and slowed piano pierces the soundscape, giving movement to the shade mentioned in the track title. The track becomes deeper as it continues, higher pitched sounds echoing back from unseen walls as the other notes mingle in the increasingly harsh medley. Space emerges; strings twang, piano keys sound and thumps punctuate the void left behind.

The call is fading
Stark piano and a swelling and dwindling background sound create a feeling of absence and loss, the notes swallowed by the airy space they float inside. The track ends very abruptly which was a surprise but very effective rather than petering out.

September Traveler has a less chaotic sound than Hidden but one that is no less interesting. Piano is used to great effect, as you would imagine with Nhung Nguyen being a classically trained pianist. I also like her use of strings though, especially the deep and brooding distorted ones she laces her tracks with. All in all, September Traveler is a fine album that deserves a place in any dark ambient aficionado’s music collection and I happily rate it 4/5.

Visit the September Traveler Bandcamp page here for more information.

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

Album Title: September Traveler
Artist: Sound Awakener
Mastered by: Nicky Bendix
Artwork by: Irene Cruz
Released : 6th February 2015