Monday 27 July 2015

Dark Music Review - Filth Haven

Dark Music Review – Filth Haven

Written By Casey Douglass

Filth Haven
As one half of Swedish/Norwegian industrial duo K.N.O., Kristoffer Oustad is no stranger to the Malignant roster, and yet within the broader context of the K.N.O. sound, his exact contributions were never fully known, or at least immediately recognizable. Listening to his debut solo recording, it becomes evident that the more emotive and moody qualities within those recordings seemed to be his primary responsibility. The 7 tracks that comprise Filth Haven operate on a palpable psychological level and are perhaps some of the most personal and deeply emotional recordings Malignant has released. Oustad shows an innate ability to craft intricate and detailed pieces of grey hued, analog darkness that feel suspended in time… dreamlike and meditative, yet always hinting at something ominous on the horizon, as gradually shifting textures, drifting tones and haunting melodies intersect in a hazy, somnambulant procession. While the method for composition (analog synths, guitar, and field recordings) may have been the same, each track is uniquely different than the next, but in the end, feels tightly bound together by a cinematic framework that sinks deep into your consciousness. An absolutely astounding and rewarding work for those that appreciate all manner of dark music.
After a lengthy album description like that, I don’t feel the need to do much more of a lead-in to my review, save to say that this is my first time experiencing Kristoffer’s music and on the basis of this one album, I am looking forward to hearing more. Read on to find out why.

The Tracks

Elberton 1979
A strong sound that put me in mind of some kind of demonic horn starts this track, and by consequence, the whole album off. An echoing voice-over imposes itself over the blaring, maybe sixty percent of the words understandable. The words are sinister from the start but as they tell their tale, there is talk of large portions of humanity needing to be killed to keep in balance with nature. A harsher grating noise begins and twists upwards, a little like some kind of alarm going off. The sound echoes and grows and fades, and near the end, might be mistaken for the sound of a bomb being dropped from a plane. A short internet search reveals that there is a monument in Elberton Georgia that bears an inscription that talks about maintaining humanity at under 500,000,000. Creepy stuff.

A deep bassy drone pulsates with an even deeper beat, a tinny high-pitched squeal lowering in pitch and then raising again like an old style kettle on the boil. A string-plucked melody emerges before being twisted and perverted by tight twists in note. A high pitched pulsating tone sounds hot on its heels, the rhythm sitting both snugly yet uneasily on top of the persistent bassy drone. Think of someone playing the didgeridoo next to someone else toying with a sound generator and you are getting there. Static appears, the harshness almost sounding like screams in some places. Things quieten at the midpoint of the track, a lighter feel descending as the tones still climb and fall. Voices suggest themselves, like a choir in the background but this is probably an audio illusion. What sounds like an electric guitar note dances over the other sounds as these take on the aspect of an angry bee hive.

Anti-Clockwise Rotation
A fast-paced plucky sound sets this track off to a frenetic start, a faintly buzzing drone and blaring swell of noise rising and falling as part of the soundscape. There are high-pitched tones as the track progresses that sound a little like birds singing if listened to in the right frame of mind. This track seems to be all about the tempo and the core rhythm. The screeching electro-sounds certainly wheedle their way into your brain. The track ends the way it started, with the sounds disappearing, the plucky sound fading to nothing last of all.

Row Me Over
Various bird calls make up the start of this track, it’s very lulling and peaceful. It grows even more so when the sounds of the paddles of a row boat gently hitting water joins them. A gentle drone fades in, swiftly joined by a rattling metallic sound and a pulse-like bass-beat that turns the peaceful soundscape into something a little more trying. Ghostly notes etch out a melody, a very high-pitched noise ringing out over everything like tinnitus. I enjoyed how the non-threatening nature of the opening soon turned into something more sinister, maybe the calm water being negotiated by the row boat at the start turns out to be far wider and far more treacherous than first thought. The second half of the track is all swelling sound, swelling notes and resonances that create a glorious noise. Again, things quieten down as the end of the track approaches, the sound of waves the last thing to be heard.

Another track that starts with a blaring horn-like sound (to my ears anyway). Strings sing in a prolonged note that echoes and distorts, sending resonances into the other areas of the soundscape. A background distortion or humming can be heard behind it, a little like when a sudden loud noise leaves your ears hearing other things once it has vanished. A wall of thrumming drone crackles into life around the midpoint of the track before fading along with all but the blaring sound.

The Sun Maker
This is another track that begins with a fast-paced sound, this one sounds more like the chirruping of a cricket but sped up by some margin. Long string notes loom, small squeaks and squeals dotted around them, growing in length and volume. This is a flowing track which sees the stand-out notes slowly create a sombre melody that battles a little with sounds that put me in mind of a dentist’s drill. It might sound horrid but it really isn’t, it’s quite beautiful.

The Arch
A deep drone and a sound that puts me in mind of wind-battered metal set the foundations of this track, more mechanical/industrial rumblings and sounds being heard now and then. This track has a great underlying rhythm that makes it a great vehicle for the various detail sounds that are layered in.

Filth Haven is a dark ambient album that achieves what it sets out to by the use of drones and sounds with their own self-carrying beat, the momentum this creates in the listener’s mind helping to see them effortlessly through to the end. Compared to other dark ambient albums that I have listened to lately, it features a smaller number of field recorded sounds and contains more high-pitched and throaty sounds, the balance between these two aspects creating an interesting and flowing dynamic in even the more sedate tempoed offerings.

I give Filth Haven 4/5 as it is a great dark ambient album that produces some great impressions and dark audio experiences.

Take a look at the Filth Haven Bandcamp page at this link for more info.

I was given a free copy of this album to review

Album Title: Filth Haven
Album Artist: Kristoffer Oustad
Label: Malignant Records
Release Date: 5 May 2015