Sunday 31 July 2016

Dark Music Review – Oblivion To You All

Dark Music Review – Oblivion To You All

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Oblivion To You All Artwork

'Oblivion to you all' is the sixth release from dark ambient project, Noctilucant, and the proper continuation of the story started on, 'Back to the Mud.' 'Oblivion to you all' sees the world now sparsely populated, this is after the apocalypse, when many humans have fallen and those that remain standing are left to deal with a world that has changed into something 'else...'
As someone who often, when sleep eludes him, imagines himself holed up somewhere with the shuffling undead making noises in the distance, I found myself instantly attracted to the concept of dark ambient album Oblivion To You All. Anything that is dark and atmospheric, with a dose of wandering menace is something that will have my ears prickling in anticipation. What I got with Oblivion To You All certainly fit that description.

In general, Noctilucant’s creation features relatively quiet soundscapes, more low rumbling and distant environmental noises than actual immediate threat, with a few exceptions. There are also tracks that deliver narrative via voices, telling the listener about the state of the world, or merely whispering furtive questions into the ear, such as “Did you miss me?”

My favourite tracks tended to have sounds that either put me strongly into the situation being heard, or at the least, grabbed my attention by their seeming diversion from the grim nature of the tale. One example of this latter kind is This Day Brings Forth Our Dismay (track 2). The track opens with the sounds of a projector trundling into life, backed by a wind-like swelling and rumbling. The soundscape opens out into a higher pitched “ah” sounding theme, almost like the backing track to a pleasant recollection. Towards the end, things deepen once more, finishing with the sound of the projector becoming prominent again. I don’t know what was being shown on the screen but to me, it might have been a video of how life used to be.

Another track that I really clicked with was Where Snow Remains and Life Fades (track 4). This is a very visceral track, starting gently with an almost underwater distortion smoothing the rumbling sound. A fluctuating tone takes on a chant-like sound. A wind-like effect whistles through abandoned snow covered streets. Near the midpoint, clanking and movement is heard, along with heavy footsteps and laboured breathing inside a gas mask. The footsteps seem to be going down wooden stairs and heading out to crunch the snow-laden ground. Sounds of life escalate towards the end of the track, the tones taking on the aspect of moans and cries on the wind. A very effective track.

The final track that I wanted to mention by name is track 7: Back Into The Hole Where I Was Born. After a single electric guitar note punches the track into motion, eerie high tones begin to rise and fall like a sparkling swarm of glittery observers. A drone sits in the background, soon to be joined by the howling wind as things get darker a short way in. Footsteps and gas-mask breaths fill the ear, followed shortly after by a creaking door and entry into another space. This space is filled with coughs and misery. The traveller whose head we are in begins to speak. He doesn’t tell a happy tale, and it ends with the ultimate kind of full stop which I won’t spoil here.

What we have in Oblivion To You All, is a dark ambient album that does a great job of painting a picture of a world in which things have gone badly wrong. I found some of the tracks to be a little uneventful for my own tastes, but I think that these simply made the ones that did speak to me stand out all the more. I give Oblivion To You All a solid 4/5 and recommend any music fan interested in darker things to go and check out the album on Bandcamp here.

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

Album Title: Oblivion To You All
Artists: Noctilucant
Released: July 18, 2016

Sunday 24 July 2016

Dark Music Review - Locus Arcadia

Dark Music Review – Locus Arcadia

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Locus Arcadia Album Art

This album takes us on a voyage across the stars to the Locus Arcadia Space Station as it follows a lone protagonists questions into what happened after loss of contact.

"I can barely hear them now, their thin reverberating voices quickly fizz in and out. The crackling sounds of half garbled transmissions dance erratically in my ears, desperately trying to break through a crunching wall of distortion. My last connection to home is quickly disintegrating. The only thing I could muster from the broken transmissions was that there used to be a prison on this station and also some kind of archaic cyborg research facility. As I struggle to hold back the closing walls of helmet induced claustrophobia, I soon fear everything will be buried underneath a smothering film of my own sticky breath. I hate the feeling of being trapped in this glass prison. My attention shifts, and I begin to notice just how cold it's become. It's dropped 30 degrees since my initial inspection; the meter now reads -87 Fahrenheit. Ahead of me awaits a mammoth of a station. A rust colored metallic structure with hundreds of slits like eyes peering out into open space. I slowly slide a vigilant gaze along its seemingly endless perimeter, and in complete awe of its massiveness the reality of what awaits me firmly sets hold. A fine pointed sting of uneasiness slowly climbs through my sternum and into my throat. Now just twelve meters from the entrance, my steps turn deliberately cautious. I hesitantly raise and press my boots into the ground, compressing the tiny granules beneath me. The closer I get, the quieter it all becomes, and the more alone I begin to feel. As the distance between us diminishes, the anticipation grows feverishly tall like the dozens of rectangular glass lookouts adorning the otherwise dilapidated station. The main entry hatch now within arms reach, I punch in the code: 7-5-1-3. The door opens..."
How’s that for an album blurb? If that doesn’t set the tone for the feelings and visions that Locus Arcadia provides the listener, I don’t know what will. A collaboration between dark ambient artists Randal Collier-Ford, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Council of Nine and God Body Disconnect, Locus Arcadia is a bleak dose of sci-fi infused dark ambient that stifles and frees in equal measure.

I must admit that my favourite moments contained in the four longish (about 15 mins) tracks often were the ones that featured the sound effects associated with the text above. These might take the form of beeping controls, the clanking of airlocks opening, or more intimate sounds such as the breathing or heartbeat of the exploring astronaut. This is where some of the stifling claustrophobia comes from, the closeness of someone breathing inside a helmet as strange sounds loom in the distance.

A couple of the tracks stood out for me above the others though, and these were Black Echo of Morgues and Memory, and Prisoner's Sacrifice Facing Arcadia. Black Echo of Morgues and Memory starts with a muted rumbling and see-sawing strings that build into the kind of sound that wouldn’t be amiss as a horror flick builds tension, alerting the listener to an incoming threat that they are unaware of creeping up on them. Metallic thumps and chimes boom and clang, soon to be joined by swelling horn-like sounds that put me instantly in mind of the Alien films’ scores. This is always an instant win with me. Also featuring in this track are other sounds like juddering static-like interference, rattling hulls and a little later, wet “blips” that seemed to channel a motion tracker, for me at least.

Prisoner's Sacrifice Facing Arcadia starts with the calm breathing of the astronaut inside a helmet, with button beeps, mechanical clamps and hisses of air giving plenty of audio cues as to what is happening. Once inside whatever it is, a drone moves in with quick beeps and rushes of air. A female voice whispers as a pulsing machinery sound begins to rise. There are footsteps, metal clanks and distorted radio chatter. A little later, things progress to a quieter soundscape that features an echoey, low grade fuzzy static that pulses and more than a little puts me in mind of insect wings. Later still, something is triggered and a warning alarm begins to sound. Something opens and an avalanche of sound rushes out. Something then closes, hinting at the entry of the astronaut into that other space. The listener hears the heartbeat of the astronaut slowly become still and the soundscape eases into a calmer, lighter feeling until the end.

Quite a listening experience. I enjoyed the other two tracks as well, but the two mentioned above just really grabbed me and had more for me to latch onto as being particularly interesting for me.

Locus Arcadia is an alluring dose of sci-fi flavoured dark ambient sound, and does a very good job of transporting the listener into some interesting places. If you find yourself hankering after some sci-fi inspired feelings, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you check it out. I give Locus Arcadia 4/5.

Visit the Locus Arcadia page on Bandcamp here for more information and check out the video for Prisoner's Sacrifice Facing Arcadia below:

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

Album Title: Locus Arcadia
Artists: Randal Collier-Ford, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Council of Nine, God Body Disconnect
Label : Cryo Chamber
Released: July 12, 2016

Thursday 21 July 2016

Dark Game Preview - Project Highrise

Simulation games can always be fun, giving the player the power to meddle in things that they would probably know little about in the real world. Project Highrise is a new PC game from SomaSim that puts the player in charge of a highrise and charges them with making it the best darn highrise in the city. If that sounds like your thing, you can read my full preview on Geek Syndicate at this link.

Project Highrise Image © Copyright SomaSim

Saturday 16 July 2016

Dark Music Review – Myth About Flat World

Dark Music Review – Myth About Flat World

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Myth About Flat World Art

In one or another form, Myth about flat world existed from time immemorial in every civilization culture, from India to Scandinavia, always intertwined with other ideas about World.[...] All of this makes the picture of Flat World surprisingly vivid and able to tell everything about secrets of the Universe, inspiring the search of analogies, bringing new vision of familiar fairytales and well-known legends. Creating this album, we wanted to reflect this myth's magic in sound, make it alive, able to induce imagination, finding new connections and meanings - to inspire the listener in creation of its own art... Let this music become a mirrored water surface for you, where one can see the shapes of something long forgotten, but at the same time very cognate and familiar.

I found Myth About Flat World to be an introspective album, the way some of the tracks gently build and fade, along with the apparent simplicity of the sounds lending it a meditative quality that at once supports the listener, but also doesn't get in the way. I used the phrase “apparent simplicity” quite carefully a few words ago, as closer listening reveals layers and variations of texture that at times, seem quite hypnotic.

Take the first track: The Flat World, as an example. After a gentle start, a thrumming drone fills the soundscape, the backing of air-like vocals forming an ongoing “ahhh” as delicate chime-like tinklings jostle for the attention. The general takeaway sound of this track for me was the impression of what sand flowing down a glass tube might sound like, in no small part due to the static-like movements at intervals in this track. Yes, there are wind instruments and rattling bone-like sounds too, but this track so perfectly made me think about a desert with a low golden sun hanging just above the horizon, it was quite lovely. This image informed the rest of the impressions that arose in my mind, so I think I likely strayed from the theme expounded in the album blurb above.

Track two: Ancient Wind, saw me delve into a partially hidden temple (I might just have watched Stargate SG-1 or The Mummy too many times). This track starts with a subdued drone that undulates and flows, before being joined by airy swellings and sighs, as if the dark cool space inside the temple is haunted by unseen ghosts moving beyond sight. A little later, trilling whistles and finger-nail drumbeats add another layer of texture, hinting at things beginning to unfold.

The next track: Mountain Roots, features gentle drumming too, strangely warped chime-like notes starting things off before a whispering female voice insinuates itself into the ear, wind-notes and heavier drum beats give the whole thing a ritualistic feeling. As the track progresses, a male vocal chant can be heard, along with a vibrating electro-thrum that seems to charge the soundscape with energy. This track gave me the impression of going deeper into the Earth, a trippy languid stroll amongst the rocks.

Track four is Keepers of Existence, an echoing resonance-filled soundscape that seems to sparkle and shimmer like a swarm of golden fireflies, if such things can live deep underground. This track gives the impression of space and furtive movements, sighs and wind currents hinted at later on, with some tasty undertone chanting thrown in for good measure. Maybe the listener has come to the attention of the titular “keepers”.

The last track is Beside The Tree of Life, a track that begins with a repeating note and mid-range drone that creates a background of thrumming sound, maybe hinting at strange forces becoming mobilised. Other sounds such as chanting and more wind-like static emerge as the track continues, before it heads to a quieter ending featuring the crackling of a small fire. As far as my mental images go, maybe the character in the tale wakes up beside his cosy campfire outside the temple, night having fallen and everything seeming to be back to normal.

Myth About Flat World is a thoroughly enjoyable dark ambient album, one in which the textures and mixture of sounds seem very peaceful, to me at least. On a number of occasions I actually fell asleep while listening to it, so it has become one of the rare albums that I can rely on to lull me into a relaxed state (another notable one being Earth Songs if this application interests you). Myth About Flat World has a great knack for evoking an otherworldly, exotic sensation, one that lets the listener scent and experience strange or exotic places, weaving a feeling of the spiritual or mythological into the impressions of stone, space and darkness. I give it 5/5, an album well worth checking out.

Visit the Myth About Flat World page on Bandcamp here for more information.

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

Album Title: Myth About Flat World
Artist: Creation VI
Label : Black Mara
Released: June 2, 2016