Saturday 12 August 2017

Dark Music Review – Alpine Respire

Dark Music Review – Alpine Respire

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Alpine Respire Cover Art

ProtoU (Ukraine) and Hilyard (Maine, US) group up in this field recording heavy collaboration. Alpine Respire immerses you in field recordings from two continents. Warm drone contrasts raindrops and the call of animals in the wild. This damp album invites you to explore the unreachable corners of the Earth. From the harshest mountains to the darkest forests. Recommended for fans of Field Recording and slowly progressing drone.

I do enjoy it when sounds that might normally be calming and relaxing, such as rain, when put into a certain context, sound off and a little sinister. I’m probably weird that way but I can live with that. Alpine Respire is a dark ambient album that sees ProtoU and Hilyard working their magic on a bountiful selection of field recording heavy tracks, tracks that mainly serve up enough calm threat to keep the bleakest amongst us happy.

Wind and rain make a number of appearances on the album, but the most intriguing for me was on the track Boreal Distillate. It begins with a kind of electro-transformer hum but soon opens out into a lovely expansive soundscape in which rain seems to blanket and surround the listener, a chant-like drone and “plinking” echoes are a few of the other sounds that you can expect to hear too. While it might fly in the face of my first paragraph, this track was pure relaxation for me. I’m a bit of a rain slut.

As mentioned in the album description, there are other field recordings beyond wind and rain. Animal and bird calls often appear, from the wolf-like tones on title track Alpine Respire (I say wolf-like as I wasn't sure if they were recordings or electronic notes that took on the aspect of wolves), to the moments of birdsong in Blood Grass Sojourn, they all seem to pierce the soundscapes in different ways, sometimes providing comfort, sometimes threatening to tear open a darker soundscape beneath.

A track that I particularly enjoyed for its level of menace was Cave Lights on the Bay of Bengal. This track starts with a sustained tone that just goes on and on, the other sounds in the soundscape: birdsong, piano notes and a strange “snuffling” sound, to name just a few, all having to compete with the strong thread of this tone’s sound. There are muffled rumblings too, which add some deeper sounds to the composition. Everything about the sustained tone and the sounds around it seemed to me, to suggest a scene in which something is about to happen, and then begins to. A little like looking at a peaceful lakeside view, everything looking normal save for a sound that permeates and taints everything else. I felt it was a very intriguing track, and I would say probably one of my favourites.

The other track that I would mention as a favourite is Final Refugium. It’s another track that makes great use of rain, but this time marries the sound with a melancholy funereal aesthetic. It suggested to me someone wounded or dying, and after days of travel, finding somewhere to finally hole up and await their death. A bit like a bleaker version of Robert the Bruce’s legend, where, instead of watching a spider in a cave and gaining confidence from its pluckiness, the cave dweller settles into a calm acceptance of the inevitable and gives themselves over to peace.

Alpine Respire is a windy dose of wet nature wrapped up in notes and tones that both invigorates and subdues the listener. If you, like me, enjoy your dark ambient with a higher ratio of field-recording than might be usual, you will find plenty of “the real world” to enjoy here. And as I said above, if you like things to sound a little malevolent, or at the very least for them to sit in an uncertain space of safety or threat, again, you will probably enjoy Alpine Respire.

Visit the Alpine Respire page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Cave Lights on the Bay of Bengal below:

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

Album Title: Alpine Respire
Artists: ProtoU & Hilyard
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: July 25, 2017