Friday 30 November 2018

Dark Ambient Review: Echoes of the Future

Dark Ambient Review: Echoes of the Future

Review by Casey Douglass

Echoes of the Future

Proto U’s dark ambient album Echoes of the Future continues the themes explored in her previous albums: Earth Songs, Khmaoch and The Edge of Architecture. The theme of this album revolves around what a post-Earth event might look like, humanity strapping themselves into gigantic metal vessels and blasting off into the wider universe.
Album Blurb: The space center sleeps as the sound of your boots echo down endless hallways. Rocket fuel reeks from the colonization ships outside, one more to go. You steal one final look at the charred horizon as you enter the last ship bound for a new home. Do we deserve a second chance? A deep space ambient album that invites you to take part in the discovery of cosmic anomalies and abandoned space stations in search of a new home.

As this is a space, sci-fi type album, the expected rumblings, buzzings and beepings don’t take too long to appear. They do this in a way however, that remains interesting and full of texture. Take the opening track Gone as an example. A mechanical “ticking” gets things going, a sound that threads a sustaining rhythm through the other sounds that emerge around it. Added to this are some mellow tones that move from ear to ear and some rumbling thundery sounds. It’s hard not to imagine the view described in the album blurb, gazing through the window of a space station as massive ships start their drives, and float gently away from their docking clamps.

Things change up for the next track Interlinked, where a kind of shimmering hangs in the soundscape. High tones join it that become almost shrill at times. Among the other elements of the track are gentle buzzings, and a fantastic “boiling” effect that to me, sounded like what might happen if you could boil digital bytes, or code, in a saucepan. When you get to the hints of voice transmission near the end of the track, you feel like something has exchanged protocols and a handshake has taken place. Maybe a ship has docked with the subject of my musing below.

Next up is 43258D. This track seemed to bring to mind what it might be like to visit a steampunk-styled planet, one of metal, steam and fire. The muted opening sounds, airy or watery, are joined by a deeper rumbling a little later, and by the midpoint, help create a resonating maelstrom. The fuzzed sound of an astronaut breathing at the end drew parallels with the album art of Echoes of the Future, for me at least. Someone who had entered a strange planet, made his or her way through the hissing corridors and pumping chambers and finally entered a glowing core of stillness and tranquility.

Drawings of Nebula really seemed to be the audio equivalent of looking at some of the stunning deep space photos that we get from the Hubble telescope. There are “radio frequency sweeping” tones pinging off masses of particles, and later, hissy static being joined by wolf-like howls and more human voice-transmission effects. If the fleet or ship at the heart of this album were passing close to a nebula, this track does a good job of encapsulating what that might sound like.

The final track that I wanted to mention, and also my favourite, is Hounds of the Void. This track, for me, had an ominous tone. While the others were awe inspiring, or simply interesting, this track rumbled with threat, which I liked very much. It didn’t cause me to think of the human fleet, but a change in viewpoint to an alien threat. Massive ships, darker than dark, making their way through the universe looking for prey. The track starts with a deep tone that throbs and pulses. These pulses grow and are joined with other higher tones, which might suggest starlight beginning to glint on clustered metal shapes that weren't visible a moment ago. The track seems to contain a metallic shimmer, that sits above the rumbling. There are small tones and voice-like calls/beeps, I couldn't decide which. All I could do was imagine this fleet moving past from a fixed point, the ships looking sharp and dangerous, the soundscape making me feel like I didn’t want to be seen. Absolutely fantastic.

Echoes of the Future is another superb album from Proto U. If you enjoy the more sci-fi/space ambient variety of soundscape that it contains, you really should buy a copy when you can. It’s mellow, smooth, awe inspiring and dark, the spaces it creates both massive and haunting. A perfect album to listen to as these cold winter nights draw in.

Check out the Echoes of the Future page on Bandcamp at this link. You might also like to listen to Hounds of the Void below:

I was given a copy of this album for review purposes.

Album Title: Echoes of the Future
Artist: Proto U
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: 28 August 2018