Friday, 8 February 2019

Dark Ambient Review: Ghosts on Broken Pavement

Dark Ambient Review: Ghosts on Broken Pavement

Review by Casey Douglass

Ghosts on Broken Pavement

I really like urban spaces. I like rural ones too, but being in a city feels so different to somewhere more natural. The traffic noise and fumes, the heat rising from the bricks, sometimes even the people, it all seems quite nice. Mount Shrine’s Ghosts on Broken Pavement brings the listener to a different kind of urban soundscape, but one no less interesting or intricate.

Album Description: The radio transmissions led you here, a city of memories past and passed. The streets lie silent as you watch from above the high rise. A twirling mountain casts a deafening shadow over this place. Here between the world of life and death you are but a tiny spec of dust on the shoulder of giants, a world built by the dreamers that came before you. The sleepers drift here, trapped in glitching time loops that crackle when reset.

When I was listening to Ghosts on Broken Pavement, I realised that, for me at least, each track seemed like a slow stroll, one taking me from the more urban areas and out into the fringes nearer nature at the end. The track titles seem to fit this notion, beginning with the likes of Gray-Tinged Suburbs and Underpass, before ending up at Outsider Station and Empty Slopes.

What many of the tracks share is a smooth and lulling aesthetic, tiny crackles and mellow static mingling with field-recordings of wind, rain, and other real-world sounds. On a number of tracks I thought I could hear a car passing by, but gently, as if its wheels were driving on a marshmallow road, its engine wrapped in cushioning foam. Underpass was a track that I felt was particularly vivid in its urban setting, the sounds conjuring the vision of an underpass at sunset. The road is quiet, the light golden, and the odd car that does pass casts watery lightning flashes along the walls as the sunlight hits its curves. I found it very peaceful.

Another track that resonated with me was Held Breeze, which, as you might imagine, features the wind. For me, it was a track that was about the momentary “caging” of nature, the wind that you can hear on this track is roaming and thrashing around an ornate courtyard, the kind where everything is far too tidied and tended. You know the sort, they usually sit in wealthier areas and have little cages around the bottoms of the trees. The mixture of the roaming hiss and other notes makes this a layered track, full of gentle movement and peace.

Outsider Station, the penultimate track, also became one of my favourites. It led me to think of an industrial train station, rather than the passenger kind, the trains coming and going without a human in sight. A metallic tapping rhythm features quite prominently here, a sound that I later came to think was probably the signal chimes you often hear at train crossings. This, mixed with what could be the sound of squeaking and knocking machinery, and the way the track goes a bit fuzzier in the second half, certainly lends itself to an intriguing “non-quiet” place, that seems quiet anyway. If that makes sense.

Ghosts on Broken Pavement, for me, was a journey from the emission-filled air and right-angles of the city, to the mantle of nature at its fringes, the quiet rumblings of humanity sounding softer the further I mentally roamed. Whether it’s the oil slicked streets and brake-squeal ghosts of the first track, or the occasional passing car and gentle tones of the last, the album takes you through bubbles of fuzzy comfort and leaves you safely at journey’s end. It’s another fine dark ambient album and one well worth chilling out to when you want something less harsh from your music listening.

You can visit Ghosts on Broken Pavement on Bandcamp here, and you can also listen to Underpass below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Ghosts on Broken Pavement
Album Artist: Mount Shrine
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: Jan 29, 2019

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Dark Ambient Review – Tower Of Silence

Dark Ambient Review – Tower Of Silence

Review by Casey Douglass

Tower of Silence

Anything that mentions a tower usually leads me to thinking about the Tower of Babel, the mythical construction that tried to reach heaven, but which God stymied by causing language-based confusions amongst its builders. As you can imagine, I’m a riot when Jenga is broken out! While the builders might not have been united by language, their drive to reach heaven, avoid hell and to delay death is something many will identify with. I had these thoughts in mind when I began listening to Xerxes The Dark’s Tower Of Silence, and they were thoughts that would fuel an interesting expedition into something both dark and mesmerizing.

Album Description: Xerxes The Dark invites you to this excarnation, a high quality dark ambient journey, inspired by historic, contemporary and future events. Tower Of Silence is a mixture of drones, ritual ambient, dark and cold atmospheres with a touch of haunted field recordings. Recommended for the fans of psychological thriller, horror and mystery literature.

As a whole, Tower Of Silence presents the listener with shuffling distortions, ominous clangs and discordant tones that meld together into something both atmospheric and claustrophobic at the same time. A track that demonstrates this perfectly is The Omen (A Schizomanic Trip), a track that is also my favourite on the album. A juddering rhythm opens things, fleshy drippings and gluggings quick on its heels. Distorted electronic shrills buzz and whine in the air. Then came my favourite element, the sound of what could be a breathless shuffling creature, and this in turn, is soon married to a kind of police-siren shrilling. There are background whispers, and later what could be a roar. With the title of the track already channelling thoughts of the film with the same name, this track seemed to signify the coming of the dark one, or a dark one at least, and its miasma of busy rustlings and rattlings was a joy to listen to.

The next track, Dagon (MMXX), is also another favourite of mine, and it contrasts with The Omen (A Schizomanic Trip), in a number of ways. It opens with the sound of crashing water and the roar of a leviathan, setting this soundscape in the most watery of settings. The deep vibrating sound, when combined with a kind of metallic shimmer, makes this a quieter track in some ways, but one equally as engrossing. Later can be heard what might be a bell-like tolling, mixed with the signal sweeps of a radio scanner. It had me thinking of the classic Harryhausen films in which some god or other would rise from the sea to terrorise the mortals quaking on the shore. A fun, wet track to be sure.

The final track I wanted to talk about in-depth is Man & Deviance, because it created such a strong image for me. It opens with a scuttling/scraping sound, and a kind of pulsing that hints at pressure building in the aether. A fast-whispering begins, a resonance hanging in the air behind it. There are heavy footsteps and insidious clickings and rattlings. The latter part of the track seems to present vocalisations that could be someone calling for help or crying out in despair. The image this track created for me was of an angel being kept in captivity, probably in some twisted tower where the shadows seep and the shackles are rimmed with rusty nails. A darkly menacing track, infused with corruption.

Tower Of Silence is a wary shuffle along dark corridors, a shuffle in which the listener is feeling their way by sound, and fingertips against stone, wondering why the air is so hot and their brow is so moist. The tracks it contains all seem to usher something dark into the mind, and offer it a lullaby to entice it to stay. A great dark ambient album for anyone’s collection.

Click here to visit Tower Of Silence’s Bandcamp page, and check out the album preview mix below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Tower Of Silence
Album Artist: Xerxes The Dark
Released: 25 Jan 2019