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