Friday 2 August 2019

Dark Ambient Review: Memory 417

Dark Ambient Review: Memory 417

Review by Casey Douglass

Memory 417

In Quantum’s cyberpunk ambient album Memory 417 is themed around the near future, but a dark one, one in which things are coming to a head. It paints a bleak picture of a future in which humans have taken their DNA meddling and cybernetic prodding into whole new realms of exploitation and divergence. Post-humans rub up against anti-transhumanists, while semantic networks connect the soulless. I suspect social media still runs on pure outrage too, even though this isn’t mentioned.

What we have in Memory 417 is a dark prophesy, one made up of audio textures and sounds that leave the listener almost tasting the damaged circuitry and abandoned architecture around them. It makes a great use of voices and speech, and does this from the very start, with the opening track beginning with a kind of robotic exhalation, and later featuring a news-cast presentation about nuclear physics and the A-bomb. It creates a compelling effect.

The voice-samples feature in other tracks too, adding a hint of explanation as to what might be happening, or simply hinting at the lack of certainty, such as the “Are we dreaming?” question early in track two: Dream. I really appreciated the flavour that the voices added, the only drawback for me personally being that they jolted me enough that I can’t really use Memory 417 as a relaxation album. They are fine when you aren’t semi-dozing, but can startle a bit if you are dropping off. Of course, I can live with that, but felt it worth mentioning as you might be someone who also enjoys using this kind of music to relax to.

As Memory 417 is a ‘cyberpunky’ album, you can expect the things that go along with this. Warm electronic tones and beeps, echoes and melancholy notes. There are also various cinematic sounds to add extra flavour to the soundscapes it creates. Odyssey features a countdown, followed by an air-raid siren, with an ominous rumbling thereafter. Suicidium is another track that makes a good use of these kinds of sounds, with this one using the sound of rubble raining down and appearing to trap a shocked victim. Away from environmental sounds though, Itarius Mourning was my favourite “mellow” track, as it features a quieter soundscape that eases its way into an airy, piano note fed atmosphere.

I often spend time talking about the mental imagery an ambient album triggers in my mind. Beyond the A-bomb devastations and stifling rubble, Memory 417 brought about a variety of scenes. A good number featured the reflection of neon-lights in puddles, which has always been an image I enjoy. Many mental images featured abandoned buildings, concrete walls falling to moss, and water dripping through floors and apertures it was never envisioned to ever meet, let alone seep through. I also saw shadowy figures who seemed more powerful (or sinister) than any “regular” person I happened to see. Agents of both sides of the conflict maybe? Who knows.

Memory 417 is a gloomy yet illuminating foray into a possible cyberpunk future. It’s an album where mechanical despair mingles with human desperation, with neither side likely to come out on top. Well, actually, there is someone who comes out on top: the listener, as they get to safely dip into this glimpse of a dystopia in the making, and to come back safe and not remotely glowing in the dark. That’s a win in my book.

Visit the Memory 417 page on Bandcamp at this link, and you can also check out Anno MMLXXIV in the video below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Memory 417
Album Artist: In Quantum
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: July 23rd, 2019