Thursday 8 August 2019

Dark Ambient Review: The Substance of Perception

Dark Ambient Review: The Substance of Perception

Review by Casey Douglass

The Substance of Perception

Life gets tainted by many things. The things we enjoy always come with drawbacks. Sometimes the feeling of something being “off” is obvious. Other times, it’s more subtle. The Substance of Perception is the debut, collaborative album from NERATERRÆ, and one of the things that I really enjoyed about listening to it is the way that it shows this “more subtle tainting” in an interesting and audio-based way.

The opening track, Shadows of Regret is a case in point, and is one of my favourites on the album. Gentle and airy tones mingle with the patter of rain or snow. It’s like the opening to a marshmallow-cloud-filled-dream-castle sequence. Then the “taint” enters, a high pitched tone that unpicks this sense of safety and whimsy. It pulses and whines, and is soon joined by a dark drone, and a voice talking about dreams and coming to hate yourself. Talk about a change in direction! It’s the audio equivalent of a summer meadow that hides an escaped tiger, or a pleasant white picket fenced house with a prisoner chained in the basement.

Seeing as I’m opening with a favourite track, I will skip straight to another that I liked just as much: Becoming the Nightmare. It opens with a dark exhalation and looming atmosphere, with a rumbling soon rising in the soundscape. Then the screeching begins. I can only describe it as the screaming of what sounds like a female creature of some kind. My first thoughts on hearing it were that it might be what a trapped succubus might sound like. Voices and chanting emerge and after a short time, a bestial ‘thrump’ sound occurs, as if something much larger is in dialogue with the captive she-demon. I don’t know what kind of ritual or rite is occurring but I’d imagine anyone happening to walk in on it would immediately go grey and run for their lives. Or get our their smartphone and film it. This is 2019 after all.

Another track that I wanted to say a little more about is To Reveal the Unseen. It’s another that features a kind of dark chanting aesthetic, deep “Oms” brushing up against a drone that later gives way to a quiet, dripping, introspective space. A shimmering whistling in this latter space seems to hint at the lifting of the veil between worlds, or some kind of barrier at least. The shortest track on the album but no less impactful for its brevity.

The other tracks do sit well alongside the ones I’ve already mentioned, each with their own aspects to appreciate. The Wicked Pulse of Conscience features the kind of off-kilter feeling of “taint” that I’ve already expressed my admiration for, but in its own way. That Which Shall Not Be Witnessed includes whispers about which I can’t decide if they really are whispers, or just a sound that seems similar. I like this “not knowing”. Beyond, has a strange ‘trilling’, like something you might hear in a Lovecraftian tale of horror, and Echoing Scars has gentle “tainted” melodies and rainfall. Beautiful stuff.

The Substance of Perception is a dark ambient album that treats the listener to soundscapes that pick at the edge of their most nebulous dreams. A bit like that feeling you get when you wake up and know that you were having a nightmare, but are confronted by a sunny morning with the birds singing. Your mind lags behind the apparent scene of safety, like a paranoid looking back over their shoulder into the receding night. If the idea of this sensation excites you, take a proper listen to The Substance of Perception by visiting this link. You should also watch the music video for Shadows of Regret:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: The Substance of Perception
Album Artists: NERATERRÆ, Northaunt, Alexey Tegin from Phurpa, Treha Sektori, New Risen Throne, Flowers For Bodysnatchers, Taphephobia, Ugasanie, Xerxes The Dark and Infinexhuma
Label: Cyclic Law
Released: April 26th, 2019