Monday 21 October 2019

Dark Ambient Review: Black Stage of Night

Dark Ambient Review: Black Stage of Night

Review by Casey Douglass

Black Stage of Night

The Victorian era always seems to be such a rich vein for media that likes to draw on the dark side of life. From the opium dens and the diseases that dogged the huddled masses, to the dabbling with the occult and emerging sciences, there are plenty of places to look for darkness. Black Stage of Night is a dark ambient album that hits a rich vein in this regard, and whether that vein is found by a sad soul in a mine with a pickaxe or by the prick of a needle, it doesn’t matter. Black Stage of Night is dark and twisted, and is a fantastic album.

Dark and twisted though it maybe, there is a gentle melancholia to many of the sounds and tones, from delicate piano notes and acoustic tones, to a hissing static and warping notes. It very much comes across as an album of the night, the time of the day when the shadows deepen and the world feels more closed in, the universe ending at the reflection in your window panes. It’s very easy to imagine a Victorian lady or gentleman standing vigil at a window, the light from their lantern hindering their view as they struggle to peer past their own reflection.

Chaos Unmade is my favourite track by quite some distance. It opens with a repeating rhythm that put me in mind of the arrangement you might find in some kind of warped country music. It wouldn't be a song about cattle wrangling or unrequited love though, this one would more likely be about a skeleton on a horse trying to capture errant ghosts in a misty, moonlit valley. A tone rises and falls with this repeating rhythm, later joined by a more trilling, whistling sound. Things quieten near the end of the track, with it ending with a staticy looping sound, maybe hinting that the skeleton horse-rider has disappeared over the hill.

The Great Order of Things is another track that stood out for me. It opens with a howl-like sound and a deep stuttering tone that pulses into life every now and then. An “Ahhh-like” vocal meets the howls as the track progresses, lending the track a church-like feeling. This track could be about another misty, moonlit valley, but this one has a dark church at its centre, with people huddled inside praying for the wraiths outside to go away. The howls become more cat-like in the last third of the track, which to me, made me think of someone on an opium high, sitting near a flickering fire and being woken from their reverie by the family cat wanting to go outside.

The other two tracks I’ll mention are the first and the last: Mind Turns to Night and Night Becomes Morning. They are great bookends for the other tracks as the first seems to deepen as it continues, while the latter lightens. This felt very fitting for two tracks that could be the soundtrack for the fading daylight at night’s approach and the lightening effect of the sun rising the next morning. Almost like an hypnotic induction and a “Wake up” call, they smooth the way from, and back to, reality.

Black Stage of Night is a ghostly dark ambient album, the cobwebs and coal-smoke of another age mingling with the mind that is looking back at the past. For me, brings up all manner of Victorian aesthetics, the one thing they all have in common being the way that they are tinged with the lust for things to be different to how they are, whether that be by dream or occult means, wishful thinking or prayer. Atrium Carceri and Cities Last Broadcast came together to make Black Stage of Night the welcoming, dark thing that it manages to be, and if it is based in the world of dreams, I’d be eager to see what the nightmares that come after may contain.

Visit the Black Stage of Night page on Bandcamp, and check out the track Mind Turns to Night below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Black Stage of Night
Album Artist: Atrium Carceri & Cities Last Broadcast
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: October 22, 2019