Thursday 24 October 2019

Dark Ambient Review: Hydromancy

Dark Ambient Review: Hydromancy

Review by Casey Douglass


Hydromancy is a dark ambient mini-album themed around water and its use as a divination method. Released by Subespai, the solo project of Mauri Edo, at the beginning of October, it’s described as telling the story of a divination session gone wrong, which sounds like a great concept for an album to me. With that in mind, I let each of the tracks speak to me in their own way, wondering what visions they would bring to my mind.

The opening track is Rough Start, a track that features the deep rumbling of distant water currents alongside what I’d describe as a fast “ticking” sound. The rumbling you get deep underwater is always a sound that I find quite awe-inspiring, so I instantly appreciated this track. After awhile, the “ping” of sonar can be heard, which opens up the soundscape nicely and makes it seem a much larger space. As I became used to the sonar pings, it occurred to me that the sound could equally be some kind of crystal bell ringing in the deeps, summoning forth who knows what from the abyss below.

The next track, A Face in the Ripples, is my favourite track on the album. Opening with a siren-like sound and a rumbling drone, the very first image it brought to my mind was that of a large ocean liner, sinking deeper and deeper into the murky depths, with me watching from the outside, hearing the muted siren as it slowly falls past me. Then, I found myself watching a kind of Lovecraftian undersea race of fish people, sitting at their dinner tables eating in the eerie green glow of fungal illumination, the massive ship floating past their abyss-facing windows. The denizens stop chewing and look on in mild interest, wondering if the Elder Gods will destroy it without thought or keep it to toy with later. The odd clang here and there seems to suggest its not a smooth descent for the ship, but by then, the diners have already returned to their meals.

The third track is Revelations, and this also brought some interesting images to mind. It begins with a staticy hiss and some plinking sounds, and the general acoustics of the soundscape brought to mind a strange machine surfacing in an underwater cave, with water running from its strange angles and curves. A regular knocking sound begins, which to me, suggested someone trying to get out but finding the exit door sealed. I really liked this image, the illusion of emerging into safety but then being stuck in the craft that got you there. As the track nears its end, a deep vibration sounds, like a frog croak, but much deeper and more rumbling. I wondered if something was approaching the stricken craft, something that would open it up in more ways than one.

The final track is Bleak Consequences. This track, for me, was an above-ground track, as it seemed to feature the sound of rain or a stream flowing. After a deep opening and a kind of fast rhythm set by one of the sounds, it painted a picture of a really grey day, the kind where the clouds are almost black and the scenery looks leached of colour. A stream runs through a valley, but something isn't right with it. Glugging bubbles begin to pop on its surface; oily blisters smearing a glowing ooze into its currents. I’d guess for me, this track is saying that what happens deep in the ocean will eventually affect the land-dwellers too. A bit like watching Jaws and feeling safe if you stay on land, and how you’d then feel if you heard that sharks could get you on land anyway. Near the end of the track, the water stops flowing, which is also an intriguing end to events.

Before I listened to Hydromancy, I knew that it was themed around water, I was interested but not expecting to be wowed. Hydromancy did wow me though, as I’d forgotten how dark water could really be! I’m saying this as a Lovecraft fan who is well acquainted with the goosebumps that might arise when thinking about the watery abysses of the Earth and what they might contain. I’m also saying this as someone who has listened to a lot of dark ambient that features water in some way. Often though, the water is a flavour or scene-setting sound rather than the main event. Or, the water might be represented by other sounds in a more abstract way. The exception that immediately comes to mind is Ugasanie & Xerxes the Dark’s Abysmal, which is also a great water-based dark ambient album. If you liked that one, I think you will like Hydromancy. If you check out Hydromancy and enjoy it, you now know the other one I’d recommend.

Hydromancy is a free download from Audiotalaia, and if you’re a fan of dark ambient and deep sea horror, I’d really recommend you go and download yourself a copy as it is well worth listening to.

Visit the Hydromancy page at Audiotalaia here, and check out the teaser trailer below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Hydromancy
Album Artist: Subespai
Label: Audiotalaia
Released: October 03, 2019