Thursday 21 November 2019

Dark Ambient Review: Anomalies

Dark Ambient Review: Anomalies

Review by Casey Douglass


ProtoU is one of my favourite dark ambient artists. I think I’ve reviewed more of her albums than I have any other artist. Which says something. Two of her albums were in my personal Top Dark Ambient Relaxation Albums as well. Which says something too. So here we have Anomalies, her latest album, and one that, for me, seemed to have a cyberpunk aesthetic.

The album description is one of dreams and memories. If that’s so, I went to a realm of churning pipelines, crackling electricity and strange robots. This began with the first track: The Escape. The light drone led me into a gentle rhythm and cushioned soundscape, but one that seemed industrial. The best way I can think of describing it is like a bird flying through the kind of tunnels you might have seen in the real-world scenes of The Matrix. This culminated in it emerging into a massive, night-filled crater, maybe one caused by some kind of nuclear detonation. There is an increasing fuzz to the track, and some nice field-recordings of rain nestling amongst "egg-shell pebbly crackling" and echoing beats. Quite an opening track.

If that track was the emergence into the crater at night, the next: Transparent Clusters, was for me, the sun rising and casting its golden rays into the crater. It opens gently with some interesting sounds, one like someone flicking a plastic straw over and over. Dripping water peacefully hits the ground and later, sets up a bit of a beat as it seems to hit a plastic container or something. A rising tone seems to hint at the sunrise, and for me, this light shone on all of the debris and discarded things. A dump basically. Later in the track, piano notes and furtive movements hint at the life of things amongst the rubbish.

Track three is my favourite track, and runs with the junk-yard theme even more. Electric Grounds begins with a deep, bassy sound, gently clicking metal joining it. The sounds tell tale of something moving. Fast paced notes enter the ears like boiling atmosphere, with static and hisses as the moving thing gets closer. For me, this was a kind of robot, hulking and steaming as it searches through the garbage. With this in mind, some of the clattering sounds might well be caused by it picking up old shopping trolleys and emptying out their contents. Some of the peripheral tones seem to embody that of an air-raid siren, which again, for me, reinforced the post-nuclear feel. The track ends on a lighter feeling, maybe the bot having found something of interest amongst the rusted metal and discarded smartphones.

This particular narrative seemed to end at track three for me. The next track: Lucid Sequences did seem more dreamlike and ethereal to me. The track that follows though: Chamber of Visions, is my other favourite track on Anomalies. Chimes and echoes, and what could be the sound of millions of dead leaves cascading down the walls. Ghostly swells and cries sound, alongside gently tapped notes and whisper-like tones. The sounds of machinery emerge, creating a thrumming soundscape that ends with what could be a “real world” scene, people bustling at a tram station, going about their commutes. I really liked how the unreal seemed to become more real in this track, a bridge between the soundscape reality and the reality we might recognise.

The final two tracks, Ghost in You (Part 1) and Pellucid Waters, were two more tracks that seemed more nebulous to me. I enjoyed the sounds in them, whether it was the gently clinking machinery, distant voices and warm static of the first, or the field-recordings of water in the second, but there was less to hang my hat on, image wise, so to speak, in these tracks.

Anomalies is another brilliant album from ProtoU. I was pleasantly surprised by the cyberpunky feel for me, as that wasn’t something I was expecting going in. I appreciated the relaxing field-recordings and the way that lightness and darkness seemed to play with each other, and certainly enjoyed my time with the album. If you like the smoother, darker kind of dark ambient with a bit of lightness to relieve the murk, check out Anomalies and other albums of ProtoU’s.

Visit the Anomalies page on Bandcamp, and check out the Electric Grounds below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Anomalies
Album Artist: ProtoU
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: November 12, 2019