Wednesday 27 May 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Shortwave Ruins

Dark Ambient Review: Shortwave Ruins

Review by Casey Douglass

Shortwave Ruins

On first thought, the squelch and crackle of radio communication might not suggest itself as a candidate for a chilled, relaxing listening experience. When it’s married to hypnotic rainfall and gentle drones, by someone who knows what they are doing, you’d best bash that “first thought” over the head and bury it where you hide your other hasty ponderings. Shortwave Ruins is Mount Shrine’s latest Cryo Chamber release:
Album Description: Mount Shrine presents us an album filled with radio chatter and warm drones layered on cold textures. Your shortwave radio crackles with life as it rests on your heavy backpack. It follows your every step across the rough terrain as you narrow your search for the abandoned station. It is up here, far from civilization that the answers linger, lost for years as the stations self sustainability has kept it alive. Recommended for fans of sedative ambient and for drifting into a place of comfort.

The radio chatter is a common theme that links the tracks together. It varies in prominence from track to track. Opening track: Reach None, features it very strongly at first, the repetitive nature lulling the listener into a state in which it kind of feels monotonous, but also kind of nice. It is absorbed by the other sounds as the track continues, and then you find that you might even miss it. Other tracks might contain two people chatting back and forth in a muted, distant way; accompanied by the squeal and hum of radio frequencies trickling through the electronics. It all felt quite cosy and warm to me, like how hearing the rumble of a distant crowd can be lulling to the mind.

Another element that makes Shortwave Ruins relaxing, as a whole, is the rain. If you are at all familiar with Mount Shrine, you’ll know what Cesar can do with rain, the way he somehow makes it even more relaxing. There are moments in Shortwave Ruins where it sounds like rain falling on tent or hood fabric, which is relaxing enough, but when you add in the way that Cesar tinkers with the sound, making it softer, distorted, or more muted, it’s like the best kind of lullaby. That being said, he can also do the opposite. On some of the tracks, such as Earthbridge, the rain almost takes on the mantle of logs crackling in a fire.

When you merge the aforementioned rain and radio with the drones and other tones on the album, you get something that is supremely relaxing. Each track also gives the listener different feelings about what kind of mental space they are in. The first track, with its prominent chatter, made me feel like I was high up looking down on a grey, mist-filled landscape. Later tracks hinted at being in a tent, or even hearing raindrops splashing onto trees or rocks. I didn’t really get a sense of a narrative, beyond maybe flying, landing and journeying on foot, but I didn’t need it. It could have been a lonely experience though, if not for the voices on the radio.

Shortwave Ruins is a safe way to feel alone, yet not feel too far from others. People who live alone often like to have a TV or radio on for company. During this Corona Virus pandemic and lock-down, these devices often just fill the four walls with useless conjecture and speculation, and maybe, if you are really lucky, some actual information. If you want to get a million miles away from it all but don’t want to feel the pang of actual isolation, drop into the misty, rain-covered world of Shortwave Ruins and listen to the voices on the radio. The people hinted at in the album description might be ghosts now, but even ghosts can provide comfort.

Visit Shortwave Ruins on Bandcamp for more information and check out “Earthbridge” below. You can also find out a little bit about how Cesar creates his music in my interview with him last year.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Shortwave Ruins
Album Artist: Mount Shrine
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: March 17, 2020