Wednesday 24 June 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Metta

Dark Ambient Review: Metta

Review by Casey Douglass


I first came across the word “Metta” through Buddhist loving-kindness meditation. Reading Metta was the title of Dronny Darko and ProtoU’s latest dark ambient release, alongside its Buddha statue in the mist album art... I thought I had a hint as to how this album would sound. I was kind of right, but also pleasantly wrong.

Metta makes fantastic use of field-recordings, particularly wind, water, thunder and rain. There are also many instances of bird song and insect calls. For me, these sounds painted a picture of a wet and humid tropical jungle, with misty valleys and fast flowing rivers racing past leafy temples and precarious rope bridges. I just got a mental image of Indiana Jones in the bridge fight near the end of the Temple of Doom. I don’t mean that kind of experience, but I hope you understand what I’m getting at.

Something I noticed that I also rather enjoyed was the way that certain of the field-recordings ebbed and flowed as various tracks progress. From the very first track: Energy Forms, and throughout various others, you might be listening to rushing water, it will fall away and then come back a short time later. Or you might be listening to rainfall during Secret Skin and notice that it has gone, only for it to come back anew. I felt this “long duration pulsing” of the large field-recorded elements really helped draw the attention and helped to keep things fresh. It also lent a nice rhythm to things.

Speaking of rhythm, there are a number of occurrences of drumbeats in Metta, strongly bringing to mind the kind of drums that you might hear being played in a ritual setting. An element I particularly enjoyed was the way that the beats often had an echoey quality to them, as if being played in a cave. There are also instances of chant-like vocals, shouts, or simply distant voices. I did half wonder if there would be more chanting, based on the album title and artwork, and there were less than I might have thought. It doesn’t matter one bit to me, the field-recordings and other elements are strong enough to create some lovely soundscapes.

If I had to choose a favourite track, I think it would be Astral Winds. It opens with the rustling sound of wind, and it gave me a strong mental impression of a crinkly brown leaf slowly being blown across a stone floor. Maybe a temple courtyard that hasn’t been swept for some time? The mixture of the drone that arises and other sounds, turned the soundscape quite dark for me. I had the impression of shuffling shadows, heard an electronic “spinning up” kind of sound, and also a possible hint of distant voices and sigh-like vocals.

Metta is described as a “spiritual successor” to Dronny Darko and ProtoU’s previous collaboration: Earth Songs, which happens to be one of my most played albums in recent years. Whereas Earth Songs tracks, for the most part, vary more in feeling and tone, I think the tracks on Metta are more tightly linked by their field-recordings. This doesn’t mean anything good or bad, it's just a highlighting of the differences. If someone forced me to choose between the two, I still currently favour Earth Songs but it’s incredibly early days in my getting acquainted with Metta.

Metta is a smooth trip into a wet, contemplative tropical space, where bird calls and drums mingle with elemental forces and human existence. The soundscapes are full of movement and life, and the feeling, for me, was one of taking a step back, taking a breath, and gaining a more holistic view of reality.

Visit Metta on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Astral Winds below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Metta
Album Artist: Dronny Darko & ProtoU
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: 23 June, 2020