Wednesday 30 September 2020

Flash Fiction: Gir-affin A Laugh!

Gir-affin A Laugh!

Written By Casey Douglass

Gir-affin A Laugh

Sandra hated the bathroom window. It wasn’t that she had anything against windows. Or glass for that matter. She hated this particular bathroom window because it was hers, and it was permanently stuck half open. It was a small window that, thankfully, was frosted to provide some privacy. It was even on the first floor, but she always felt paranoid that someone could peep through the gap.

Sandra was a sensible woman. She would have paid the landlord to get the window fixed, but with all of the COVID restrictions, and her job at the pub seemingly hanging by a thread, she couldn’t really justify it. So she had to lump it for now. She opted for the policy of trying not to think about it. That is, until the day she was laying back in a nice bubble bath, listening to the bubbles popping near her ears. She always enjoyed closing her eyes and listening to the sound of the world going by. That morning though, she heard something new. Something extra and something personal. An embarrassed cough, sounding from just above, where the breeze from the window wafted into the room.

She glanced up at the window and screamed. It was a good, full-bellied scream, the kind that really ought to crack a window pane. A long, yellow face was peering down at her, its mouth hanging open in amazement. It was as she squirmed up the bath to put a good second wind into another lung burst, that she realised its mouth wasn’t hanging open, it was screaming too. This brought her up short. It also gave her time to register two, no... three things. The first was that a giraffe had its head through the half-open window. The second was that this wasn’t just any giraffe, but a cartoon one. And finally, that said giraffe was screaming like a human! Sandra looked down and realised that the soap bubbles were doing little to hide her nakedness. A hot flush of anger gripped her throat, smothering the scream and kindling the kind of indignation that fuels many a confrontation. ‘I don’t know why the fuck you’re screaming! It’s me who’s being spied on!’

The cartoon giraffe quietened, the scream petering out like a kettle coming off the boil. ‘I’m sorry! I must have the wrong house!’

‘The wrong house?’

‘Yes! I’m looking for my girlfriend. I wanted to surprise her!’

Sandra’s mind spun like a drunk slipping in the snow. A talking giraffe. All that came to mind was her response, the rest of her thoughts turning to mental static. ‘Well I’m not her!’

‘Yes, well I can see that now! All these houses look the same to me. If only I hadn’t broken my spectacles!’

Sandra covered her eyes with her cupped hands. ‘If I take my hands away and you’re still there, I must be going mad. Must be...’

‘How exciting! Take your hands away and see! Do you want me to count you down?’

Sandra dropped her hands. ‘Oh my fucking god. Oh my fucking god. There’s a talking giraffe stuck in my window!’

‘No, not a giraffe, a Tony!’

‘And he’s called Tony. Just great. Just effing great!’

‘What’s your name please Miss?’

‘Oh it wants to know my name. Of course it does. Why wouldn’t it?’ Sandra squeaked, her voice approaching “mouse on helium” level.

‘Are you going to keep doing that? Freaking out? I mean, suit yourself, but it’s going to make this conversation even longer than it needs to be. I’d kind of like a bit of help.’

Sandra dropped deeper into the bath. ‘Oh I see, you want a bit of help?’ Sandra felt her cheeks flushing as her mind projected images of what the giraffe might have really been doing. ‘You aren’t just a giraffe, you’re a perverted giraffe who gets his jollies watching women in the bath!’

‘Eww huuu huuu!’ Tony stuck out his tongue. ‘Watch a human? I like my women with much more neck thank you very much. With longer legs and floppy ears too, for that matter!’

‘Isn’t your girlfriend human?’

‘No chance! She’s a giraffe! The most lovely giraffe in the world!’

‘But she lives in a house?’

‘And by lovely I mean in character as well, not just sexy patterning and a really long tongue!’

‘Erm, but she lives in a house?’

‘Naturally! I must say I find your indignation rich coming from a human. The last human I saw lived in a messy enclosure at the zoo!’

‘The zoo?!’

‘Yes the zoo! I took Jilly there for a date awhile ago. Jilly is my girlfriend’s name. You didn’t ask what her name was but I just wanted to throw that in there. We saw the humans fighting over their food, getting all pouty and bickering about who had the most. It was all very tiresome. To see you in a lovely house like this... what the heck is going on?’

‘That’s what I’d like to know too!’

‘It’s nice that we can agree on something... am I going to call you wet woman, or will you tell me your name?’


‘Nice to meet you Sandra.’

‘Am I going mad Tony?’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘It’s not normal for a giraffe to talk, or to be poking its head through my window. You also don’t look like one of our giraffes, you look like something we might watch in an animated film. Sorry to say so.’

‘Well you do look like our humans... you smell a lot nicer though, to be fair. Maybe I’m the one going mad. Or maybe I got my head stuck in the wrong window and the blood supply is being cut off from my brain and I’m stroking out! I do have a headache coming on, but that might just be because of you!’

‘Charming! It’s my window you’re stuck in!’

‘Can’t you let me out?’

‘It’s stuck, it has been for months!’

‘I’m going to die here!’ Tony yelled.

‘Don’t be silly!’

‘All I wanted was to see Jilly, and I’ve got my head stuck in a crazy woman’s bathroom window! Help! Help!’

‘Hey! I’m not crazy!’ Sandra yelled.

‘Check mate!’ he smirked calmly.


‘You were worried you were going mad, and I just talked you around into seeing that you aren’t!’

‘Wouldn’t you try to convince me of that anyway? You might be sneaky!’

‘Oh come on! If I’m so sneaky, why would I cough to announce myself when I realised I was stuck! Look, can we hurry this up? It’s going to rain hedgehogs and turtles out here in awhile. I can feel it in the air!’

‘Hedgehogs and turtles?’

‘Yes! Haven’t you heard that term before?’

‘Ours is cats and dogs!’

‘You have cats and dogs as pets? Yuck!’

‘That’s funny coming from someone who thinks hedgehogs and turtles make good pets!’

‘Look, we’re wasting time. You seem nice, but I really don’t want to be here longer than I need to be. Could you please try and free my head somehow?’

‘Can’t you pull it out?’

‘I already tried when you weren’t aware I was here. Look!’

Tony closed his eyes and pulled his head backwards. Sandra tried not to laugh, she still had turtles on the brain. His scrunched up face and trembling neck really put her in mind of a turtle retracting its head into its shell. A small stream of dribble trickled from Tony’s lips. He really was trying.

‘Stop!’ she chuckled. ‘You'll do yourself an injury!’

‘What’s so funny?’

‘Nothing. Nothing at all! Keep your eyes closed so I can wrap a towel around myself, then I'll see what I can do.’

Sandra stood once she was happy he wasn’t peeking, curled a towel around her body and moved closer to him. ‘Okay, you can open your eyes.’

Tony looked at her. ‘So what’s the plan?’

‘I could try some shampoo?’

Tony grimaced. ‘Okay. I’d rather smell of flowers than stay stuck!’

Sandra squeezed a generous dollop of her favourite lavender shampoo into her hands. ‘You know, this is my favourite. You should feel honoured.’

‘Oh I do. And you know what? If this was a film or a story, you’d have to try two different ways to get me free, before the third finally worked? I really hate that!’

Sandra stood back and nodded. ‘I always hate when I see that bullshit too. I mean, how often in everyday life does that happen? Hardly ever!’ she laughed. She began to rub the shampoo around the back of his head. It soon grew frothy and began to slide down to his unseen body. ‘I think this will work first time! And you know, I don’t think this shampoo was even tested on animals either, which is ironic...’

‘Ha bloody ha!’

‘Come on Tony, where’s your sense of humour?’

‘I keep it at home and only bring it out on special occasions, like when I think someone is actually going to be funny!’

‘Touché. Can you wiggle a bit, to help it work down?’

‘I'll try.’

His head moved side to side, sending bubbles gliding down his neck. He also left a frothy snail trail of soap, glooping down her window. ‘I think that’s got it. Thank you. I’m sorry for intruding. You are okay, for a human.’

‘And you are okay for a cartoon giraffe!’

‘That’s very kind.’

Tony smiled, twisted his head to the side and slipped it out of sight with a small pop.

‘Did it hurt?’ Sandra called through the gap.

There was no reply. She strained to see through the opening. There was no sign of Tony. She gave her head a shake as she wiped around her window, chasing the bubbles around the glass. She might be going mad, she decided, but if this was as bad as it got, she could live with that. It was kind of nice to have someone to talk to. It was even nicer to help someone out who was in trouble. Damn it. She actually felt sorry that he’d gone.

The first drops of rain began to sound against the window, hedgehogs and turtles, as Tony might say. Which is a real shame, as sometime later, when the rain had finished, it had washed away the hoof prints directly beneath her stuck window, a window that Sandra had recently decided, was just fine the way it was.


Thursday 24 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Storm-Maker Red Horse

Dark Ambient Review: Storm-Maker Red Horse

Review by Casey Douglass

Storm-Maker Red Horse

The forces of nature are a rich vein of inspiration for many an artist. Even when we think we understand the intricacies of the gargantuan powers involved, there are always exceptions that sidle up to us and deliver a swift kick to the groin. Mombi Yuleman’s Storm-Maker Red Horse is a dark ambient album focussing on a terrific supercell storm and tornado. In theme, the album straddles the modern world and the superstitions of tribal deities. It makes for quite a mixture!

Each of Storm-Maker Red Horse’s five tracks gives a nice build up of the storm brewing, the field-recorded wind, rain and thunder creating expansive soundscapes that the drones, beats and vocals sit well inside. There are moments of respite too, most noticeably at the beginning and end of each track, where things settle for just awhile as the elements muster their energy for another crack at destruction. In the next couple of paragraphs I'll give a very rough skim over each track, mainly so I can talk about what stood out for me, and the elements that I really enjoyed.

Track one opens with an ominous rumbling and the electronic tones of a warning system. Then comes thunder and the insect hiss of a twilight scene framed by a darkening sky. When the storm reaches a certain level, a humming-like sighing booms, but at distance. Maybe this is the creature creating the storm. This is a perfect illustration of the modern giving way to the esoteric; the storm warning alarms being superseded by the sound of a god throwing its weight around. Howling wind and airy vocals lend the scene a delicate brutality, for all the rumbling thunder and Godzilla-like bassy footfalls. The second track begins with wind, rain and birdsong. The storm is still brewing, but it seems to be in the distance. It doesn’t take long for the scene to build into a cacophony of bird-like screams and guttural speech. Around the midpoint, an infectious fast-paced beat and chant begins, a soundtrack to the leaves and debris swirling in the maelstrom.

The third track opens with the sound of rain against glass panes and the rumbling of the storm overhead. It later takes on a deep-breathing aesthetic, with the gritty wind, and a different kind of beat, lending a nice kinetic feeling to the soundscape. Track four opens with what sounds like the squeaking of a gate or a windmill. Metallic distress and increasing winds are punctuated by a stab of lightning. An epic beat begins, accompanied by a punchy vocal “huh-like” sound. Think of the kind of music you’d hear if you were watching Jason and the Argonauts sailing into a tempest. The second half of the track turns into a howling, scream-infused drone, like the steam building in a massive kettle. The last track returns to the modern again, a siren-like tone almost doing battle against the heaving, sighing storm. Sounds of modern life encroach as the track goes on, hints of voices, rattling machinery, and a church-bell like resonance. Near the end, a very definite warning siren sounds, with emergency vehicle tones, exploding glass and destruction ringing around the listener's ears.

Storm-Maker Red Horse is an awe-inspiring album. It captures the majesty of the elements and the destructive power of a massive storm, and weaves in a lovely dose of supernatural forces to give things an even more tasty twist. A regular storm is nice to listen to, a supercell tornado is scary, but one fuelled by some ethereal being... even better in my book! If you enjoy dark ambient with a healthy amount of field-recordings, drone and a mythic mystique, you should really check out Storm-Maker Red Horse.

Visit the Storm-Maker Red Horse page on Bandcamp for more information. You might also notice that I helped out with an edit of the synopsis. I did this freely to practice my writing. Doing said writing didn’t affect my review; I already very much liked this album.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Storm-Maker Red Horse

Album Artist: Mombi Yuleman

Released: 18 September, 2020

Monday 21 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Dream Chambers

Dark Ambient Review: Dream Chambers

Review by Casey Douglass

Dream Chambers

On occasion, I’ve been awake and still dreaming. I’ve also experienced the opposite: being asleep but awake in my dreams. It’s funny how fragile that liminal space is, where someone passes from normal reality into the warping, and seductive, images of dream. Dream Chambers is a collaborative dark ambient album created by Mount Shrine and Alphaxone, an album in which the soundscapes depict the strangeness, and the beauty, of our dreaming landscapes.

As you might imagine on an album themed around dreams, the sounds it contains tend toward the ethereal end of the spectrum. There is crackling rain, shimmering high tones, slowly pulsing bass and varieties of muted knockings and scuffings. There are also instances of crystalline melodies and strange guttural sounds, the latter of which features prominently in one of my favourite tracks of recent times.

Displacement is track two of Dream Chambers, and there is something so darkly captivating about it that I really love it. It opens with crackles and rain, but it isn't long before a strange raspy sound can be heard. I wasn’t sure if it was a guttural voice or just a sound that seemed as such, but as the track continued, the voice angle seemed the most fun. This track gave the impression that the listener is eavesdropping on a meeting between some kind of strange, squelchy creatures. Think, wet. Think swamp, think Lovecraftian possibly. The soundscape as a whole deepens after awhile, the aural effect of a yawning mouth sucking you in. Around the midpoint, a high shimmering tone starts to dominate and I got the impression that the creatures really don’t care for it much. Maybe a glowing light has appeared through the trees, an old enemy that they know will hunt them down. I found this track to be so much fun. The images above brought a smile to my face.

Another track that I very much enjoyed is Ethereal Origins. It’s another track that features crackling and rain, but this one very much had a tunnel-like feeling for me. There is an “Aum” like effect and odd scuffles and knockings. It made me feel like I was crawling along a dark tunnel, overhearing some kind of ancient rite in the distant depths. The tunnel or mine-like aesthetic grew stronger as mechanical clinking and grinding emerges later in the track, other elements of the soundscape also seem to take on a slow, breathing-like sensation. Another really enjoyable foray into a dark dreamscape.

The two tracks above were my firm favourites, but all of the tracks have their own charm. I like the clock-chime aesthetic of the final track Awakening, even though there wasn’t much evidence of a clock involved. I just got the sense that one of the key sounds was what you might get if you sampled the middle section of a grandfather clock chiming, and stretched it out for minutes on end. I really liked this, whatever the true sound was. It made me think of waking up in an old house, maybe hearing the ghosts flitter into the corners so as to avoid your waking. NREM was smooth and airy, like a midnight walk through a graveyard, and Dream Chambers’ birds, wind and storm, gave the impression of walking through a massive stone library, but one without a roof, with massive trees growing up and spreading above the bookshelves.

Dream Chambers does a fine job of sending the listener into dreamy soundscapes and otherworldly scenes. As a fan of the Lovecraftian, my mind easily found itself “Doing a Randolph Carter”, seeing strange dream creatures and hearing eldritch shenanigans in the tones. Even on those tracks that didn’t bring such strong imagery to mind, there was certainly a sense of the strangeness of dreams. Although I’ve yet to listen to Dream Chambers while laying down, I think it’s highly likely to be an album I can drift off listening to, which I look forward to trying soon.

Visit the Dream Chambers page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also have a listen to Displacement below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Dream Chambers

Album Artists: Mount Shrine and Alphaxone

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 11 August, 2020

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: MNZKRT

Dark Ambient Review: MNZKRT

Review by Casey Douglass


I like machines. I also like the sounds that they make. There is an airport a couple of miles from my house, and it’s just far enough away that the idling jet engines often seem to take on the aspect of Tibetan chanting. I quite enjoy this. When MNZKRT fell into my inbox, I had a little listen, and I was again reminded why I like industrial sounds.

MNZKRT is inspired by the harsher things in life. The album art would probably tip you off to that fact. Bleak field-recordings and mournful sounds of desolation populate its soundscapes, with mechanical and electronic whirrings and beeps ratcheting up a kind of post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The images that came to my mind when I was listening, mainly consisted of a depopulated Earth, maybe a decade after some kind of advanced robotic alien race decided to stop by and steal our water.

Some of the tracks appear to feature snatches of radio or TV voices, which only adds to this sense of things changing. Maybe there is still a resistance somewhere, maybe some lone TV station is still running against all odds. Maybe the aliens are using the signals as bait to lure foolish people from their hiding places. Sorry, I’m getting a bit carried away with all this.

The track titles of MNZKRT are enigmatic sequences of numbers, such as the opening track: 1.14 0.97 90. Another alien trap I hear you ask? Or maybe that’s just me getting carried away again. They do correlate to something, they aren’t just random. You’ll have to use your own Google-fu to find out though. While I like it when a dark ambient album’s track titles help frame your sense of what a track is about, I also equally like this style, where you go into a track with no real hint of the tone, mood or design behind it.

I think my favourite track is track four: 4.48 4.12 81. It opens with a snippet of hissing static, and turns into a slow building throbbing soundscape of crackles, scraping echoes and a strange repeating impact-like sound. This sound put me in mind of, for some reason, a digital anvil being struck by a virtual blacksmith. There is just something about the quality of the sound, the way it rings out. This track, for me, was our new alien overloads slipping us into some kind of virtual reality, to make us more manageable.

Another track I want to mention is track three: 3.51 2.81 90, as it features some lovely thunder field-recordings interplaying with undulating bass tones and some distorted radio-style voices. It’s a nice brooding track. The last track, 11.70 10.90 90 is another one that features a similar mood. The lapping of waves and the roiling high tones are met with a feeling of winged things buzzing over head. There are echoing crackles and impacts, distorted wooden notes... It felt like another desolate space, but the water and rain near the end at least hints that nature is still surviving, with or without us.

MNZKRT is a smooth dark ambient listen. The soundscapes are not rammed full of complicated sounds, and this simplicity makes it easy to really focus on the sounds that are there. If you’ve ever found the whirring of a fan lulling or the hiss of a radio relaxing, you might like the various beeps, throbs and buzzing contained on this album. You might even start to turn into the meme of the guy on the Discovery channel who thinks everything is aliens! Who knows?

The aliens, that’s who!

Visit the MNZKRT page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: MNZKRT

Album Artist: MNZKRT

Released: 11 September, 2020

Friday 11 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Dark Ambient Review: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Review by Casey Douglass

Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Mortal Shell is a new grim fantasy RPG from Cold Symmetry that I’ve seen garner many comparisons to the Dark Souls series of games. When you have a game world that is so dark, the soundtrack is an important element in keeping the atmosphere and the dread going. As it turns out, Mortal Shell is certainly not lacking in this respect, as dark ambient artist Atrium Carceri is on hand to provide the extra dose of darkness that the game needs.

A dominant theme of the Mortal Shell Soundtrack is the use of dark choirs to build the sense of doom. While I couldn’t make out any particular words, at times the vocals seemed dirge-like and resigned, as if the choir itself is watching the character move towards their doom. The other prominent element in certain of the tracks are the various drum beats that punctuate the soundscapes. I liked these a lot as they lend a sense of forward motion to things, maybe again hinting at someone shambling towards their doom.

There are other sounds that might grab the listeners attention too of course, some of them enjoyably tricky to pin down. Fallgrim contains a bell-like resonance, but one seemingly without trace of an actual bell. The Tower includes a horse-like clip-clopping that could also be water, and Under A Broken Sun has a rattling alarm-clock beat. These are all interesting sounds, whatever they truly are, and they sit very nicely in with the drones, static and other shimmering tones that various of the tracks contain.

Sanctum is one of my favourite tracks, its wind and sighs, knocking and cries melding together in an echoing space. It also contains a kind of ghostly shimmer effect, and nicely conjured the feeling of being in some deep underground vault, but one that’s by no means safe. Another track that I really enjoyed was Ritual At The End of Time. It opens with a kind of grinding gears type feeling, with a lurching beat. It also features a kind of organ-like tone, one I described in my notes as “church organ blended with fun-house/distorted mirrors at the circus”.

The Mortal Shell Soundtrack is a fitting slice of the game’s dark world. Many of the tracks are quite brief, due to its nature as a soundtrack, but there are a few that are of a longer duration, and I found myself gravitating towards these a little more. The dark fantasy aesthetic shines through in all of them however, and as someone who has yet to play the game, I could certainly appreciate the tracks without much knowledge of the game’s story-line or lore. If you’ve already played the game, I can only imagine that you'll gain even more enjoyment from them.

Visit the Mortal Shell Soundtrack page on Bandcamp for more information. You can visit the Mortal Shell website to learn more about the game itself too. Check out Sanctum below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Album Artist: Atrium Carceri

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 25 August, 2020

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Syntropy States Review

Syntropy States Review

Written by Casey Douglass

Syntropy States

I’ve been doing various kinds of relaxation and mindfulness meditations for decades. My at times rampant OCD and other health issues mean that losing a bit of tension, when I can, makes all the difference between coping, or falling down the rabbit hole. As a consequence, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to relax. It was while browsing the net one day that I stumbled across Syntropy States, a collection of relaxation videos that make use of evolving geometries and soothing music to help the viewer refocus and refresh. The folks at Heartmath UK+IR kindly provided me with review access to Syntropy States, and in this post, I will describe how I got on with them.

Added Nov 2022: These breath pacers now only seem to be available as part of the Syntropy app. You can read more in my review.

Syntropy States consists of eight, five minute videos. Seven of these are themed around the chakra energy centres of the body, with the eighth being a heart coherence breath pacer. If you haven’t encountered them before, chakras are energy centres in certain parts of the body, and are the focus of a variety of Eastern spiritual and healing traditions. On a personal level, I neither fully believe they exist, nor disbelieve it. I do think that they are a nice concept to theme the various videos around, and they do lend themselves to focussing on a particular video with the attributes of that particular chakra in mind, such as the creativity and passion engendered in the Sacral chakra.

The heart coherence breath pacer is a tool to help you reach a ten second breath cycle, and to enter a state of coherence. Coherence is something that is core to many of the HearthMath techniques and devices. It is a state of balance that the experiencer can train themself to achieve, to use in situations where they can’t simply shut themselves away from the world, close their eyes and navel-gaze until they feel better. This state isn’t the same as relaxation, although it shares some of the same benefits. HeartMath sell a range of biofeedback devices and tools to help you monitor and reach this state. Sadly I don’t have one of these devices, so I couldn’t tell you if using Syntropy States put me into coherence. What I can describe however, are the effects that I was able to notice in a bodily, and a mental sense.

I spent around a week with the videos, beginning with the Root chakra video, which is themed around the notions of self-regulation and security. I have been suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for decades and I find myself in a particularly bad period. Bad enough that I have been cranking out Exposure and Response Prevention charts at least twice a day, trying to expose to my fears and to get my brain to come down from high alert. This is the state that I would often bring into my session with each video, a pounding heart, a racing mind and a fatigue that would have happily seen me go to bed and not wake up for weeks. I didn’t expect a five minute video to flip a switch and make me feel like a unicorn had just pooped a winning lottery ticket into my hands; I just want to paint the picture that it was quite a severe frame of mind I was experiencing. So did the videos help? I think they helped to some degree.

One small fear that I had about using the videos was that the shifting patterns and shapes would cause after-images while I focussed on them. I often suffer with very tired eyes, tired enough that reading a page of black text on a white background gifts me the lovely illusion of floating black line-shaped shadows as my eyes roam the page. The few times I’ve used other visual meditation videos, this effect occurred, and just became irritating. The Syntropy States videos do make a lot of use of white space, but I’m glad to report that the shifting geometries and colours didn’t once cause me any eye fatigue symptoms. So that was a great start. The geometric patterns and colours shift, undulate and flow, and there seems to be so much movement at times that it’s nice to realise that you can’t really keep track of it all, nor do you need to. I think that this is partly what helped me to get out of the hyper-vigilant, controlling frame of mind my anxiety often puts me in. The ambient chill-out soundtrack also helped, even though my mind tends much more towards a love of dark ambient, when I get the choice.

As far as their effect on my stress level, I found that about half way through each video (around the two and a half minute mark) a state of clarity or mental calm did seem to emerge in my mind. It was subtle, but it was there, a bit like the moment you realise that you are holding your breath and you didn’t even realise it. This state stayed with me until the video ended and for some time beyond. Hand in hand with this, I did notice a slight calming of the sensation of my heartbeat. Nothing major, but enough to notice that I felt slightly less “pulsey”. This seemed to be my general verdict on each video, that it did have a modest positive effect on me. Naturally, there were some that appealed to me more than others, with a favourite being the swirly patterns of the Third Eye video (the still at the top of this post is from that video). I also came to realise that I’d also have been perfectly happy to watch a video that was far longer than five minutes.

I enjoyed the time that I spent with the Syntropy States videos. Before I tried them, I was much more of an “eyes shut” kind of meditator, because I like to rest my eyes and focus in the darkness. Having spent time watching pleasing geometries flow and expand in these videos, backed by chill music, I can certainly see the benefits that open-eyed focus can bring. If you think Syntropy States might be something you’d be interested in, head over to the HeartMath UK+IR website for more information.

HeartMath UK+IRL commissioned Syntropy States from The Syntropy Partnership. It features the geometries of artist Allie Joy and soundtracks from Serenity States.

Thank you to HeartMath UK+IR for giving me review access.

Product Name: Syntropy States

Available From: HeartMath UK+IR

Price: £19

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Scenes From The Sublime

Dark Ambient Review: Scenes From The Sublime

Review by Casey Douglass

Scenes From The Sublime

Paintings of strange landscapes and dark deeds often have the ability to unnerve the viewer. Sometimes the artist just nails that feeling of otherness, and it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Dark ambient music can achieve this affect too, it’s why I listen to it. NERATERRÆ’s Scenes From The Sublime is an album that takes as its inspiration, the artwork of Beksinski, Fussli, Dali and others, and weaves dark soundscapes around the themes of the paintings. It’s certainly a compelling idea.

A number of other dark ambient artists join NERATERRÆ for some of the tracks, giving a varied and multi-perspective treatment to the sound of the album. While each of the tracks has its own inspiration and aesthetic, they’re all united in their dark tone. Even the soundscapes that might be viewed as having “lighter” elements still contain a brooding melancholy or a “calm before the storm” variety of tension. I will add that I also purposefully didn’t look at the artwork that each track was inspired by until I’d listened to the album. I wanted to let my own impressions emerge without preconceptions. When I compared my notes with the artworks involved, I was happy to see that many of the things I wrote were a great fit for the paintings.

As an example, The Last Abjurer (feat. Phelios), opens the album with a lovely ominous droning, drumbeat-punctuated soundscape. It’s based on Beksinski’s AA72, a murky brown painting where a lone torch-bearing figure walks along a path lined with behemoth-sized death-statues. My paragraph of notes included such gems as “Sensation of colossal being breathing” and “Rock/fire/gates of hell aesthetic”. I think it’s safe to say that the inspiration from the artwork comes through loud and clear. Another strong example is the Dali inspired, ticking-clock-based track The Collapse of Matter and Time. The muffled voices and clattering wind of this track led me to write “Temporal maelstrom?” in my notes, which I take to be another good sign.

One of the “lighter” tracks is Passion Domain (feat. Mount Shrine), a track inspired by Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. This is a painting in which a cane-bearing Victorian-type gentleman stands alone upon a rock, looking down across a misty valley. This track includes muffled thunder, cosy fabric-like friction and a crackling hum. Lighter tones hang in the air as the track progresses, and the general feeling for me was like a sensation of respite or escape, but also the end of the road.

The Unfathomable Lives Again (feat. XerxesTheDark) is another track that I wanted to mention. It is based on Fussli’s The Nightmare, a dark and murky painting that depicts a demon sitting on the chest of an unconscious woman. This track is all throbbing threat and unnerving darkness. Whining tones that could be cries, chimes and distorted bells and whispers. The kind of track that would be best listened to in the early morning hours on a sweltering summer night, when the air is heavy and sleep is a long time coming.

The final track that I want to mention specifically is Doorway to the I (feat. Alphaxone). It was inspired by Beksinski’s AE78, a painting that features a strange blue portal at the top of a murky brown stairway. The deep bass, and the rising and falling of the shimmering tones creates an air of threat and of forces unseen. Later, the track changes in mood, as if the viewer has walked through the opening and found themselves in a totally different world. A long, humming tone is the sole sound for awhile, and then, it’s as if this new world becomes aware of the intruder.

Scenes From The Sublime is 10 tracks, sixty two minutes in length, and contains a darkness so thick that you’d need to chew it if you ever needed to walk through it. The artwork that inspires each track comes through very nicely and it is a pleasure to see, and to listen to, the product of two different media interplaying with each other in such a visceral way.

Visit the Scenes From The Sublime page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Scenes From The Sublime

Album Artist: NERATERRÆ

Label: Cyclic Law

Released: 20 March, 2020