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