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