Thursday 29 October 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Andarlīh

Dark Ambient Review: Andarlīh

Review by Casey Douglass


One of the goals of Swedish music creators Hymnambulae is described as seeking “a vocabulary for the innermost and a deciphering of liminal spaces.” Their album Andarlīh certainly seems to meet this goal, and in great style. Some of the album was even recorded in an underground church, which is probably a liminal space in a number of ways; the strange feelings it might bring up, to be somewhere where life meets death, or when light meets the deepening darkness.

Andarlīh is an album that gave me the impression of dark spaces, flickering candles and rock walls. It is dream-like, a little melancholy, and layered with subtle sounds that mean wherever you focus your attention, you'll hear something a little different. The soundscapes feature a variety of musical notes, emitted from such instruments as the zither and harmonium. These notes sit in drones and loops that sometimes feel ominous, and at other times, a little lighter. In some tracks, I thought I could hear the aspect of a howling wind, in others, strange cries or warbling sounds.

Súmbolon is a track that opens with these warbling sounds, and it’s one of my favourites. They sit in a drone and are soon joined by a quiet melody. There is a kinetic throbbing to the bass tones, everything seeming to quiver with nervous energy. For some reason, this track made me think of a robot running out of power in a dark cave, having just enough juice to make its voice circuit garble, but nothing else. It could have easily been a ghost, but for me, and my mind in this instance, robot. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much science fiction lately.

Alkoven is another track that I really enjoyed. It opens with a deep rumbling and crackling, long notes soon beginning to ring out in the grainy soundscape. There is the occasional cascading of grit, like tiny earth tremors dislodging dirt or tiny bits of rock from a cave roof. I heard an occasional knocking/beat-like sound too. This track is a dark soundscape, but with lighter elements. As it progresses, there are some chime-like impacts and the impression of wind and bats flying around in the spaces unseen. I enjoyed this track, as it gave me the feeling of walking through a cave system, one that could collapse at any time, but that hopefully won’t.

Andarlīh is a smooth listening experience, a collection of tracks that slowly weave the liminal into layers that form beautiful soundscapes. It’s introspective, ghostly and mainly dark, but with lighter tones that stop this darkness from becoming unrelenting. It’s a dark ambient album perfect for the early gloom of a winter night, when the Moon rises early and the sky slowly darkens through your window. It’s also a fine album to listen to this Halloween, in my opinion.

Visit the Andarlīh page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Andarlīh

Album Artist: Hymnambulae

Label: Hypnagoga Press

Released: 10 Sept 2020