Saturday 21 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Advent

Dark Ambient Review: Advent

Review by Casey Douglass


Advent is the title of Randal Collier-Ford’s latest dark ambient album, one that has just been released by Cryo Chamber. When I hear or read the word “advent”, I always find myself thinking of the modern advent calendar that many kids use to count down the days until presents. Sorry, I mean to Christmas. Luckily, the word outside of this context can simply mean the beginning of something. Fortunately, Randal’s Advent is a syrupy dark creation that blows away any notion of jolly fat men and mass consumerism.

The album description describes the appearance of a bizarre and sinister new world in the forests of South America, one with denizens that are hostile to explorers and whose fringes are roamed by titan shadows that roar in the night. Strange structures are mentioned, the contents a mystery to distant observers. My own journey through the soundscapes of Advent seemed, in the main, to be concerned with these structures, the sounds and atmospheres taking me deep below the ground. I also seemed to see things in the colour that permeates the album art above, darkness filled with that kind of glow. I really like that artwork!

Advent makes great use of long, horn-like sounds and a variety ritual drumbeats. They are the sort of signal that, when heard at the edge of an unknown darkness or stretch of deep water, you’d find yourself holding your breath as you wonder if some creature really will surface and answer the call. I enjoyed how the atmosphere reacts to these sounds too, the horn or beat at times gaining extra twists to its tone just at the moment it halts. A little like if you clap your hands in a room with metal pans hanging, you might hear a quiet “ping” afterwards, in the microsecond where your clap stopped. On a dark ambient album where strange things are afoot, that is a very pleasant addition.

The first two tracks (there are three in total on this 40 min album), saw me being a bit of a dark “Indiana Jones”, delving deeper into the stone tunnels of the temple, hearing drumbeats, chanting, and catching sight of strange flickering eyes in the red/orange light that seemed to illuminate things. The drumbeats seemed to echo back along strange corridors, the rattles, vibrations and buzzing the soundtrack for dark energy flowing and strange forces moving. There are also some sounds that might be bone cracking, strange creatures tapping on the walls, or some languid beast slowly moaning its way along a pathway that is probably too close for comfort. It’s not all ritual and darkness though.

At various times, the sound of string notes sing out. Sometimes in juddery bow jangling form, other times delivering a melancholy melody that changes how the soundscape feels. The Second Wound is an example of this, as I felt that the first half of this track had a morose and gentle feel to it, piano notes also adding into the mix to create a strange sad space. The second half of the track becomes more ominous with pounding drums and higher energy. With regards to the images that crossed my mind, I felt that I might have been roaming the dark vaults of some deep, underground temple, the “monsters” I’d been afraid of all laying dead on the floor, killed by something far worse that was coming up out of the depths. I liked that feeling.

Advent is a primal quest into the dark recesses of a newly manifesting world. Ritual, and the force of the raw unknown, dance together in the mind of the listener. The drumbeats seem to give the mind strength and confidence but to also be summoning some kind of doom at the same time. When you are tired of the Christmas madness this year, especially with the way Covid has warped the common sense of so many people, escape into Advent for 40 mins, and come back overflowing with dark ambient refreshment.

Visit the Advent page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Beckoning Absurd Shapes below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Advent

Album Artist: Randal Collier-Ford

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 17 Nov 2020