Monday 9 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Dunkel

Dark Ambient Review: Dunkel

Review by Casey Douglass


The album description for Nerthus’ dark ambient album Dunkel contains a great phrase: “It is an auditory nightmare for lightless moments.” I really like this cluster of words, and when you factor in that “Dunkel” means dark in German, well, you know you aren’t getting a Whale song meditation album, that’s for sure.

The main feeling I got from listening to Dunkel, particularly the imagery that crossed my mind, was that of a sprawling haunted mansion at midnight. There is just something about the echoing chimes, hollow wind-like tones and rasping, breath-like sounds, that it all seems to be happening in that kind of environment. I'll admit, it was only a month or so ago that I finished re-reading an H.P Lovecraft anthology, so maybe those eldritch images are still lurking close to my conscious mind. I certainly haven’t played Resident Evil for decades, so I think I can exclude that.

In’s Dunkel is the opening track, and a prime example of this haunted mansion feeling. It opens with chiming and a hollow background tone. These are soon joined by swells of deeper sound. The chime notes begin to warp and twist, as if spectral fingers are flicking through their sound waves. Around the midpoint, things quieten and deepen, the audio equivalent of the silence after a grandfather clock has stopped chiming. What this leaves is an emptiness, and what felt like a breathless malevolence watching. Maybe this track takes place in one of those corridors where the walls are plastered with sinister portraits, each of which watches you as you walk the corridor’s length.

Parasit is another tasty track. It’s another that has that sense of wind and space, but there is a judderiness to this soundscape, like a strange guttural call, or lungs struggling for air. Things quieten and a deep drone begins. An airy quality accompanies it, and the sound buzzes at the end. This track made me think of a strange shadow walking in the moonlight outside the mansion, the feeling of eyes at the windows, and things having crawled up from the grave that should have stayed there. Some of the sounds in this track seem to have the quality of electronic feedback or fuzz, which to me, hinted at the shadow emitting some kind of disturbing field that plays havoc with mundane reality. Another fun track for me.

Entitaten opens with a deep undulating tone. It’s soon joined by another, to build up into a kind whine. Voices begin to sound, some relatively clear, others whispering like rustling leaves in the background. The resonant tone and electronic beats and hums that come later, set me to thinking more about the supernatural interfering with our world. This culminated with regards to this track, by the image of a radio in a room that is slowly succumbing to a kind of wall growth. Think how the hives look in Alien maybe, and you won’t be far off what I was thinking. Maybe the entities hinted at by the title of the track are hot-wiring the radio circuits with some kind of host organism. Who knows. I enjoyed thinking about it though.

Dunkel provides soundscapes that buzz with hints of the unseen. I felt there was a welcoming malevolence to most of the tracks, an occult aesthetic that sits nicely in whatever images the album creates in the mind. While for me, this was the aforementioned haunted mansion, it could just have easily been a graveyard at midnight or a crypt somewhere deep underground. I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that a dark mind will find plenty to spark the imagination in Dunkel’s soundscapes, and that’s a very pleasing thing. If you are a fan of darkness and murk, you might want to check out Dunkel and add it to your music collection.

Visit the Dunkel page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming it for free from its Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Dunkel

Album Artist: Nerthus

Released: 06 Sept 2020