Thursday 19 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death

Dark Ambient Review: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death

Review by Casey Douglass

Life Passes Slowly Unto Death
Life Passes Slowly Unto Death Album Cover

When thinking or talking about death, it often doesn’t take long for the topic of “lights at the end of the tunnel” to emerge, usually in relation to a near death experience or a glimpse of the afterlife. Life Passes Slowly Unto Death is a dark ambient album from Scott Lawlor, and on listening to it, this contrast between light and darkness soon came into my thoughts.

The opening track: “Life Passes Slowly Unto Death”, gets things moving with a gentle opening, but one with, to my ears, a faint screech. The tones that emerge seem to channel a kind of “The Angels are coming!” vibe, blaring, manifesting and fading again, only to rise once more. For me, this track brought to mind how dust motes floating lazily around a dark room might look when one stray ray of sunlight breaks into the gloom. This is one example of how the light vs darkness aesthetic seemed to emerge for me.

Where the first track conjured light, the second track, “As the Dying Process Begins, Comprehension of Mortality is Realized”, seemed to focus on the tunnel. Shrill, pulsing tones and warbles create a dark, chittering space. It almost takes on the aspect of a sacral chant at times, the insect-like chirrups joining a shimmery tone. I felt myself journeying along a dark tunnel, a very distant light always moving around the bend minutes before I reached the same curve. The second half of the track feels like an even darker, and at times, quieter space.

“Drifting Through Unsequenced Memories” is one of my favourite tracks. After a smooth, low opening, both deep and shrill, howl-like tones sound, joined by voices and whispers. There is a clattering and skittering, and it feels like a space of intangible things. A bendy, pulsing note seems to thread stronger voices together, like a narrative does to the words we tell ourselves. This track seemed to very amply illustrate its title, the listener feeling like they are drifting through a space of disjointed impressions, with some force, consciousness maybe, trying to make sense of them.

The last track that I will mention by name is another favourite: “Whisperings Far Beyond the Veil Call You Home”. High chiming notes ring out in this soundscape, beginning to warp after some time. The echoing space is soon filled with a stuttering wind and bird-tweet-like whispers, giving way to a low pulsing that thrums through the space. There is muted rustling and muffled movement, and an ominous metal clanking at times. This track brought to mind a graveyard, the living and the dead brushing up against each other, the occasional communication getting through to one side or other.

Life Passes Slowly Unto Death is an album of dark spaces and liminal places. The soundscapes felt more dark than light, but the molecules of brightness do stop the whole thing feeling too oppressive. I found it to be calming, introspective and intriguing, and if you like dark ambient music themed around death or what might come after it, you should head over to Bandcamp and check out Scott’s album below.

Visit the Life Passes Slowly Unto Death page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death

Album Artist: Scott Lawlor

Released: 18 Nov 2020