Sunday 29 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Witch-Works

Dark Ambient Review: Witch-Works

Review by Casey Douglass


I recently reviewed Mombi Yuleman’s Storm-Maker Red Horse, a turbulent dark ambient album full of the glory of nature and the unseen gods that just might be driving things. During Halloween, Mombi gave out some free Bandcamp codes for an earlier album he created: Witch-Works. It’s a dark ambient, retrowave album, and I was lucky enough to nab one of the codes. After listening to it, I decided to write this review.

Firstly, Witch-Works was a great album for Mombi to gift around at Halloween. From the pumpkin-orange colour in the artwork, to the theme of the album, it is certainly a very “Halloweeny” creation. It is based on a narrative about Black Cat Toys, a company apparently run by modern day warlock Harold O’Bannon. When the locals who live nearby find out, things don’t go very well for Harold. His cult followers set in motion a plan to resurrect him, and to also curse the town at the same time. Detective Kobritz and his son have to investigate why residents begin dying in strange circumstances, and the track titles hint at the kinds of scene that they are treated to. Jars of Spiders anyone?

Actually, Jars of Spiders is one of my favourite tracks, so I might as well start there. The track opens with busy strings, fuzz and a falling tone. There was something about how these mixed, that led to me envisioning a carnival tent with a stand of jars, neon light illuminating the darkness just enough to show the long-legged things inside them. The track feels like an 80s horror, but it feels warm and quirky rather than scary, unless you can’t stand spiders of course. Some way into the track, there is the sound of shattering glass and skittering across the floor. For me, this created the image of all of the spiders (and there are hundreds...) racing for freedom. Then you see what is left in the jars, shapes that look strangely anatomical and human. I thought this was a really fun track.

Another track that jumped out at me was Lil Breath Sucker. This track makes great use of the sounds of a cat, from the meows when it wants something, to a deep and soothing purr at the very end. I’m guessing the inspiration for this track comes from the fears of cats climbing into bed and stealing your breath. The sounds in this track seem to point that way, and it’s a nice kind of mental friction to listen to something you like (I love cats) and how that thing might kill you.

Two other tracks that I will give brief mention to are Extracting the Razor Blades and Silhouette of the Factory. The first features life support beeps and muffled underwater sounds, but also something I’d describe as a great “80s cop film slow car chase beat”, the kind of “Don’t let him see us” undercover stuff. Maybe the person being operated on last watched a TV detective show, who knows. As for Silhouette of the Factory, I enjoyed this track because it made great use of metallic sounds, echoing beats and hissing steam, and other sounds that really brought to mind what it might be like to be near a stark factory at night, viewing it against the moonlight and seeing the shapes clattering and grinding. It half brought the video-games Limbo and Inside to mind.

Witch-Works is a fun, beaty, dark retrowave experience. There is a plucky playfulness to many of the tracks, the spirit of the carnival, of the freak-show, and of course, of Halloween. There is darkness for sure, but it is wrapped in attractive neon glowing paper. I enjoyed listening to its mix of soundscapes and 80s style beats, and I hope that if there are any toy factory running Warlocks out in the world, that they appreciate they have a fine soundtrack for the movie that might one day be based on their deeds.

Visit the Witch-Works page on Bandcamp for more information, and check out Jars of Spiders below. Mombi also recently created a Facebook group for people who enjoy using creativity to deal with their internal fears or monsters. You can find that here.

I nabbed a gift code for this album.

Album Title: Witch-Works

Album Artist: Mombi Yuleman

Released: October 04, 2019