Sunday, 25 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Dark Side of Obscurity [EP]

Dark Ambient Review: The Dark Side of Obscurity [EP]


Review By Casey Douglass



The Dark Side of Obscurity [EP] Cover Art

When people start to piss you off, particularly the stories that they tell about each other or about the state of the world, by which I mean the “news”, I’m always thankful for dark ambient music and its ability to push everything away. The Dark Side of Obscurity is a dark ambient EP from Equidon, and its three cinematic tracks give the mind a great mini-break from society.

The first track is Underground System and it’s my favourite. It sets off with muffled, distant cracks of thunder, or explosions of some kind. A growing drone accompanies them, and a wind-like hiss that seems to blow a gust of pressure through the soundscape. A small “tappy” beat begins, and as the track progresses, this starts to feel more and more like a clock ticking. Over time, the track becomes a whispering, crackling space, the hissing wind sounding a little more howling as the end looms. There is even a little audio skip or glitch at intervals that wakes you from the lull of the drone. A dark track that really does feel like traversing dark tunnels while some calamity is happening upon the surface.

The next track is Nuclear Submarine. It starts with plinking, creaking echoes, the kind made by things floating in water and bumping into hard metal edges. The water glugs, there is a hiss of air, and a slow, low buzzing tone begins. This is a dense track, one that feels like being pushed down or confined in a small dark place. There are high elements such as a shimmer that comes and goes, but for the most part, this is a throbbing, murky track, one perfectly suited to pondering what it might be like to be stranded in a submarine, fathoms below the surface of the sea.

The final track is Approaching. This is a lighter track in comparison to the others, but still a strange one. It contains tones that warp and twist, and metallic clattering sounds. The sound of “smoothed” thunder appears a little later, small impacts and a quiet shimmer joining the droning space. I’m not sure how I’d describe what might be going on here. Maybe a psychic is summoning another being in a dark, musty cellar, the sounds of distant nightlife occasionally breaking through. It’s peaceful though, chant-like.

The Dark Side of Obscurity is a micro-dose of dark ambient to get you through your day. We are often told the benefit of taking a ten minute mindfulness breather, so why not take a 17 minute infusion of darkness on your lunch-break? If you are anything like me, it could be just the trick after you’ve eaten your sandwiches, stretched your legs, and realised just how tense your neck and shoulders have become. Sample some murk before getting back to work.

Visit the The Dark Side of Obscurity page on Bandcamp for more information.


Album Title: The Dark Side of Obscurity [EP]

Album Artist: Equidon

Released: 2 July 2021

Friday, 23 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Aerography, Vol. I

Dark Ambient Review: Aerography, Vol.I


Review By Casey Douglass



Aerography, Vol. I


Mars is an enigmatic planet, one that looms large in the mind of anyone thinking about how humanity can become an interplanetary species. For a seemingly barren planet, it isn’t half beautiful to look at, knowing how remote it is from us. Aerography, Vol. I is a dark ambient album from composer Rodolfo Pitti, an album themed around Mars and a doomed astronaut mission to its surface. Some of the sounds that are used to achieve this are swirling tones, pulsing bass and electronic soundscapes that seem infused with the triumphant impression of “We are here!” even if things are going very badly for the fictional astronauts.

My favourite track is The Uninhabitable Caves of Mars. It begins with a low drone, one that is soon joined by a kind of rising and falling “spaceship flying over” sound. It feels like a cascade of pressure, with low hisses and barks possibly being the sound of ghost’s voices; maybe the beings who first lived on Mars millions of years ago. High gentle beeps emerge from the swirl, echoing rushing sounds feeling like there is movement where nothing can be seen. A dark, creeping sci-fi track.

Valles Marineris Reconnaissance Drone is another track that I enjoyed, as it is another track that had its own kind of darkness. This track opens with a rising and ominous bass melody, one that almost blares like a sinister horn. It feels like it edges into the kind of heavy you might hear in a heavy metal track; snarling electric guitar and fuzz. There is a roughness to the other tones, and flurries of sound at the edges. I got the mental image of a drone skimming the Martian landscape, each swell of the soundscape revealing the next valley or dried up ocean. The track feels a little lighter after the midpoint, but on the whole, another dark track.

Finally, Our Hearts Yearn For Something Mars Can't Supply is a track that appealed to me for different reasons. Whereas the previously mentioned tracks were dark, this one felt light, but in a strange way. After a delicate start, the soundscape feels like it spins up into a shimmering space of dancing high tones and airy “fluttering”. This combination gave me the mental image of a ball of golden light with strange mechanical red moths flitting around its surface. It felt like something flying in sunlight to me at the least. A sad track, but also a nice one.

Aerography, Vol. I is an album that creates the feeling of vast vistas on an unforgiving planet. There is a sci-fi aesthetic that underpins everything, and as I said in the first paragraph, a kind of triumphant, even celebratory feeling that seems to emerge in each track. I like this mixture of triumph and doom. It feels like the audio equivalent of someone trying really hard to teleport somewhere using only the power of their mind, achieving it, being ecstatic, and then realising that they are falling from the sky a split second later.

Visit the Aerography, Vol. I page on Bandcamp for more information.

Album Title: Aerography, Vol. I

Album Artist: Rodolfo Pitti

Released: 10 July 2021

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: La Peste

Dark Ambient Review: La Peste


Review By Casey Douglass



La Peste


La Peste is a dark ambient collaboration between Vallée des Larmes & Catacombes de Paris, one that takes the period of The Black Death as its fevered muse. You’d think that I’d have no real appetite for listening to music themed around plagues and mass death right now, but strangely, I do. Maybe it’s because, for all its effect on the world, Covid-19 is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. If it was a virus which proved fatal to everyone who caught it however... the thought just boggles the mind.

The tracks of La Peste fall under the stewardship of each of the creators. Vallée des Larmes’ creations tend to feature distorted music and noise-filled vocals, while Catacombes de Paris’ soundscapes tend to fall into what feels more like the dark ambient genre that I know and love. For the most part, I gravitated more towards Catacombes de Paris’ tracks for this reason, but Vallée des Larmes’ are certainly something to be experienced.

Stella Caeli Exstir Pavit is the opening track of the album, and is from Vallée des Larmes. It begins with cracking thunder and a variety of voices and singing. These are underpinned by deep swells of tone and later, a high radio-like squeal. A repetitive sound-bite says “Shut your eyes and you’ll burst into flames”, and at the midpoint, a violent distorted beat accompanied by a chirruping sound agitates the soundscape into a harsher, forceful space. The smooth voices, the dark words and the harshness set up interesting conflicts, and the way that the track ends with monk chanting is very pleasing. It feels like a battle of wills and outlooks crashing against death.

My favourite tracks comes from Catacombes de Paris, and are Ritual I, II and III. The first opens with a slow, chiming beat and echoing plucked vibrating strings. There is a rasping insidious whisper, and a sparkling shimmer. Around the midpoint, there are small moments of a faster drumbeat that reverberate into the distance, and a crumping impact sounds at times. Ritual II comes a little later on the album, and is a deep, rumbling soundscape, with a high tone that crackles and distorts, and a breath-infused, droning, marching-beat infused space. Ritual III follows hot on its heels and is a knocking, echoing space, with screeching metal tones, quiet blares of sound and delicate chiming notes. I enjoyed all three tracks as they felt like three dark scenes or places. They felt deep, powerful and vast, and like strange forces were moving in the abyss.

La Peste might well be a battle between the human and spiritual elements that were around during the time of The Black Death. The voice and distorted music populated tracks from Vallée des Larmes could be seen as the human side, their words and songs trying to stem the flow of death. The hissing, mysterious cavernous soundscapes of Catacombes de Paris might well be the response from “the other side”. This notion didn’t occur to me until I sat to write this review but it seems quite apt as a way to view things. Regardless, if like me, you give yourself some kind of therapy by deliberately basking in worst-case scenarios, scenarios that make what has actually happened seem less extreme, I think you’ll find tracks to enjoy on La Peste.

Visit the La Peste page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: La Peste

Album Artist: Vallée des Larmes & Catacombes de Paris

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 3 July 2021

Monday, 19 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Exaltation

Dark Ambient Review: Exaltation


Review By Casey Douglass


Exaltation

I’m far from religious, but it’s hard to deny the effect that spiritual ideas can have when linked to powerful music, especially those linked to notions of death and loss. Hasufel’s dark ambient album Exaltation contains four tracks of existential angst; tracks with voices offering words of wisdom, and unnerving tones settling into the darkness.

My favourite track is Exaltation. It begins with sparkling chimes, glass bottle rattlings, and a pulsing drone that sits beneath things. Muffled music appears, the initial effect a little like what a church full of worshipping bees might sound like. Beneath this the glassy rattles and scrapings continue, the melodic music feeling far away, but not in distance, rather in reality. As the track continues, the various hisses, echoes and buzzes of activity made me feel like I was in a vast cave underneath a church. Golden rays of light sneak through tiny spy holes in the church floor above, but beneath, warped, twisted demons are constructing a giant trap, a device that will wrench the floor from beneath the worshippers and see them fall into the abyss below. I really liked the feel of this track, the holy and the perverse, the light and the darkness.

School Of The Prophets is another track that I really enjoyed. After a low undulating tone, a distant, scream-like distortion insinuates itself. A light, high tone floats a sad melody above the screams, small echoes and hisses of breath joining it. A voice begins to talk, a horn-like tone blaring behind, an om-like vocal emerging at times. Later, the track swells with crashing whispers, screams and distortions, like a thunderous force is rending reality into its constituent parts. This track has a majestic feel, but majestic in the way that a sightseeing tour of Hell might be, rather than a trip to Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu.

The other tracks had things to like about them two, but I’d say that the ones mentioned above grabbed me the most. White Mildew is a track of dark echoes and whispers that sit behind a male voice delivering a slow sermon. It’s oppressive and ominous. Salvacion is a track with a booming beat and scuttling, rattling echoes. A growing, buzzing tone rises and is joined by an airy chant, before another preacher begins a sermon, lazer-beam electronic tones pew-pewing away into the echoes. Another oppressive and dark track.

Exaltation is a dark ambient album that draws the listener’s mind to ponder the role that darkness plays in life, death and religion. For the moments of quiet peace and grace, there are hissing, scraping, rasping echoes that are never that far away. A little like the picnic of life: the ants and wasps are always somewhere if you have the awareness to look out for them, usually behind the sandwiches but in-front of the cake...

Visit the Exaltation page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Exaltation

Album Artist: Hasufel

Label: Pacific Threnodies

Released: 4 May 2021

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Book

Dark Ambient Review: The Book


Review By Casey Douglass



The Book


Sometimes, I wonder what the state of the horror genre would be, if there was no such thing as creepy, secret books of power. So many tales feature dusty old grimoires that unleash forces that the reader cannot control... I’d sure miss the concept if it ever fell out of use. Dodenskald’s dark ambient album The Book seems to be themed around this kind of book, or collection of books.

The album art, for me, has a retro horror feel, but also a modern, glitchy aesthetic. It looks a little Blair Witch, a little Stranger Things. The tracks are all titled after a variety of books, such as Book of Blood. Whether these are separate books or merely different sections of one vast tome, I have no idea. There are five tracks, and the album is around fifteen minutes in length, so the listener can visit the realm of each book in a fairly rapid manner.

Black Book is a chimey, rasping track, one with hints of chanting, and a music-box feeling that creates a pregnant, haunted funfair atmosphere.

Book of Blood is a deep, rumbling, pulsing track. Clipped notes and an uneasy throbbing makes it seem like a distant radio is playing at a blood-soaked crime scene, possibly with strange entities watching on.

Book of Genesis is a wet, dripping track, the sound of trickling water mingling with a buzzing feedback and an airy drone. There are lighter tones, but for me, this track felt like a monster giving birth in a dark basement, the beauty of life meeting the despair of corruption.

Book of Salvation features a distant, circular-saw-like resonance and a warm drone. The soundscape undulates and feels a little watery, like watching ripples on a pond catch the sunlight. This track also felt a little “churchy” to me, the gentle tones that emerge peaceful and purifying.

Book of Silence is 54 seconds of a low, purring drone, one accompanied by distant high tones and metallic echoes. It’s a rumbling, ominous track, a little like you’d get at the end of a horror film, when the monster is destroyed and the heroes are unsuccessful in finding the last egg or cocoon that is hidden in the shadows.

The Book is a dark ambient album that takes the listener on a journey through the various stages of a possible horror tale. We pass through the lust for discovery and power, the darkness of the acts involved, the unseen consequences and the striving for peace or redemption. We even get the end of credits teaser that hints at the sequel film that may or may not ever be made. It’s an ominous, magickal, haunted album, and one well worth picking up.

Visit the The Book page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: The Book

Album Artist: Dodenskald

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 27 June 2021

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Dark Music Review: Anthology of the Dark

Dark Music Review: Anthology of the Dark


Review By Casey Douglass


Anthology of the Dark

Anthology of the Dark is a collection of tracks from composer Andy Fosberry, drawn from three feature films scored at the end of 2020. The films are all dark in some way, and range from science fiction to creature-feature horror. Many of the tracks incorporate sinister string tones, electronic “chase sequence-style” beats, and echoes that create unnerving feelings of space. There are also lighter moments of melody, and some interesting crescendos of energy.

One of my favourite tracks is Broken from the Beginning. It begins with a low swell of tone, one that has a rough, gyrating edge. Plinking fast tones roam from ear to ear, and are soon joined by a thumping scuffed beat. A piano melody tinkles in the darkness, and long string tones sail into the air, before the track ends with a vocal-like “ahh” tone. I enjoyed the ominous undercurrent of the darker sounds on this track, and how the lighter snatches of melody seemed to add a kind of perverse acceptance to things, for lack of a better word. The way that the strings seemed to simmer above things was also a fun extra layer to the track.

Another track that I enjoyed was Covert Reprogramming. A low pulsing tone is soon joined by another that twists up into a higher pitch. A crumpling, throbbing beat begins, and fast-paced notes that roam from left ear to right. Protracted strings bend and flow above a bed of fast pulsing electronic notes. A vibrating, buzzing tone agitates and circulates, shortly followed by a fast-paced and accelerating series of beats as something reaches completion. The track quietens into a more peaceful ending, an airy drone and light string notes the only witnesses left to what has happened. This track feels like mad science, blood-stained laboratories and mutation.

Finally, You Cannot Shut Me Down and Weapon of Choice are two more tracks that caught my attention. I like You Cannot Shut Me Down due to its mix of android voice-box buzz, its kinetic throbbing beat, its metallic, rattling thumps, and a feeling of being chased by something unstoppable. Weapon of Choice is the shortest track at 1:15 long, but I really enjoyed its gas-pipe hiss, gentle tones and slow strings.

I listened to Anthology of the Dark with no prior knowledge of the films Andy composed for, beyond what is mentioned in the album description. Taken as a compilation, the tracks seem to work well as a coherent whole, particularly helped by the sounds that seem to appear in more than one track. This helped to string things together nicely, while also allowing some of the one-off sounds to shine when they appeared. If you like horror film scores, head over to Bandcamp at the link below to listen to more of Andy’s work.

Visit the Anthology of the Dark page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Anthology of the Dark

Album Artist: Andy Fosberry

Label: Spun Out of Control

Released: 21 May 2021

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Dark Book Review: Creatures of Clay

Dark Book Review: Creatures of Clay


Review by Casey Douglass



Creatures of Clay

I must admit that I enjoy finding out how something that looks so perfect or quaint is actually quite flawed, fake, or even evil. Patrick Moody’s supernatural novel Creatures of Clay is set in one such place: Stark Falls. Stark Falls is a seemingly idyllic small town in the mid 80s, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else, and wholesome community events bring people together on the streets to celebrate whatever is going on. I’m sure that you’ll be astounded to hear that all is not actually as it seems.

The events in Creatures of Clay revolve around Quinn Katz and his two close friends Hector and Wendy. They are the “Crypt Crew” and they like nothing more than spending their time writing and illustrating horror stories, and of course, reading horror comics and watching horror movies. On the way home from a street celebration, they stumble upon a house that looks like it has been burgled. What they find inside is just the beginning of their own genuine monster mystery to solve, one that sees town members abducted, property destroyed, and one that leaves copious amounts of clay and strange foot prints as its main clue.

Setting the story in a small town like Stark Falls gives a pleasing stage for a range of characters to take part. There is a tall, scary rabbi, a bossy, deaf gossip, and a group of bullies who like nothing more than picking on the Crypt Crew. The town itself is also never far from nature, providing a number of creepy environments for the crew to explore and to chase the monster. Setting the tale in the mid 80s also gives the chance for a bit of nostalgia, such as Quinn being gifted a copy of Stephen King’s It some time before it is actually due for release.

The horror elements of the story are of the creepy, “what’s going on?” variety, rather than the more explicit depictions of gore or violence that horror often contains. I also got the sense that much of the horror was meant to be in how people interacted with each other. The Crypt Crew themselves are the “outsiders” of the tale, whether due to their preferred pastimes, their religion or their family. Many of the characters in the town are also linked by a river tragedy that occurred sometime previously, a thread that puts in an appearance a number of times during the tale.

I found Creatures of Clay to be a fun read. It seemed to flow well, and the characters come out the other side as having learned a little something about themselves, and to have grown along the way. As far as my own personal taste, I do like my horror to be a bit more visceral and somewhat bleaker, but if you’re a fan of horror that is a bit more adventure-like, I think you’ll enjoy Creatures of Clay.


I was given a review copy of this book.


Book Title: Creatures of Clay

Book Author: Patrick Moody

RRP: $14.99 Paperback / $6.92 Kindle

Publisher: DBND Publishing

Published: 24 June 2021

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Yokai

Dark Ambient Review: Yokai


Review By Casey Douglass



Yokai


Sometimes, the things that are the scariest, or the most awe inspiring, are things that you cannot see. Many horrors or creature features make good use of this, cloaking a giant creature in fog, only permitting you to hear the thundering of its movements or to feel the force of its roar. Yokai is a dark ambient album from The Rosenshoul aka Duncan Ritchie, and for me, takes the notion of vast horrors being hidden and puts it into audio form.

So what does the audio form of this concept sound like? Yokai is a blaring, rumbling album, with three soundscapes that pulse and groan with unbridled feelings of power. Early on, I got a metallic vibe from things, like edited and stretched gong or cymbal clashes reverberating around ominous horn tones. There is a hissing, breathless sound too, but one coming from something massive and certainly not human. At times, there seems to be a bestial roar-like element, like some great leviathan pounding hatred into the landscape with its fists. The image that soon came to mind was of the Talos statue coming to life in Jason and the Argonauts, but even Talos feels puny when compared to the size of the creature or creation in Yokai’s tracks.

The three tracks share a decent number of the sounds mentioned above, but each also managed to give me three distinct impressions as to what was happening. For me, the first track was filled with thoughts of a fog-cloaked colossal metallic creature or machine, traipsing across the landscape. Track two saw my perspective switch to some unfortunate souls sheltering deep in a mountain cave, hearing the thumps and rumbles of the creature battling their army miles away. The final track, for me, hinted at a lull where the creature was somehow mortally injured and was somehow giving birth to its successor before it died.

Yokai is a collection of tracks themed around supernatural beings from Japanese folklore, but as you can see, my mind did take me to other places. I can certainly notice the Japanese and martial elements to the music, but it just felt so perfectly leviathan to me. A really enjoyable album, one that cloaks you in an obscuring fog, hisses at you, buffets you, and presents you with ominous swells of bone-rattling sound.

Visit the Yokai page on Bandcamp for more information.

You might also like to check out Mombi Yuleman’s Storm-Maker Red Horse as that is another album that really struck me as embodying giant beings and creating a feeling of being small by comparison. 


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Yokai

Album Artist: The Rosenshoul (Duncan Ritchie)

Released: 25 Jun 2008

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Night and Other Sunken Dreams

Dark Ambient Review: The Night and Other Sunken Dreams


Review By Casey Douglass



The Night and Other Sunken Dreams


The Night and Other Sunken Dreams is an album from Underwater Sleep Orchestra, a music project that sees dark ambient alumni Pär Boström & Bruce Moallem come together to create some dream-based aural explorations.

The album is described as portraying two dreams from a single night, each with different moods and levels of menace. The music makes use of a variety of analogue processing and sound acquisition techniques, the synthesizer tones and field recordings are accompanied, and altered by, various cassette tape and VHS tinkerings.

My favourite track was Dreamt Within the Belly of a Deer. It opens with a rainy static and a high resonant tone, with hints of wind howling and flowing. Wooden knocking sounds begin a short time in, and a tone wavers and buzzes in the soundscape. This track felt “of the woods” to me, which when twinned with the deer mentioned in the title, led to mental images of rain soaked gloomy woodland, a damp that seeps deep into the bones, and a deer of course. A peaceful track, but also one with a heaviness or uneasiness. It does end with a lighter bit of melody however.

The Mechanical Hour is another track that I enjoyed, partly because it has a regularity that put me in mind of some kind of dark clock. It begins with a bouncy low tone, swiftly followed by a small echoing click, seemingly in response to the low tone’s activities. A deep bass rumbling grows, creating a feeling of being buffeted by the atmosphere. A distant buzzing drone looms nearer, a higher tone dancing around it like two insects trying to mate. A pigeon coos, there is the hint of rain or static, and a slow chiming melody begins. For me, this track felt like abandoned industry, derelict buildings and grey concrete, with nature pressing in from all sides, maybe trying to reclaim it or simply to make use of it.

Finally, A Dock of Departing Ships gets a nod from me as a track that created a great feeling of space and distance. It quietly opens with a high, warbling, two-tone melody, one that is soon joined by another smoother echo. A low tone gently sweeps underneath, a bass tone sitting below. This track has a slow, peacefully pulsing soundscape, the kind of soundscape that beautifully lends itself to imagining a quiet cove at sunset, a calm sea, and white-sailed ships almost floating out of the harbour on a mirror-like sea.

The Night and Other Sunken Dreams is a dark ambient album of peace and calm. I found myself most liking the tracks that gave me strong mental impressions, as is often the case, but even the ones that didn’t or were more abstract, provided some textured, blanketing, dream-like tones that were certainly pleasant to listen to. If you like your dark ambient ethereal, warm and echoing, you should take a listen to The Night and Other Sunken Dreams.

Visit the The Night and Other Sunken Dreams page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the first part of the album below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: The Night and Other Sunken Dreams

Album Artist: Underwater Sleep Orchestra (Pär Boström & Bruce Moallem)

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 29 June 2021

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot

Dark Ambient Review: Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot


Review By Casey Douglass



Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot


Themes of horror and the occult are two of the main reasons that I got into dark ambient and ritual music. When you’re in the mood, nothing beats putting on some music that sounds like it was field-recorded near the gates of Hell, or at the least, at a location where some dark rite is hoping to call forth a small aspect of such. Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot is a dark ambient album from Occult Odyssey, one that has you covered in this regard.

The title and artwork reference the Kabbalistic idea of the Qliphoth, and the album description makes mention of the dark entity Lilith. The track titles are in Latin and roughly translate to descriptions such as “Fornicating with the Prophet” and “Flame Keeper of the Ancient”. Even though I’m not overly familiar with the Qliphoth or Lilith, it’s certainly an album steeped in occult imagery and dark symbolism.

I think my favourite track is Te Gloriosus Apostolorum Laminam Carnifici (or The glorious executioners). The track begins with a vibrating, maybe horn-like tone, echoing male chanting almost hissing from the shadows. There feels like a sweeping shimmer behind things at times, and an impression of cavenous space. What sounds like a squeeling string-tone begins, and the longer this cotinues, the more it begins to sound like distant screams, probably rising up from some dark abyss. There are other tones too, a fuzzy chuntering and slow electric guiter tones meandering in the soundscape, but those screaming strings... Eerie and dark stuff.

Another track that I enjoyed was Opaca Secreta Ordinis Magistri (or The dark secrets of the Master Order). This track starts with airy echoes and rumblings. Breathy tones seem to hiss on the wind, and distant female rasping calls vie with low electronic tones. A male chant joins things shortly after, like some kind of dark dialogue being conducted between worlds. This track would certainly suit a horror film in which the unlucky victims wander into the lair of a witch, or maybe some kind of dark air elemental. A high tone that emerges around the midpoint of the track could even be the sound of a glimmering treasure chest; bait to tempt the foolish as they tread where no one should dare to enter. Another fun syrupy dark track.

Finally, I`ll make mention of Flamae Custos Antiquae (or Flame Keeper of the Ancient). This opens with a hollow airy drone and a low rumbling tone. A crackling male chant begins, harsh echoes and whispers reflecting the sound back. There are thumps and vibrations that seem to lavish attention on each ear, and swells of sound that seem to agitate the permanently softly howling soundscape. The sounds at the lower end of this track make a very ominous feeling reside beneath the apparently airy upper layers, dark swirls and pulses hinting it forces unseen.

Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot is a rasping, hissing, chant-laced dark ambient album. The dark spaces and rumbling movements of power sit well with the male and female vocalisations; the soundscapes doing a fine job of portraying the summoners, and hinting at the things that might be listening in the shadows. If you like your dark ambient more on the occult, ritual side of things, you should take a look at Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot.

Visit the Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Mortem Ad Flumen Paroketh below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Teloc Od Busd G'a Qaa C'a Qliphot

Album Artist: Occult Odyssey

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 25 Mar 2021

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Dark Music Review: Insektio

Dark Music Review: Insektio


Review By Casey Douglass



Insektio

People often look to space when they think about strange lifeforms that we, if we ever meet them, might struggle to understand. The annals of sci-fi and horror are full of another alternative though, that of the insect world scuttling around beneath our feet. Insektio is an experimental noise album from Umpio, one that takes this chitinous world of insects as its muse, and comes out the other side with flakes of exoskeleton stuck to its lips.

So what does Insektio sound like? Well, it’s a screeching, popping, buzzing, clicking, rumbling, darting collection of tracks, each with its own feel. Some sound like they might be the audio equivalent of mandibles clacking and cutting. Others like insects might sound if they were somehow upgraded into weaponised military tools, like a thundering beetle-like attack chopper thumping over the horizon. I know that the album title and artwork frames the impressions that you are likely to get, but the tracks really do seem to embody the alien-like qualities of insects and their movements. It’s really fun to listen to.

My favourite track is probably the first one: Nocturnal Trigger Patterns. I think this is because it was this track that pulled back the veil and made me realize how rich the album would be for impressions and interpretations. It begins with an ear to ear screeching, rustling, thumping sound, hisses emerging from a sea of digital static. It felt like millions of tiny legs scratching along wooden beams. A high whining tone appears, one not unlike a retro 80s sci-fi UFO might make. A buzzing begins, pulsing in regular intervals, deeper bass tones giving the track more heft. Some of the notes I wrote about the images flowing through my mind included “demonic ticking clock”, “Military cockroach” and “snuffling pig eating”.

Another track that stood out for me is Asymmetrical Phonotaxis. It starts with small trills and beeps, with bass tones fluttering beneath things. After the business of previous tracks, this one felt chilled and restful by comparison. A boiling static begins, and then the sound that I really enjoyed, a sound that seemed like tens of metal cans rolling down a junk-yard pile of scrap. A dark hissing sits over things, and I half wondered if some kind of insect was using the cans as their new homes, snail-shell style. The thought of a junk-yard of tin cans scuttling around on slender legs made me smile. When the insects seize control, I hope they will be kinder to us than we are to them.

Wing Movement Communication is also a fun track, one with some very interesting sounds. After the darting fuzzy tones and echoes at the start, things turn a bit grainy, with a cascading sand-like feeling. There are impressions of scuttling, cloaking things in an itchy blanket of little legs. Some of the tones take on the aspect of a clipped elephant trumpeting call, the echoes and shrills chased by more scurrying movement. If the insects are communicating, I can only wonder about what they might be saying.

Insektio is an album that paints a compelling audio impression of a world that we often ignore. I don’t think any of the sounds could be considered as pleasant, but when taken as a whole, each track becomes a smoother kind of whole. Maybe when you pour so many harsh or strong sounds into the mix, they inevitably knock a few of the harder edges from each other. I was also surprised at the richness of the mental impressions that arose in my mind, as I don’t tend to listen to albums that might fall nearer the “noise” end of the spectrum. A fine album.

Visit the Insektio page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Insektio

Album Artist: Umpio

Label: ZHELEZOBETON

Released: 31 May 2021

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Last Resort

Dark Ambient Review: The Last Resort


Review By Casey Douglass



The Last Resort

I’ve always liked fictional dystopias where there is some last bastion of comfort or normalcy for people to enjoy. Maybe a fully working pub in a settlement surrounded by zombies, or a video-game arcade still working in a deep fallout shelter that’s on its last legs. Beyond the Ghost’s The Last Resort is a dark ambient album themed around just such a place, a place where fleeting pleasures might just be found.

The album description describes a world covered in disease, poverty and tension, although in 2060 Berlin rather than 2021. The Last Resort is one of the last places that is still open, a refuge for the world weary; for the suicides delaying the tightening of the noose or the downing of the pills by just one more day. The album art above certainly paints the club as a welcoming place, its golden manna-from-heaven glow neatly reflecting back from the ugly metal pipes across the rain-slicked street.

The sounds that the album contains feel like surreptitious snatches of melody or tone. The drumbeats are slow and rattling, and the other traditional instruments, such as the trumpet tones and piano notes, echo away into soundscapes that convey a melancholy and a lack of hope. Think of the feeling you might get when you go to one of your favourite venues, one that you’ve heard is closing soon. Add some dark red drapes that hang from floor to ceiling, a miasma of smoke and halogen light bulbs, and the fear that you won’t see it again, and you are almost at the mood that The Last Resort creates.

The track Late Night at The Last Resort is my favourite track, as I felt that it best created the aforementioned sense of “the last good times” ending. It begins with low, twisting plucked notes that bend down into the depths. A whiny metallic sound grinds and pulls in the air, and the soundscape throbs with a tired tension. The falling tones made me think of the race to the bottom, the mournful notes maybe depicting the illicit stuff that goes on in the The Last Resort club. This is the space where sex is sold, where mind altering metal filings are plunged into watered-down drinks, and where murders are planned. Towards the end of the track, a distorted voice crackles on a distant radio or speaker, a pregnant high tone whining in the background.

Another great track is A Transient Shelter. This track also features tones that seem to sink down into the depths, brass notes in this case. They sit against a buzzing hum and an airy high tone. Around the midpoint a tinny, tiny insect-like whine appears, like a midge flying around your head. The midge whine and the plummeting notes for me, created a great feeling of tension and threat. There are smoother elements too, such as a relaxed drumbeat and slowly plucked notes. These sit in the ominous soundscape as a great counterbalance, to stop it going too far into despair.

The Sadness of All Things is a track that opens with the sound of rain and the plinking of metal creaking. There is a howling wind and a gentle blare of tone before thumping, echoey piano notes begin to depict a melody. Some of the higher tones in this track create an almost “cat meow” like impression, maybe hinting at an alleyway full of detritus, whether discarded items or discarded people. From the midpoint onwards, a distant yell or cry-like sound rises above the other elements, someone, somewhere in despair. Another bleak but great track.

Finally, Red Curtains is the last track that I will mention. A pulsing airy tone is joined by squeaking echoes, like some strange sonar of despair. Small knocks or impacts sound, soaring tones soon being joined by a church-organ-like aesthetic. I couldn’t help wondering if this was some kind of melancholy strip-club room, everything rusted and out of service, yet people still sitting in the shadows, wisps of smoke the vehicles for their thoughts of happier times.

The Last Resort is a dark ambient album of morose places populated by the phantoms of remembered pleasures. Framed by a near future dystopia, one that, if you look at current circumstances, could very easily grow from our current trials and tribulations as a species. A great album to dip into a bleak future, to then return to the present day and enjoy what you’ve got, while you’ve still got it.

Visit the The Last Resort page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track: Late Night at The Last Resort below: 



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: The Last Resort

Album Artist: Beyond the Ghost

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 26 Jan 2021

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Dark & Light

Dark Ambient Review: Dark & Light


Review By Casey Douglass



Dark & Light - Modern Music for Funerals

Dark & Light is a dark ambient playlist from Modern Music For Funerals. As the title might suggest, it features ten tracks that fall into various places on the mood spectrum. In my opinion, the balance tips closer to the dark side of the equation, which is just fine by me.

The tracks that seemed to speak to me the most come from the PLATFORM album. Dark Summer is the first of these in the playlist. It begins with the echoes of distant voices, possibly children at play. A low tone swells and rolls, a shimmering soon joins it in the air. As the track progresses, various sounds also join the tableau, from piano notes and the sound of what might be exhalation, to the sound of waves and the glugging of water. What this track made me think of, is how it feels to lay in a dark, hot room during the day. This room has thick curtains that block out most of the light, save for the small gaps where they meet or where they hang away from the wall. The window is open, and the sounds of life going on outside seem more distant than purely physical distance can account for. This is the mood that I felt this track encapsulated.

Another track that comes from PLATFORM is Jettisoned. Jettisoned starts with a buzzing pulsing tone, and a tinny series of electronic Morse code-like beeps. A distant alarm seems to blare, and then we hear the sound of servos moving and whining, with new status beeps along for the ride. There are radio crackles, the hissing of air and later, a kind of fizzing muted beat. The second part of the track seems to have a more urgent feel to things, whatever is going on having reached a different phase or level of danger. For me, this was a fun, sci-fi track, that popped me into a gloomy, drifting spaceship, with red emergency lighting bathing the metal of the corridors in a premonition-baiting coating of blood. A nice dose of perilous sci-fi soundscaping to escape from the shitstorm of modern life.

A third track from PLATFORM is Alone, an almost twenty minute rumbling, ominous track, with more sci-fi atmosphere and technological threat. Buzz-saw shimmering, bass that seethes and agitates the soundscape, beeps, fizzes and static, they all play their part. Things feel like they are whizzing past your head as others judder and knock, along with what sounds like something winding down. The drone lulls and soothes, and later, there are moments of a distorted computer voice, maybe trying to tell the listener how wrong things have truly gone. Around a third of the way in, the soundscape breaks into a period of gentle peace, lighter tones emerging, the harsher rumbles and beeps fading awhile. Maybe this is the period where, when someone is alone for long enough, they experience their first moment of finding the bliss in this situation. Like so many things though, it doesn’t last long, and the track soon returns to the brooding buzzing space of before.

The last playlist track that I will mention is from a different album to the ones mentioned so far. I know... On a scale of one to ten, how shocked are you? A Transmutation of Friendship is a lighter track than the others, and features a pulsing sub tone and a relaxed kinetic feeling. There is the kind of feeling you might get as a passenger on a train in motion, as telephone or power poles seemingly make a whup-whupping sound as their shadows slide along the sunlit carriage. There are hints of light tones at the edge, a jittery electronic buzz, and a gentle scuffing beat. It’s a very pleasant track, and one suited to a quiet weekend.

The Dark & Light playlist has other tracks, with other sounds and moods, but these were the ones that spoke to my own dark taste. Head over to the SoundCloud link to check out the full list and have a listen. You might also like to visit and join The IDM Production Bureau, the online community created by the album artist, for lovers and producers of IDM. 


Playlist Title: Dark & Light

Music Artist: Modern Music For Funerals

Friday, 25 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: False Awakening

Dark Ambient Review: False Awakening


Review By Casey Douglass


False Awakening
Album Cover

Dreams are amazing but often so confusing. The way that we usually accept what is happening as normal, even if we’ve just seen a rabbit transform into a skyscraper, it just boggles the mind. When we wake up, we find it hard to understand our night-time mental state, how we could be so foolish and gullible. False Awakening is a dark ambient album from Drifting in Silence, an album that takes time to reflect on the dream theories of Carl Jung.

Generally speaking, the soundscapes contained on False Awakening are smooth and gentle, lulling and relaxing. Many of the tracks have a deep pulsing quality that carries the listener along in some audio mimicry of peristaltic movement, as if they’ve been swallowed by a giant trance-inducing cuddle creature. There are field recordings and warm electronic tones, along with guitar and piano notes. These elements do a great job of concocting a dream-like feeling of fuzziness and mystery.

One of my favourite tracks is Myth of Memory. It begins with the sounds of a gentle breeze, trickling water or rain, and birdsong. A wispy electronic melody floats into being, setting the soundscape into a pulsing, blanketed sensation of night fall and peace. Or, as I wrote in my notes, a marshmallow fog encasing the listener. There is a lower tone sitting beneath things, the tones all playing together to make the soundscape feel rich and deep. A peaceful track.

Another track that I wanted to mention is Unknown Archetype. This also opens with birdsong, but is soon populated with an airy drone and echoing, languid single notes. There are also small clicks or sounds of activity. This track, for me, had a meditative, temple-like feel. The kind of temple that you might see a character in a film stumble across, one hidden in an unruly jungle, full of furtive rustling and stern-faced statues. The tones twist down into a more ominous sound as the track progresses, leaving the listener to wonder if the temple is one of spiritual advancement or cannibalistic domination.

The last track that I wanted to talk about is also the last track on the album: False Awakening. It starts with a growing drone and what seems to be the static of a howling wind. There are plucked guitar notes and a shimmering too. The initial mental image that came to me, was of a dew-laden watering-can sitting on a wet lawn, the golden light of the rising sun making everything glow. As the soundscape evolves however, I felt a darkness creep in, or maybe a deception. The glowing dewy watering-can ended up sitting in a tight circle of sunlight, the rest of the garden remaining clocked in the heavy blanket of night. I liked this feeling, this weird, interesting place to be.

False Awakening is a dark ambient album that for me, produced a host of fun, dream-like images and scenes. As I said in my introduction, there is little harshness to be found here, which makes this a fine album to relax with or doze off to sleep to. There was a pleasing amount of both darkness and light, and I’m a big fan of the pulsing qualities that sit so comfortably in the soundscapes. To repeat what I said above, let yourself be swallowed by the giant trance-inducing cuddle creature!

Visit the False Awakening page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also checkout the track, False Awakening below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: False Awakening

Album Artist: Drifting in Silence

Label: Secret Press

Released: 28 May 2021

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Dark Horror Short Review: Snore

Dark Horror Short Review: Snore


Review By Casey Douglass


Snore


Human characters in horror films tend to be weak and vulnerable, but when you swap humans for soft, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, you open up a whole new world of strangeness. Snore is a splatstick horror comedy from Luther Bhogal-Jones, who, after playing with creatures of the night in Goodnight, Halloween, has inserted two hapless puppets into a dangerous situation.

Failed businesswoman Karen and her spineless assistant and squeeze Callum, end up having to stay in a dilapidated half-way house. In the darkness of the night, whilst sharing the tiny bed, they hear a strange sound. This sound comes from a sinister, small, pig-like creature called the Jip. What then ensues is a desperate battle between the luckless puppets and the armour-clad micro-porker. Blood is spilled, screams are uncorked and designer man-bags are ruined.

Snore

The first thing that really impressed me in the film was the physicality of the puppets. Just after Karen and Callum wake and begin searching the room, the detritus under the bed is pulled out and the bed is moved. Callum is the beast of burden throughout this period, his trembling body and pained grunts and heaves seeming entirely believable.


Snore

After Callum’s non-euphemistic bed gymnastics, we enter what I think I might call the “Ominous Red” phase of the film. The first manifestation of this is an eerie red glow emanating from behind a stack of boxes. The soundtrack pulses and throbs with threat. Callum trembles and mumbles as he peers through the gap. Something rushes past. He lifts some of the boxes and “a little creature” emerges on the other side. The Jip is now in play, and if you ever wondered if a puppet can bleed, you’ll get your answer watching Snore.


Snore

The Jip itself is played by a man in a suit, with some green-screen trickery used to create the battle between itself and the puppets. In a Q&A about Snore, one of the inspirations mentioned was the film of Steven King’s anthology Cat’s Eye, where a young Drew Barrymore is terrorized by a small evil puppet. Snore is a fun, tongue-in-cheek reversal of this human vs puppet dynamic.

I went into Snore without any real expectations and came away really impressed with the atmosphere and execution of the film. The puppets and the Jip are great, especially how they interact with the world and each other. The lighting and score make it feel like a true horror, and the way that it plays out in ten short minutes felt satisfying to me. If you like puppets in dire situations, and films that don’t take themselves too seriously, head over to the YouTube link below to give it a watch, I’d say it’s well worth your time.




Film Title:
Snore

Online Release: 31 May 2021

Length: 10 minutes 24 seconds

Link to View: YouTube


Cast:

Karen – Sarah Williams, Callum – Nick Holiday, Frances – Andrew Calverley

Crew:

Director – Luther Bhogal-Jones

Writers – Luther Bhogal-Jones and Gabrielle Wright

Producer – Luther Bhogal-Jones/ Faster Productions with financial assistance from Adur and Worthing Trust

Director of Photography – Anthony Gurner

Production Design/ Props – Jenny Ray

Production Assistants – Sam Elfer, Jim Faulkner, Mark Tew, Simon Messingham, Christopher Regan, Peter Regan

Editor – Luther Bhogal-Jones

Grade – Anthony Gurner

Mouse Hole CGI FX – Jason Arber c/o Phantom Limb

Title Animation/ VFX Comping – Nick Gripton

Music – Mikolaj Holowko

Sound Design and Mixing – Alyn Sclosa c/o Sclosa Post Audio

Puppets designed by Garry Robson

Puppets created by Charlotte Regan

With thanks to Peter Regan, Arna Maria Kristjansdottir, Harriet Lansodwn

Jip creature designed by Garry Robson

Jip miniature/ creature costume and performance by Jean-Daniel Byrne

With thanks to The Artpothecary, Brighton

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Umbra Report

Dark Ambient Review: The Umbra Report


Review By Casey Douglass


The Umbra Report

When it comes to fiction or the imagination, I’m a fan of strange rooms. These rooms are often the kinds of space that might once have been a lounge or a dining room, but that have since been converted or adapted for peculiar experiments. Maybe a room has been cleared so that a séance can take place. Maybe the room is untouched and scientific equipment has been added to monitor something unseen. I just like this mixture of the mundane and the bizarre. Cities Last Broadcast’s The Umbra Report is a dark ambient album that embodies this feeling in audio form.

My favourite track is Disembodied. It begins with a rumbling drone, one populated with scratchy higher tones and static. This feels like a trembling soundscape, like everything is a quiver with strange energy. The image that came to mind to describe this track is a group of fairy beings, e.g. pixies, elves, etc. Said beings are coming down from a magic mushroom high, sprawled about on the floor of a dilapidated mouldy squat. A purer tone sprinkles a sense of sadness over things, and the overall impression that I got was that of someone being out of their usual place and time, disconnected, but not necessarily in a healthy way. It felt very dark to me.

Stares Back is another track that stood out for me. It starts with a raspy, sigh-like sound, a deeper tone soon quietly blooming into life. An airy drone sits behind things, a humming and resonant tone soon follow. The rasping sound twists into a sense of tortured strings and squeals, and faint impacts can be heard thudding at various times. This track felt like what might be going on in someone’s mind as they stare into a mirror, playing a game of “who is the real person” with the reflection. I dare say that in this case, when they turn away, they don’t see the reflection still staring daggers at their back. Just how it should be.

Wherever the Heart Goes is another rich and atmospheric track. Beyond the windy-feeling and rustling, beyond the hints of breathing and static, there emerges what sounds like heavy stone objects sliding. I couldn’t shake the mental impressions gathered from watching many films in which stone temple walls slide, sink or rotate, and with the track title in mind, I fancied I was listening to some strange, dark oubliette of the heart, a soundscape of shifting exploration and deeper ensnarements. It was very cool to listen to.

The Umbra Report is a scratchy, static-filled album, its soundscapes populated by distorted voices, strange throbbing atmospheres, and drones that cloak the whole in a warm, breathing darkness. There are hints and impressions of musical melodies and singing, but they are soon claimed by the more esoteric elements and shredded into a strange, otherworldly waiting-room ambience. The album description hints at the depicted events as being a possible depression, séance or exorcism, but whatever is actually occurring, its certainly creepy and fun to listen to.

See also: Black Stage of Night and The Humming Tapes for more rich, occult-atmospheres.

Visit the The Umbra Report page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Disembodied below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: The Umbra Report

Album Artist: Cities Last Broadcast

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: June 1 2021

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Watcher at the Gates

Dark Ambient Review: Watcher at the Gates


Review By Casey Douglass



Watcher at the Gates
Album Cover


Watcher at the Gates is a dark ambient album from Kehseverin, aka Wesley Hiatt. I’ve reviewed a number of Wesley’s dark creations in previous months, and he always has a knack for creating tense, gritty spaces and distorted soundscapes. Watcher at the Gates is another album full of dark feelings; the heavy, fuzzy sounds rubbing against bleak field-recordings and seemingly simple yet effective tones and melodies.

One of my favourite tracks is My Solemn Oath. It opens with a low muffled rumbling and contains a pulsing atmosphere that presses and pressures the ears. A buzzing tone soon joins, smearing an ominous fuzzy feeling over the soundscape. As the track progresses, a trundling/engine-like sound joins, and also, a more energetic tone that seems to have the aspect of bashed piano notes, but notes that are muffled at the edges by distortion. This felt like a murky, pressurized track to me, and it was great to listen to.

Another track that stood out for me was Soliloquy. It begins with a pulsing high tone, a slightly lower tone dragged along as its companion. A bass hum joins things, and the tones stretch and buzz and fuzz as things deepen. The best way I could describe this track is like the audio equivalent of watching dappled sunlight on a disintegrating concrete wall. The sickly tree that’s casting the shadow is wilting and suffocated by the environment around it, its dead leaves hanging like broken promises. The tree’s shadow however, looks strangely perfect. That’s how I’d describe the feelings that this track brought to the surface for me.

The last track that I'll mention is Upon Rooftops, as I found this to be particularly dark. An agitated buzzing grows in each ear, a warm bass tone pushing and sighing from beneath. This feels like another fuzzy, “staticy” track. After awhile, a leafy rustling begins, roaming from ear to ear. A deep simple melody warbles and pulses beneath. The sound of rain emerges near the midpoint, with softer, high tones impinging as the track nears its end. This track felt like it contained the ceaseless attempts of something grating against the harshness of reality. The dominant rustling sound just might be a struggling bird trapped behind a boarded up window, the choice between standing still or fluttering left, right and back again apparently its only option. A track that embodies the emotion of futility.

Watcher at the Gates is bleak yet warm, sad yet brave. Sometimes in life, you just need to drink in the misery that you feel, simply because doing anything else seems like deluding yourself or being untrue. In doing so, you might just experience a little space opening up around the things that bother you or that you feel are dragging you down. Watcher at the Gates might just provide the audio accompaniment to this.

Visit the Watcher at the Gates page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Watcher at the Gates

Album Artist: Kehseverin

Label: VoidSoundLTD

Released: 3 May 2021

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Back to Beyond

Dark Ambient Review: Back to Beyond


Review By Casey Douglass



Back to Beyond


Back to Beyond is a dark, space ambient album from Alphaxone and ProtoU, and is the follow up to their 2017 album Stardust. The album description tells tale of a long journey into the vastness of space, mysterious black-hole-emitted golden dust causing the protagonist some consternation. There is also the issue of the protagonist’s cat performing zero-G acrobatics as it tries to feed.

Quantum Zero is one of the tracks that I enjoyed the most. It begins with small ticks or clicks, a sound that put me in mind of hot metal that is slowly cooling. There is a whining noise and the muffled feel of static, and then, a tone a little like a distant train whistle. An airy drone rumbles through the soundscape, the clicks beginning to echo into a larger space. There is a pulsing tone and a little later, deeper vibrations. Towards the end of the track, beeps and radio frequency sweeps can be heard, and what sounds like paper being scuffed. For me, Quantum Zero felt like it described a vast reactor or engine room, one that has recently fallen silent and is in the process of simmering down.

Dreams of Solace is another track that stood out for me. It opens with chuffing air movements and an “air blowing down a ribbed plastic tube” vibration. A rushing sound roams the soundscape, and what might be doors hissing open and closed. Electronic warbles and a long sweeping tone manifest, small trills and whistles in the distance joining them. Towards the end of the track, the sounds of movement through a metal vent seem to be heard. I felt like this track was the best match for the cover art of the album above, the pipes etc. It also, for some reason, brought to mind a scene in the film Brazil, where Robert De Niro turns up and messes with the pipes and tubing in the wall.

Finally, The Edge of Perception is a track that I enjoyed because it felt “watery” to me. That’s not to say literally water-filled, but there are elements to the audio that seemed to impose a distortion to things, a little like how water muffles and warps sound. It starts with a low, airy drone, a distant dripping, and a closer echoing knocking joins things. There is a low, voice-like call or groan, and a deeper rumbling fuzz. There is also a persistent high “ahh” vocal that sits uneasily above things. This is an echoing, flowing track with swells and the sounds of impacts in long corridors. For all of that, it is a warm track, the flowing melodies that come in near the midpoint setting a lovely contrast with the rasping hisses and echoes. Maybe this track is the sci-fi equivalent of a lonely alien minotaur at the heart of a labyrinth made out of cold metal.

Back to Beyond was, for me, the soundtrack to being on a long space journey. Many of the tracks feature metallic vibrations, muted clicks and beeps, and the hisses of atmosphere escaping from pressurised containment. For the most part, it seemed an album of smooth tones, small sounds and mechanical objects buzzing into the void. The darkness it displays is tempered by the warmth it also contains. It’s a bit like the difference between seeing zombies on your lawn in the light of the full moon, compared to seeing them in golden sunlight, while dew is still dangling from spiderwebs and birds are chirping their morning chorus. Both scenes could be horrifying, but the second has its own beauty.

Visit the Back to Beyond page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Quantum Zero below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Back to Beyond

Album Artists: Alphaxone & ProtoU

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 4 May 2021

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Behind the Veil of Black Stars

Dark Ambient Review: Behind the Veil of Black Stars


Review By Casey Douglass



Behind the Veil of Black Stars
Album cover

In my recent interview with Scott Lawlor, we touched on the topic of ambientonline.org’s One Sample Dare Challenges, contests in which the composers must use only one sample to create their musical piece. Scott recently released Behind the Veil of Black Stars, a slice of dark space ambient that was created for one of these challenges. The album consists of three, twenty to thirty minute tracks, each of which conjures up the bleak indifference of space in its own way. My favourite track is No Place To Land, and one of the main notes I wrote about it was “Recipe for agitation?” You'll see why.

No Place To Land begins with a low, gradual sound, a little like wind blowing along a plastic tunnel. It winds upwards and begins to rasp with a sharpness to its edge not long after. A shrill sound emerges, which to me, seemed like a flock of jackdaws settling for the night. The track starts to feel as if it has a mechanical underpinning not long after this, which I think is confirmed by the siren-like sound that comes after.

The siren tone arrives at about the three minute mark, and it feels like it agitates the soundscape. It also cements the impression that the rest of the track gave me, which was of a spaceship trying to land on a barren planet, but each time that it gets near to the ground, it spies some reason as to why it shouldn’t land. The track lifts and falls, rises and descends, over and over. You feel like you can hear engines winding down and surging upwards with each failed attempt, and that very much sets the scene for the remainder of the track.

I liked the uneasiness that No Place To Land seemed to bring about in my mind. It wasn’t too harsh or uncomfortable, but as someone who knows how his brain feels when his OCD has tripped him up with rumination and anxiety, No Place To Land approximates this unsettled feeling, but in a much more mellow way. It’s like a dark, space-based Groundhog Day, but with subtle changes as it plays out.

There is much to enjoy in the other tracks too. Behind The Veil of Stars is a track that seems to shimmer and boil with static, drone and an ominous feeling of vast depth and distance. Unquiet Spirits Wandering a Dying Planet flicks bubbling tones and electronic warbles from ear to ear in the first half, yet settles into a deeper, “plane flying over your head” droning space for the second half, which I must admit I preferred. They are both great tracks.

It’s amazing to think that Behind the Veil of Black Stars was made with only one sample at its core, and yet Scott has twisted and manipulated it into a dark sci-fi creation, one that thrums with the cold of space and the threat of an indifferent universe.

Visit the Behind the Veil of Black Stars page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Behind the Veil of Black Stars

Album Artist: Scott Lawlor

Released: 10 April 2021