Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Dismal Dreams From The Witch House

Dark Ambient Review: Dismal Dreams From The Witch House

Review By Casey Douglass

Dismal Dreams From The Witch House Album Art

One of the things that I find most enrapturing about the dark gods and creatures of H.P Lovecraft, is the way that they still feel like nothing else out there, even when dragged into modern settings. Dismal Dreams From The Witch House is a dark ambient album from ElectronicDeathBlackDogs. It is an album that’s described as a modern take on Lovecraft’s tale The Dreams in the Witch House. What will the listener find in the album’s soundscapes? Read on to find out.

Wind. Not the “too much fibre in your diet” variety, but the kind that makes trees tremble and wooden eaves creak. Actually, there may be someone whose own “personal wind” does that, in which case, see a doctor maybe? Wind, whether rustling leaves or howling through jaggy openings, is a field-recording that sets the scene in almost every track on this album. I really like this. There is something ominous yet comforting about an audibly gusting wind, especially when you are indoors in the warm. The wind on Dismal Dreams From The Witch House’s tracks sets a barren, desolate scene. It’s further joined by other sounds that deepen this feeling of exposure to the elements.

There are other field-recorded sounds, such as creaking, rattling and the pattering of grit against window panes. There are also deep vibrating notes, warbling distorted tones, drones and abyssal rumblings. Each track feels like the listener is sat on the edge of a precipice, whether gazing through a window at a dark valley, or metaphysically rubbing up against forces that aren’t usually so close to our reality. Forces, I’m sure, that Lovecraft would insist that it would be better that they remained unaware of our existence.

Oppressive Nature is one of my favourite tracks. It opens with the sound of wind and a deep rumbling drone. There are small clicks or rustlings, and the simmering rattling of a cymbal. String notes grow and flow in a forlorn gyration, the rumbling stopping briefly to give way to a peaceful moment. The strings fade over time as the other sounds reappear and depart, doing their own thing. I must admit that the way that the strings seem to take an age to fade before they sing out again, only to fade slowly once more, is the element of the track that my attention always seemed to latch on to. It’s very pleasing. This track, for me, gave me the feeling of gazing at the Moon through skeletal, wind-swept tree branches.

Ominous Impacts is a track that gave me a wholly different environment to delve into, being a track that felt like it was unfolding underground, possibly in an old mine. It begins with a rumbling and a recurring distant impact. A low vibration rises in what feels like a claustrophobic soundscape. There is the metallic rattling of what could be vibrating mesh or metal sheeting, a staticy water-like sound, and after a short while, a heart-beat that echoes amongst the reverberations. This is a low track, oppressive. The relaxed beat of the heart though, suggests it’s not the heart of the listener, but the thing in the shadows that is watching.

Finally, The Cryptic Cross is a track that I wanted to touch on. It starts with a buzzing radio voice and a pulsing juddering that swells against a backdrop of hammers hitting something. What came to mind was a rundown apartment block, one that is backed by a communal green or park area. Someone is sitting, watching a crackling TV, every now and then looking out through their window, down at the construction being completed on the green. The cross of the title maybe. Later comes a guttural voice, along with a kind of barking vocal, something that put me in mind of the fishy residents of Innsmouth. Smoothly piped tones seem to round out this impression, bringing to mind a conch-blown summons and a call to the deeps. This felt the most modern soundscape to me, the images it brought to my mind at least.

Dismal Dreams From The Witch House is a dark ambient album that provides the listener with a fine dose of the trembly, insidious apprehension that Lovecraft’s tales seem to nurture. The swaying string-notes, wind and strange voices sit pleasingly uneasily in ominous rumbling soundscapes, soundscapes that seem on the verge of tipping over into rotting, corrupted deeds and events. If you like your dark ambient Lovecraftian, check out the link below to find out more about the album.

Visit the Dismal Dreams From The Witch House page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Ominous Impacts below: 

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Dismal Dreams From The Witch House

Album Artist: ElectronicDeathBlackDogs

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 21 August 2021

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Abductee

Dark Ambient Review: Abductee

Review By Casey Douglass

Abductee Album Art

When I briefly flirted with New Age instrumental music, before I discovered dark ambient, one of my favourite CDs was about UFOs and aliens. It even had a shiny-eyed grey alien on the cover. Looking back, it was quite a dark album, but if you compared it to Mombi Yuleman’s dark ambient Abductee... well, its a little like comparing a pink unicorn to a denizen from one of the levels of Hell. That’s a good thing, in Mombi’s favour, just to be clear. Unless you have a thing for pink unicorns of course.

Abductee takes its inspiration from the many stories of human and alien interaction that can be found in the Fortean media, and sometimes, in the mainstream. I dare say that there are some notions from horror and sci-fi films and novels in there too, as the subject often provides fertile ground for creepy tales to be told. Abductee contains ten tracks that seem to take the listener on a journey with a hapless abductee, beginning in a forest and taking in hurried chases, furtive exploration, and being returned home at the end of things.

Mombi does a great job of weaving in sounds that seem to embody the subject matter wonderfully. The foremost comes from a number of tracks that feature a kind of ‘rustling plastic’ aesthetic. I don’t know about you, but for me, with the theme of the album in mind, this has the feeling of something medical, something experimental going on. Another prominent stable of sounds are the hissing, beeping radio-like swirls of static and electronic tones. Technology certainly plays its role. And of course, there are those fleshy, screeching, biological sounds that hint at strange creatures and other humans nearby. These three elements meld together so well to create a feeling of being onboard a dank alien craft, a new horror lurking around almost every corner.

Cocoons is a track that depicts the creepy exploration aspect mentioned above. It begins with a swirling, pulsing sci-fi tone and a hint of trickling water. There is a faint, distant high tone and a drone that begins with a sparkle for accompaniment. String-like notes sway and flow, a light melody begins, and a sense of chittering things flying around came through to me. Towards the end of the track, groans can be heard as the atmosphere begins to judder. It probably comes as no surprise that this track conjured visions of rooms full of strange cocoons to my mind, rooms complete with victims begin absorbed into their fleshy walls.

Medical Examination (feat. Noctilucant) is another fine track, one that, for obvious reasons, felt the most medical of them all. The opening sound is the thump of a beating heart. There are bubbling sounds, mechanical equipment whooshing, and an echoing beat that seems to take on the mantle of a clock ticking. There are swells of tone and hiss. There is an impression of juddering, and around the midpoint, a hollowness. Certain of the tones seem to embody a kind of sharpness, their clipped, metallic nature sitting nicely in a soundscape of whirring, pulsing, chiming activity. Flowing beneath all of this are the deep roaming droning tones that bathe everything in an atmosphere of darkness. I really enjoyed this track.

Finally, Grays is another track that I wanted to single out, as it has a majesty all of its own. It opens with a deep drone and a sparkling chime. There are plopping sounds, strange cries and an airy, sinister feeling. A chant-like droning begins, a whistling quality at its edges. It feels very meditative, but also otherworldly, as someone might feel when witnessing something never before seen. Bass impacts reverberate and agitate the soundscape into more strange cries. A rattle-snake hissing and echoing knockings emerge, with radio swirls and a low gritty clicking. As the track reaches its last third, a kinetic, pulsing rhythm begins, tinny squeaks nestling into the wall of drone. For me, this track was about someone finally seeing the answer to a question that they had half feared to know.

Abductee is a dark ambient album that simmers with interplanetary threat, but rather than the “space will crush you” variety, seeds its soundscapes with beings that have a more personal, a more fleshy interest in the targets of their attention. The fact that they seemingly don’t want to kill but simply to experiment or alter, adds an extra layer of mystery and uncertainty to what might actually be happening. This feeling, taken with the sounds Mombi has woven into his ten dark tracks, makes Abductee an album well worth checking out.

Visit the Abductee page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Abductee

Album Artist: Mombi Yuleman

Released: 24 September 2021

Friday, 8 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Creation of a Star

Dark Ambient Review: Creation of a Star

Review By Casey Douglass

Creation of a Star Album Art

Creation of a Star is a dark space ambient album from Planet Supreme, his first release on the Cryo Chamber label. The album and artist names both embody a very apt sense of vastness, as this is also aligned with the feelings evoked by the music itself. Warm sci-fi tones, sweeps, and drones, create impressions of large expanses, gigantic mega-structures, and technology sculpting the worlds it reaches.

An example of said technology and vast feelings is described well by one of my favourite tracks: Scanners. The track opens with the impression of a big, rotating thing, one perforated by the squeals and flares of electronic signals. Things settle into a gently droning space, deeper swells of tone nestling into a machine-like hum. For me, this track brought to mind a space-based vista, maybe a planet looking out on an asteroid belt being mined by gigantic refineries. It’s a little melancholy with the distance it contains, and the latter part of the track seems to have low tones that put me in mind of an old man grumbling. Maybe he’s a miner who lost his job to the bright, new, automated future.

Speaking of robots and automation, another track that stood out for me was Machina, a track that seemed rife with android-based gurgles and growls. A faint shimmer joins them, and a gentle throb that shoots into the distance at times. High tones sit above a low vibrating buzzing, with steadily climbing electronic tones offsetting the shimmer. There is an ah-like feeling around the midpoint of the track, a gentle state of affairs agitated by an irritated tone, and a whooshing, pulsing soundscape. This could be the junk yard where the obsolete models of robot end their “lives”, even our successors getting to experience the pain of being surpassed.

Genetic Cargo is another track that served up some pleasing imagery, something that I noted down as “egg-shell ambience”. It opens with a low drone and dripping, rain-like crackling echoes. Small electronic warbles and tones judder, with longer, deeper tones soon joining. A warm tone takes up residence in the soundscape, a low rhythm and synth notes coming along for the ride. This track felt like it depicted some kind of wet, moist, likely smelly, cargo hold, one with who knows what living in the containers in the shadows. The crackles of this track, and the two tracks that follow, put me a little in mind of the ways that artists Mount Shrine and Proto U sometimes treat rain or wind field-recordings too, so if you enjoy either of those musicians, you should take a closer listen.

Creation of a Star is a chilled, yet warm slice of space ambience. It’s the kind of album that’s an ideal accompaniment for relaxation, as there is little here that jars or agitates the mind. My mind at least. If you are looking out for some space-based sci-fi ambience, you should head over to the Bandcamp page below to check it out.

Visit the Creation of a Star page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Scanners below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Creation of a Star

Album Artist: Planet Supreme

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 31 August 2021

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Dark Fiction: The Dust Mote Collector

Dark Fiction: The Dust Mote Collector

By Casey Douglass

There was a man who came to the realisation that his time was worth less than anyone else’s. No matter what he tried to cultivate or create in his life, to give others, or to take pleasure in, the returns on his temporal investment were either zero or negative.

The society around him was full of overly simplistic platitudes that only served to wind up the springs of his dissatisfaction engine. Fluffy ideas, such as the one about how working hard pays off, or the one about how finding your passion leads to a worthy life. It was nothing less than motivational porn with no happy ending.

The man reasoned that, as his life and his time seemed to be worth so little, he might as well spend it doing the most meaningless activity that he could think of. One without hope or pressure, one that grabbed his attention, one that had no end point, something that he could do until the day that he died.

The man walked to his cutlery drawer, rummaged amongst the smallest spoons and lifted out the one that seemed to feel the most balanced as it straddled his palm. He moved to a room in which the afternoon sun shone brightly. His hand pulled the curtains almost closed with the quiet rattling of plastic runners. A two inch gap was left in the middle of the join, for the sunlight to breach the shadows of the room.

The man stood just to the side of the sun-beam, his eyes taking a moment to adjust to the light conditions. A small darting movement at the edge of his vision caught his attention. He turned to look more closely but lost it. Another flitted by. He lost that one too. And so his life as a Dust Mote Collector began.

The early days were filled with him trying to track the motes. They acted like the tiny fish you might see on a wildlife documentary, shooting away as his small spoon approached them. The man got better though. He learned to move slowly, to hold his breath, to anticipate, and to stay perfectly still when it was needed.

The first mote that he collected glowed as it fell. Once it reached the shiny metal of the spoon, it appeared to vanish into thin air. The man knew that he’d caught it, even though the spoon felt no heavier. He caught the next one soon after. It danced and floated near him for some time before he successfully brought the spoon beneath it, giving it a secure, safe home.

As the weeks and months went on, the man sometimes found that he slipped into a pleasing reverie as he captured his targets. Sometimes the motes seemed like twinkling stars in the night sky, his hand becoming some kind of roaming black hole. At other times, he fancied he was some giant spiritual being, catching and ferrying the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

The spoon dazzled him when it caught the sunlight, his hand often trembled, and his body ached all over. His mind was largely free of thoughts, but the peace or tranquillity described as often coming with this state by spiritual or New Age literature, proved to be just more propaganda that didn’t apply to him. He wasn’t particularly surprised. Not thinking was reward enough.

He’s in his darkened room right now, standing in the shadows, his small spoon flashing in the light as he captures another intangible with its metal. His clothes rustle gently as he lifts the spoon closer to his eyes, searching for something in its shining bowl. Maybe one day, he’ll see it.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Dark Ambient Review: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Review By Casey Douglass

Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us Art

Illness, and the threat of illness, have been staples of life for the last 18 months. Thanks Covid! Fear peddling, u-turns in public guidance, and the loss of many things that people take for granted, have picked up the glitter-covered dog turd that is life, lifted it to pursed lips and blown away the damned glitter. It’s no real surprise that Covid has become the inspiration for many creative projects. Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us is a dark ambient album from The Great Schizm, one that gives audio expression to the pandemic madness.

The album contains two long tracks, each of which were created at different times during the pandemic. The first, Corona, was created in Spring 2020, the time of the first lockdown in the UK. The second, Mutation, during the first six months of 2021, taking in the third lockdown, the explosion of a number of more infectious variants, and the vaccine rollout. The album description also explains that there was limited access to equipment during this time period, so I’d imagine that this imposed a fair few creative constraints on the project, or at the least, required a different way of thinking about certain things. (As a small aside, Ian Bogost’s book: Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, The Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games, is a worthy read on the notion of constraints aiding fun and creativity.) 

The first track, Corona, for me, had elements of an “abandoned factory” aesthetic. There’s a drone, clinking glass, hissing and hints of voices. A wind-like howl transforms into what seems like a warped radio transmission, and on into a more concrete voice. There are breath-like swells in the soundscape, sensations of mechanical movement and low vibrations. The track felt like walking through a large rusty inside space, weaving through rusted machinery, feet crunching on gritty concrete, golden sunlight fighting its way through dirt encrusted, high-up windows. As the midpoint approaches, things change into a quieter space, with what feels like a building rasping hiss that peaks in a distant, rumbling detonation. And this repeats a number of times. This second space feels more peaceful and lighter in many ways, quivering tones and warbling notes creating a feeling of things having moved on but still being bleak.

Track two, Mutation, for me, felt like a more “outdoorsy” space. It seemed windy and deserted, with church bells chiming above silent streets and birds chirping. It basically has a 28 Days Later vibe, although the early part of the film, not the “being chased by rabid sprinting zombies” part. Around the five minute mark, the impression of a number of whistles even gave me the idea of gangs hunting the streets, whistling in communication with each other. There are moments where I felt like I was inside again though, such as the time it felt like I was in an abandoned train-station, a dark chanting tone and faint gong impact seeming to suggest some kind of cult eking out an existence among the debris of the nine to five life. Things change up around the twenty minute mark however, when the sounds in the soundscape, such as a kind of marching rhythmic beat, led me to pondering if a robot police force was out on patrol. Yes, for me, this track was a little bit horror and a little bit science fiction. A pleasing mixture.

Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us is currently set to Name Your Price on Bandcamp. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys facing the darkness of life head on, not turning away and losing yourself in fluffy distractions, head over to the album page and take a closer look.

I reviewed this album by streaming it through the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Album Artist: The Great Schizm

Label: Cloud Hunter Records

Released: 30 April 2020 / June 2021

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Taoist Story “Maybe” Modern Rewrites

Taoist Story “Maybe” Modern Rewrites

Written by Casey Douglass

Taoist Story “Maybe” Modern Rewrites

I enjoy koan or parable style stories, as they often contain nuggets of wisdom in an easy to digest way. After such all-stars as the sound of one hand clapping, and the one about the tree falling in the woods, the story that I most often encounter is the Taoist tale about a Chinese farmer. This tale is often called “Maybe”, so that’s the title I’ve stuck with.

The story states that the farmer’s horse runs away. When other people find out, they commiserate with him and say “Bad luck!”. He just shrugs and says “Maybe.”

The next day, the horse returns with some wild horses in tow. “How lucky!” everyone exclaims, all except the farmer who shrugs again and says “Maybe.”

A short while later, his son is trying to tame one of the wild horses, but is thrown from its back, breaking his leg. “Oh dear, how unlucky!” the neighbours say. No prizes for guessing what the farmer says.

A war breaks out, seeing young people being drafted from the local village. The farmer’s son is spared because of his broken leg. “How lucky!” people cry. The farmer says... “Maybe”.


I love this story for the way that it depicts the virtue of patience and of withholding judgement from a situation. I also enjoy how it hints that the things that initially seem bad might turn out to be a blessing in disguise and vice versa.

In this social media, 24 hour newsfeed world, a dose of what this story is offering would certainly work wonders in the over-reactionary, over-emotive way that many of us view the world. Every setback is a catastrophe, every victory the most amazing thing ever. You know how you sometimes get someone doing sign-language at the side of the news broadcast? I’d like to add a weathered farmer who shrugs and says “Maybe” after every judgement about a situation!

Mind you, if I got my way and that actually happened, how long before he becomes the subject of an idiotic internet story that goes viral? Maybe something saying that the “Maybe Man” is a danger to society for fence-sitting, for failing to condemn evil actions and seemingly revelling in spreading uncertainty. You just know it would happen! Damn it!

The Maybe story isn’t all rosy for me though. Sure, it illustrates some nice concepts, but its simplicity is also a little irritating. If only life were so simple that every “bad” thing actually proved to be a blessing, and every “good” thing couldn’t be trusted to not kick you in the backside. A more realistic scenario for many would be that a good thing turns out to be a curse, and then three or four bad things happen that also turn out to be genuinely bad. Yeah, not such a wise tale now.

I still like Maybe though. I find it fun to think about (as if you couldn’t guess). A short while ago, I had the idea/urge to rewrite Maybe in modern terms. I mean, a farmer losing his horse and it coming back with some wild horse friends is very lovely, but how relevant is that to someone living in 2021? With that in mind, below you’ll find two of my attempts at bringing Maybe kicking and screaming into the technological age. The first is intended to be the most realistic. The second is a horror and humour-inspired rewrite with a few twists added to the formula. I hope you like them.

Maybe 2021 Rewrite

There was a young woman who spent her spare time coding a video-game. It was a labour of love that one day, she released. Even though it didn’t make much money, it was hers. Hackers got into her digital platforms and stole her source-code. They cracked it and released the game online for free. “How terrible!” the woman’s friends commiserated. “Maybe,” she replied.

The next day, the woman found that the exposure given to the game by the hackers had resulted in a massive surge in her legitimate game sales. Her game now sat near the top of the indie game charts. “How wonderful!” her friends cheered. “Maybe,” she replied.

The game went on to reach number one. At about this time, a flaw in her code was discovered, one that posed a serious risk to the personal data of the players. News spread and the store forced her to remove it from sale until she could fix the issue. She was unable to, and had to put it on the back-burner, and so the game stayed down. “Such a shame!” her friends comforted her. “Maybe,” she answered.

A short while later, an email landed in her inbox. It was from a large video-game publisher and it offered to buy, fix and distribute her game. The money offered was enough to set the woman up for for at least the next five years. “You’re so lucky!” the people around her cried. “Maybe,” the coder replied.

Maybe Horror Rewrite

One day, the zombie outbreak finally happened. No one really expected the leap from fiction into reality, least of all a young boy and his family. They waded through body-clogged city streets, and finally made it to a military refuge. The other displaced people told them that they were so lucky to get there just before it reached full capacity. “Maybe,” the boy replied, as he had an uncommonly wise head on his young shoulders.

During the night, the family woke to screams and cries, a previously undeclared bite had turned the whole camp into a buffet. The family grabbed what supplies they could and managed to sneak away. The streets stank of gas and fumes. The boy’s mother suggested that a pipe-line had cracked. She warned them not to even use their torches, as the smallest spark might grill them all. “How unlucky!” she hissed. “Maybe,” the boy hissed back, and got a clout for his troubles.

The family crept forward until the air seemed free of the smell of the gas. A rumbling flash of orange lit up the night sky back the way they’d come. The angry roars of cooking zombies floated to the family on the breeze. The father said that they were lucky not to be caught up in that. He stared at the boy, daring him to open his mouth. Maybe, thought the boy.

The family moved on for quite awhile, but it wasn’t long until the whup-whup of a helicopter pounded over their heads. It was heading to where the explosion had happened. It didn’t see the family, it didn’t even turn its searchlight on until it was more than a mile away. “The fire brought it!” the boy said to the glum-faced adults around him. “Fuck me!” he added, for effect. “Talking like that will get you in trouble!” his father warned. “Maybe”, the mother replied, as she watched the buzzing helicopter over the distant rooftops.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Dark Film Review: The Influencer

Dark Film Review: The Influencer

Review by Casey Douglass

The Influencer

Social media is the amplifier of our time. Whatever you bring to it, it boosts it and shoots it out to other people who think like you do, while its algorithms feed similar themes from others, back to you. Certain people become very well known, gaining a massive following that businesses with bundles of cash eye greedily as an untapped revenue stream. The Influencer is a dark comedy thriller that follows one such popular person as they grapple with their “brand”, the lucrative contract that comes their way, and the forces that want to use them as a pawn in their own machinations.

The Influencer

Abbie Rose (Kasia Szarek) is a fashion, makeup and lifestyle vlogger, trying to manage her business and her brand. Nutrocon, an exploitative cosmetic company that treats women badly, tests on animals and pollutes the environment, offers her a tasty contract, one which promises to ease her money worries. Abbie signs and a short time later finds herself suffering a home invasion by bickering masked activists. What then unfolds is a manipulative scheme, one with Abbie as the key component, the activists making use of her large following, her image and the power of technology, to try to pull off their aims.

As a thriller, The Influencer does present the viewer with a number of mysteries to ponder, and I felt that it did a decent job of answering these questions as the story ticked along. I did successfully guess what was happening a number of times, but there were certainly moments that I didn’t see coming. One of these happened almost at the ending, where the actions of one of the characters did cause me to reappraise my opinion about them, which was a pleasing and satisfying surprise.

The Influencer

When a film sees its characters make use of technology or the internet, how these actions are portrayed becomes very important if the viewer has any hope of following along. Thankfully, The Influencer does a really good job of mimicking and representing the social-media apps and websites integral to the story, a smooth, clear user-interface sitting comfortably over the live action beneath. Another aspect that I really enjoyed was Thomas Yount’s electronic, retro-feeling score. It felt like just the right kind of soundtrack, both warm and bouncy yet dark and ominous too.

There is humour in The Influencer, but I have to admit that most of it wasn’t really to my own taste. The element that I found most humorous were the jokes that poked fun at the frequent shallowness of social media, particularly the scenes where Abbie’s captives threatened to release her private, “badly lit” pictures to the world if she didn’t play ball. This sees Abbie crumple to the ground in tears, fearing for her image and her brand, something that Kasia Szarek plays wonderfully. There is also a scene early in the film, where a group of dead-eyed interns fail to be roused by Abbie’s enthusiasm, which did tickle me.

The Influencer

The Influencer is a quirky look at the dark side of how some influencers can behave when large financial enticements become a factor in their lives. Sure, it takes things to extremes, but how often do we see someone raving about the latest video-game, headphones or fashion accessory, and then never mention it again? One of the most poignant quotes from the film for me was “It’s crazy the kind of influence you have when no-one knows who you are!” I’d guess that extends to the influencer in question not knowing themselves properly either, which just goes to show how complicated us humans can be.

Look out for The Influencer from 14 September on streaming platforms including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. It will also be available on DVD and through various cable and satellite TV services.

I was given access to a review copy of this film.

Film Title: The Influencer

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Production Company: Daisy Eagle Films, Wizard Cats

Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures

Written, directed and produced by: Meghan Weinstein

Releases: 14 September 2021

Starring: Kasia Szarek, Shantelle Yasmine Abeydeera, Thea Cantos, Mark Valeriano, Victoria D. Wells, Ian Jones.

Music: Thomas Yount

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Syfynetiks EP

Dark Ambient Review: Syfynetiks EP

Review By Casey Douglass

Syfynetiks EP Album Art

Artificial intelligence is a ripe topic for speculation, the questions of if, when, how and what will happen when it arrives, happily consuming the minds of both scientists and creatives alike. Nyctalllz’s Syfynetiks is a dark ambient space album that provides the soundtrack for what might happen if our own eventual AI made contact with the AI of an alien civilization, without our knowing it. It’s an interesting question. I mean, how would your phone or computer describe you and your characteristics to an alien race? Would you even get mentioned at all? Food for thought.

Syfynetiks contains three tracks, each of which feature a host of sci-fi electronic tones, beeps and drones. It feels like catching hints of voice through radio static while equipment throbs and pulses around you. It feels crisp and indifferent to the eavesdropper, but also rumbling, like the gates of hell might be opening up and there's nothing you can do about it.

The first track is Spacetime’s Crack and it embodies the feeling that I mentioned above. The rumbling opening is buffeted by soaring electronic beeps and sparkles. A rasping distortion rises and falls, like a demon gargling radio-waves, soon to be joined by a strange voice that seems to speak in a stilted, simulated way. This track feels jagged and droning, and is infested with radio swirls and squeals. There are hints of a feminine “ahh-vocal” around the midpoint, making me wonder if I was listening to the two AI’s beginning some kind of virtual fling. I hope that no one is being catfished...

Next up is Spirals of Time. This short track opens with a low buzz, one that sits in a space that feels windy and hollow, but in a simulated, digital kind of way. There is the sound of something spinning up and down, and a low drone. The soundscape feels like it’s boiling and gritty, and that it’s populated by a roaming, warping, electronic harmony. As the track continues, it feels more and more like it has a kind of inhaling and exhaling quality, and feels like it’s fizzing in the air. A strange, rumbling space.

The final track is Parallel Observers. This is a track of chiming tones and rustling static, one with a distorted, digitized impression of nature. It feels almost like being outside, but not. There’s a persistent jackdaw-like chittering in the distance and a low tone that bends and twists upwards. After a short time, a warbly, robot-like voice or tone begins, “dripping” echoes pinging off into some murky distance. This is another track that also feels like it fizzes and pulses. The chimes and echoes create a relaxing yet ominous space, and created a kind of “meditating on the Event Horizon” effect, for me at least.

Syfynetiks is a dark ambient album for lovers of space horror, bleak sci-fi themes, and the alien, magical feel of advanced technology. The three tracks on the EP all give the listener some fascinating spaces to explore, or to witness, and while you might feel quite alone in doing so, the idea that there are two AI’s conversing around you kind of means that alone is the one thing that you are not. Whether you matter, or are even noticed though... that is another question.

Visit the Syfynetiks page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Syfynetiks

Album Artist: Nyctalllz (Morego Dimmer)

Label: Zāl Records

Released: 6 August 2021

Monday, 23 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Mithra

Dark Ambient Review: Mithra

Review By Casey Douglass

Mithra Album Art

It’s a real pity that we can’t hop in, on, or don our own time machine and flit back in time to the periods that interest us. Actually, knowing humans, it’s probably a damn good thing that we can’t. We always seem to want to rewrite history in a purely mental fashion, the damage we’d cause if we could actually go back would probably be apocalyptic. Music is safer. Ager Sonus’ Mithra is a dark ambient, atmospheric journey back to the time of Rome, and to the time of the Cult of Mithras.

Mithra is an album that is very strong on the instrumental front. There are piano notes, strings and horns, to name but a few. There are also plenty of instances of environmental sounds and drones, delicate plucked string notes often sitting easily with the sound of the wind, or the quietly echoing dripping of water. The eight tracks of the album are all pretty smooth and chilled. Mithra feels like the quintessential album to listen to by cosy firelight.

Beneath is one of the tracks that most appealed to me. It opens with a low drone and a vocal-like resonance. The soundscape has the dripping, echoing aesthetic of a cave, with new tones and quiet pipe-like notes emerging as the track progresses. There are swells of pulsing tone, and at some points, a kind of “laughing” feeling suggested itself to me, like something malignant in the atmosphere chuckling at the audacity of humans. This felt like a lovely dark track to me, one of delving into the earth and into a different realm.

Ritual is another track that evoked similar feelings. This track starts with an echoing chiming and what sounds like distant, ghostly vocals. There are string notes, shimmering cymbals and a deep, slow drumbeat. This track felt like it was full of chittering shadows. It’s the kind of track that would accompany someone as they walk into a dark cavern, flaming torch held aloft, strange air currents carrying the distant scent of incense and dark workings to the explorer. Exploration and darkness is a heady mixture.

Mithra wasn’t all darkness and creepiness though. Dawn is a much lighter track, and one that I enjoyed for different reasons. It begins with low string tones and a relaxed piano melody. There is the sound of the wind and a bird chirping. There are footsteps lightly crunching through grass or leaves, a warbling, horn-like tone and a sparkling quality to the soundscape. This, unsurprisingly, felt like seeing the golden sunlight of dawn bathing a peaceful landscape in warm, soft light. The soundscape does have undercurrents of things twisting later on, notes and tones that create a feeling of things not being as idyllic as they appear. I enjoyed this track for this very reason, as things are never wholly good or bad, lucky or unlucky, in my opinion at least.

Mithra is a peaceful dark ambient album, one that takes the listener into landscapes and scenes of yore, mixing in the light and the dark elements in a pleasing ratio and manner. It has a dream-like, magical quality, and also the feeling of antiquity. On a personal note, I also enjoyed that it led my mind to pondering the concepts of Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius etc. as this would also have been around at about the same period as the Cult of Mithras, as far as I’m aware. A very fine album.

Visit the Mithra page on Bandcamp for more information. You can check out the track Ritual below: 

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mithra

Album Artist: Ager Sonus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 26 March 2019

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Review By Casey Douglass

Cenozoic Album Art

The Cenozoic is the current era in which we find ourselves, a period that stretches back sixty six million years. That’s a mind boggling period of time, so Cenozoic is also a great name for a dark ambient album that’s themed around some of the giant mega-creatures that wandered the planet during that period.

Paleowolf’s Cenozoic is described as a collection of tracks that convey a symbolic representation of the force and energy that these creatures embodied, and is also said to be the spiritual successor to Megafauna Rituals, another album themed around the teeth, hooves and thunderous calls of prehistoric life.

Cenozoic makes great use of a variety of human vocals in creating its soundscapes. There are various grunts, huffs and chants, and these are accompanied by atmosphere shaking ritual drum-beats and rattlings. Field recordings are used to great effect too, letting the listener reflect on the wind rustling leaves, and strange knocking impacts that echo back from weathered cave walls and tree trunks.

One of my favourite tracks is Megatherium (a kind of Giant Sloth). It begins with static-like sound and a looming drone. Distant impacts echo through what feel like trees, a shrill pipe note piercing the soundscape, a lower note poking at the atmosphere. There are bird-calls, a slow, thumping beat, a sense of the wind, and wooden knockings and rocky scrapings that feel nearer over time. This soundscape felt like a gentle space, but also a threatening one, one in which a gentle creature is trying to survive, but dangerous predators are only over in the next clearing. I liked this feeling.

Mastodon is another favourite track. This one opens with a fast rumbling drum-beat and an elephantine trumpeting call. A vibrating tone rises and falls, creating a sensation of something unstoppable on the move. A swaying rushing sound soon begins, maybe hinting at fur rippling and rubbing on massive flanks. The beat stops near the midpoint and the space becomes airy before the sounds seep back into a chant-laced second half.

Finally, I really enjoyed the last track of the album: Argentavis (giant bird). I think this track stood out to me because it was a pleasing departure, or change of pace, from the land-based creatures of the previous tracks. This track features the howling wind of altitude, and high quivering pipe tones that sit amongst a low throbbing vibration. A bird-call sounds, and things feel easy and calm. A bird-screech echoes from the hard places, a brief drum-beat sounds, and leads to an airy, agitated second half of the track, like the air is full of busy insects and life trying to survive.

Cenozoic Artbook Image
The album also includes a digital artbook featuring the artwork of Andjelko Kuzmanovic.

Cenozoic is an earthy and yet dreamy visit to a distant time. The field-recorded sounds, chanting and meaty drum-beats often give way to airy, swirling periods of dream-like impressions, beautifully hinting at the shamanic elements of the creatures and the journey to see them. These dreamy periods cleanse the mind of its familiarity with a soundscape, and then let the sounds emerge again, in a kind of second chance to be appreciated. It’s funny how a rhythmic drum-beat that you’re lulled by, suddenly stopping, can be just as interesting as the beat itself. On a personal level, I do slightly prefer Megafauna Rituals over Cenozoic, but this is more to do with the animals featured. They are both very fine albums though.

Visit the Cenozoic page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Megatherium below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Cenozoic

Album Artist: Paleowolf

Label: Prometheus Studio

Released: 26 July 2021

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Submersion

Dark Ambient Review: Submersion

Review By Casey Douglass

Submersion Album Art

I think that almost any time I review a deep underwater dark ambient album, I come away with a fresh appreciation for how dense and abyssal the depths of the ocean can be. Gdanian’s Submersion is another collection of tracks that helped me to remember this impression. It does so by creating glugging, eerie and technological soundscapes, where the listener feels like they are approaching and exploring a strange alien installation, one that sits in the pitch darkness, fathoms below the surface of the sea.

The opening track, Submersion, sets the tone very nicely. A high echoing pulsing tone is met with bassy impacts, strange creature calls and glugs of water. Floating long string notes sweep through the dense-feeling soundscape, a low electronic rhythm hinting at motion and movement. A distorted male voice begins to speak, maybe through a radio-link. This track feels like it places the listener in a vast space, an impression accentuated by the long string notes and booming impacts. I could quite vividly imagine what it might feel like to be the driver of the tiny submersible in the album art, its tiny beams of light barely puncturing the murk around it.

One of my favourite tracks was Strange Forms, as this seemed to hint at the curious lifeforms that might be down there, swimming around in the darkness. The track begins with muted low swells of tone, swells that ring at their edges and meld with a groaning bass sound that seems to ape the rhythm of deep breathing. Brass-like wind notes warble, and a low electronic rhythm echoes along. At times, there are frog-like croaks and the sound of bubbling water. For me, the bass sound in this track was of some unseen leviathan breathing leagues away. The track had a feeling of trespassing, breaching something else’s domain and wondering if it will even notice you.

From track five onwards, it seems that the submersible has entered the larger structure depicted in the album art. There are crackling sparks, the feeling of being enclosed in larger metallic corridors and rooms, and a sense of exploring something new. The track Paradox is another favourite, and for me, it brought an extra dose of sci-fi strangeness. It starts with a low rumbling drone, an echoing electronic beat and a hollow whistling. A vibrating rhythm is joined by tentatively plucked notes and delicate high tones. A rushing sound swells behind them, like the waves of the sea coming and going. This feels somehow, like a whimsical track. The title, when combined with the soundscape, had me thinking about a hollow sphere of energy in a laboratory, flowing sea-waves swirling around and around in its interior. Either that, or a room where the ceiling is covered in rippling water that somehow doesn’t even drip onto the floor. A fun track.

Submersion is a pulsing, flowing, bubbling trip into the depths. Its electronic tones and pulsing throbs seem to ping off into dark, sci-fi, watery places. The suggestive sounds that, for me, hinted at other life-forms, only serve to increase that feeling of the alien or the unknown. Submersion is also a smooth listen, and I think that it’s a great dark ambient album for you to close the curtains, flake out on your bed and nap with.

Visit the Submersion page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the first track below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Submersion

Album Artist: Gdanian

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 10 August 2021

Friday, 13 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Bradley Woods

Dark Ambient Review: Bradley Woods

Review By Casey Douglass

Bradley Woods Album Art

Before the local council had part of it cleared, the small woodland down the road used to have some wonderfully creepy moods. Sometimes, the trees rubbed together, making sounds akin to the Yautja in the Predator films. Other times, the leaves ruffle and crumple in a quite insidious, hushed whisper fashion. Pyewacket’s dark ambient album Bradley Woods, brings the sometimes sinister nature of being alone in the woods, to the comfort of your own headphones, feathering in some tasty folklore for extra atmosphere.

Bradley Woods is an album of uneasy rumbling drones, drones that are buffeted by rustling breezes and punctuated by small twigs snapping, cawing birds and, in the first track, a crying baby. The album is inspired by a folklore tale about the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, a ghost that haunts a woodland in Lincolnshire, England. After losing her husband, being raped and losing her baby, she wandered the woods looking for them, and apparently continues to do so even after death claimed her. The first track having the recording of the baby crying in the first moments certainly sets the scene.

I enjoy dark ambient albums that make strong use of drones, but I also find them a little infuriating, as I get to the end and doubt my impressions far more than usual. I think this is because the maelstrom of sound changes slowly over time, and often leads me to hear things that I think are some kind of audio hallucination. A real life example for me is thinking that I hear the phone ring while I’m in the shower. I can almost swear for certain that I hear it, but it’s just the spraying water and extractor fan fooling my brain. Drones do the same thing, although instead of a ringing phone, it might be an impression of a choral chant or a static-filled whisper.

In general, the elements of each track of Bradley Woods are the collection of tones that make up the rumbling drone, the rustling of leaves in the wind and small sounds or bird-calls, but there are impressions of different atmospheres. Track III for me, felt the darkest, as if something dark is coming. Early on, it has the quality of a swelling ‘Heeeee’ vocal, with the occasional small crackle. After the midpoint, the drone feels like it has a hollow quality, with a more prominent sparkly sound sitting in the swelling of the breeze. There is a section where a chirruping bird sounds quite agitated, along with a cawing crow and a snuffling pressure that slinks through the trees. This track brought to mind the way an eerie quiet can fall when atmospheres change.

Track IV continues the impressions of Track III, and for me, it felt like the thing that was coming has actually arrived. The pulsing, rumbling drone still sits in a rustling, breezy space, but the other incidental sounds, such as bird calls, feel more distant or muffled. There is also a feeling of something tap-tapping near your ear. It might be the kind of muffling that happens when something moves between you and the origin of a sound. You can still hear it, but something feels off, even if you can’t name it. Later in the track, the wind swells feel a bit harsher or sharper against the rumbling, and there are instances of faint knocking on wood, unless I’m imagining things.

As dark as most of the tracks are, after journeying through them, Track VI, the final track, has a more peaceful air to it. I think that I feel this because the drone seems to have an element that has a more Om-like chant quality. I also felt that I heard the tones of a church-bell somewhere in the swirling sounds of the track, but this could have also been an audio illusion. Never the less, I’d like to think that whatever has occurred in the previous tracks, the roaming spectre has maybe found some peace for a short while, before the next period of aimless wandering and searching begins at the least.

I enjoyed my time in the rumbling, folklore-infused version of Bradley Woods. It’s a lulling, sinister dark ambient album, one in which I felt that I was listening to a woodland that is falling into the dark embrace of night. The shadows lengthen and vanish into the murk, the breeze picks up, and the leaves seem impatient. The atmosphere changes, feeling denser and charged with a goosebump-inducing chill, the birds falling mostly quiet... the searching spirit begins to wander.

Visit the Bradley Woods page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Bradley Woods

Album Artist: Pyewacket

Released: 15 June 2020

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Yōkai

Dark Ambient Review: Yōkai

Review By Casey Douglass

Yōkai Album Art

It’s always interesting to see how various cultures experience darkness; the forms that their ghosts and demons take. Yōkai are spirits or entities from Japanese folklore, and Visions of Ulnahar’s Yōkai is a dark ambient album that presents some of these beings, in soundscapes that only dark ambient can really do.

In general, the soundscapes on Yōkai make a great use of insidious sounds: cold and hollow textures, ghostly high tones and shimmers, and echoing, throbbing spaces. Something that a good number of the tracks also do is take advantage of harsher, or at the least, unexpected sounds. These keep the listener focussed but also probably rule Yōkai out as an album to drift off to sleep with, which is something I often like to do.

An example of the kind of unexpected sound that you might hear, can be found in one of my favourite tracks: Your Ghost Danced in the Shadows of Old Trees. The track begins with an undulating vibrating tone and the sound-waves of a cymbal or gong reverberating. Sparkling static and sweeping notes convey a feeling of sadness, and these give way to crackles, a roiling synth tone and a low drone. A number of the sounds on this track end abruptly, before you think they will. Once you pass the midpoint, alongside the piano melody that is playing, a sudden female gasp cuts through the soundscape. It happens a number of times and every time it did, it made me jump. It’s quite rare for anything I’m listening to make me jump, and it’s used very well in this ghostly track.

Summoning is the next track, and also another favourite. It opens with a strange shimmering clattering, one that’s clipped and bedded on rumbling bass. The echoes of said clattering have a kind of digital fuzz at their edges, like you’re listening to data corruption occurring. A low drone begins with muffled crackling in the ears. This is a deep and brooding track, one in which the sudden swells of sound fizz and agitate the soundscape. This track feels like the agitating sounds are stirring the atmosphere, helping whoever is summoning a spirit in their endeavours.

The final track I’m going to mention is Confrontation. It starts with a beat that twists down as it echoes. It feels a little plastic, a bit vibratory. A broken metallic sound joins it, a sensation of a ripping or rendering happening. Then come short snippets of muffled melody and an uneasy feeling of metal under strain. This is another abyssal track, the whistling tones, warm synth, and roaming drones setting up a feeling of protoplasm, beeping technology and sparkling lights in the aether. Fast string notes emerge in the second half, lending the whole thing an urgent feeling of time running out. A fun, spooky track.

Yōkai is a dark ambient album of ghostly manifestation, the battle for control, and quiet roaming sadness. Some of the sounds seem fully under the sway of the Yōkai being evoked, while others seem like the environment or surrounding atmosphere reacting to their presence. Whatever is going on, and however the sounds trigger images in your own mind, the underlying feeling of the supernatural comes through nicely.

Visit the Yōkai page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the title track Yōkai below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Yōkai

Album Artist: Visions of Ulnahar

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 3 July 2021

Monday, 9 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Creepyscapes EP

Dark Ambient Review: Creepyscapes EP

Review By Casey Douglass

Creepyscapes EP Album Art

Sometimes I like my dark ambient music oppressive and unrelentingly dark. At other times, I like the darkness to have a kind of whimsical counter weight, whether that is in the lighter tones in a given soundscape, or just the general vibe given off by a certain track. Roboxel’s Creepyscapes EP falls into this latter category, giving the listener quarter of an hour’s worth of creepypasta-infused “chiptuney” dark ambient music.

The first track, A Creepyscape Intro features an electronic music-box style melody with longer, drawn out string-like tones beneath it. The next track, A Creepyscape, begins with a fast pulsing tone and a kind of bubbling water effect. There is a humming drone, slow pulses of static and later, chiming notes. This track had me thinking about an office late at night, everyone gone home, but each computer screen flickering to life as something dark floats past.

The Darkest Mist, by comparison, feels like an outside track. It starts with what sounds like muffled thunder and the sound of wind. A low buzz emerges, with a gritty distorted sound and a languid springy two-tone melody. This track felt like the audio equivalent of the eye static you might get if you look at fog for too long. The tiny buzz gets into your brain.

Moonlight Storm opens with an electronic bell-like chiming, one with a kind of cat-meow echo. Plinking piano-like notes describe a chill yet ominous melody, with string-style notes and pew-pewing lazer-beam tones emerging around the midpoint. For me, this is the kind of track that would be a great accompaniment to all of the stuffed toys in a bedroom coming to life as soon as the occupant dozes off.

Finally, A Creepyscape II ends the EP, a track of warbling, shimmering, pulsing tones and static, a track that just might be about an abandoned, dirty hall of mirrors, one in which a ghostly figure is trying to decide which reflection it enjoys the most.

Creepyscapes EP is a fun little collection of dark tracks, tracks that manage to create some uncanny atmospheres and feelings of strange events occurring. Head over to the Creepyscapes EP page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out one of the tracks below:

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Creepyscapes EP

Album Artist: Roboxel

Released: 13 March 2020

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Necropolis

Dark Ambient Review: Necropolis

Review By Casey Douglass

Necropolis Cover Art

Sometimes, I get review copies of dark ambient albums, fully intending to review them, but for reasons of health or other life things getting in the way, they slip down in my mind. I do have periods where I go back and try to get to some of them however, and Ager Sonus’ 2018, Egyptian-themed Necropolis, is the target for this review.

The album description of Necropolis sets the scene of someone having awoken in darkness, the ceiling and walls feeling far too close for comfort. The air is lacking, the only sound more than likely the person’s pulse in their ears, and there is a feeling of being buried deep underground. As a reality, that would be scary as hell, but as the mental daydream of someone looking for some peace and quiet, it sounds like just the ticket!

The first track, Buried, cements the scene. There is a rumbling swell of distant sound, framed by falling pebbles that click and pop in the oppressive atmosphere. A drone and a deep slow beat emerge, metallic echoes and clattering sounds birthing a variety of higher tones. Later are piped notes and scuffling sounds, a sense of gritty particles and a hint of whispering and voices. This is a track of shifting earth and claustrophobia, but also of other things moving around in the darkness.

Necropolis is a track where this sense of other things moving comes to fruition. It begins slow and low, a faint rumbling, pulsing sound joined by the sound of a distant beat and a high shimmering tone. As before, some of the tones give a hint of a vocal, but hear them again and they sound like they’re just a tone once more. There are sounds of sliding and scuffling, along with the odd rasping sound. Pipe notes begin around the midpoint, before the track deepens and darkens to a rumbling conclusion. For me, this track described being in a tomb where the long dead are starting to stir and to edge back to life.

I think that my favourite track is probably Of Ashes and Dust. I think that this is partly due to how the swells of malice and the bubbling echoes not only continued the Egyptian burial theme, but also brought to mind some of the elements of the score of Alien. There is an impression of sand sliding through cracked stonework, and in some instances, the sound of dragging and chains. This is a quiet and insidious track, the tones low and relaxed, backed by a howling wind or draught. There is a peaceful male chanting vocal, and a slithering in the shadows. It’s great fun to ponder what is really going on here.

Necropolis is a dark ambient album that takes the listener on a journey deep into an Egyptian tomb. The instruments used evoke a great sense of place, and the field-recordings and rumblings create a dense, dark and soothing series of soundscapes to mentally explore. It’s funny how locations and themes that bring the dead closer to mind can be some of the most relaxing, if you are anything like me that is.

Visit the Necropolis page on Bandcamp for more information. You can check out the track Of Ashes and Dust below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Necropolis

Album Artist: Ager Sonus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 20 Feb 2018

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Black Goat Of The Woods

Dark Ambient Review: Black Goat Of The Woods

Review By Casey Douglass

Black Goat Of The Woods Album Art
Album Art

It’s funny how life changes you. When I was a lot younger, if I thought about going down to the woods, my head was filled with ideas about a teddy bears’ picnic, or occasionally, my then irrational fear of wolves. Nowadays, if I see a particularly dark, moody patch of tree-covered ground, I can’t help but smile and wonder what kind of horror film or novel would suit being set there. Black Mountain Transmitter’s Black Goat Of The Woods is a dark ambient horror soundtrack that takes this second idea and runs with it.

The album description explains that the general idea was, firstly, to make a tip of the hat to Lovecraft and Shub Niggurath, and secondly, to create the soundtrack to a lost horror film, one that happened to be found in a decaying cabin in the deepest part of the woods. What the listener finds in Black Goat Of The Woods is a fuzzing, pulsing, reality distorting swirl of unsettling sounds, eclectic tones and an ever present sense of being alone with something coming for you. This all takes place on one, forty minute long track, with each change in mood or tone flowing in a way that takes you deeper and deeper.

Around the 2:15 mark, things really feel like they get creepy. A variety of low wooden creaking sounds echo into the distance, with a strange piping tone seeming to summon a rumbling, windy space. This is joined by a pulsing, electronic miasma of pressure, like something is building and pressing against reality. I liked the “woody” feeling of this section of the track as it sets the scene so nicely for a jaunt in the woods. The electronic elements add a fun dose of discord to things, almost howling or growling at times. When these give way to a period of melodic pipe notes, it feels just as strange and whimsical.

Just after the 14 minute mark, the chiming of a bell begins, strange echoes and warbles playing off the edge of the sound wave. There is an owl-like hooting pipe tone and a sense of the wind, which immediately sets the scene of night having fallen. There is a fuzzy pulsing and a low throbbing that nestle into airy rushes and electronic fluctuations. Things deepen over some minutes, and the pipe notes seem to gain a yipping female vocal quality. I enjoyed how the same instrument seemingly gave rise to so many impressions, and the bell chiming gives this stretch a nice feeling of time running out.

At the 31:20 mark, a different kind of chiming begins. This is more ritual, more gong-like. The resonance created by whatever is being struck twists and warps downwards, an almost guttural voice warbling in the confusion of sound waves. A low rumble emerges with a gritty, trundling quality to it. There is some reverb that agitates the soundscape, some hints of what might be the flapping of wings, and later, a depressing organ-like melody. If time was running out in the previous section mentioned, I think the end is here at this particular point.

Black Goat Of The Woods is a dark ambient album with a lovely aesthetic for horror fans. At the beginning and the end, there are a few minutes of music to signify the opening and end credit music, and the thirty five minutes in-between is filled with the soundtrack to a waking nightmare on a sunny, hazy day in the woods. This nightmare goes from bad to worse, with night falling, confusion as to where you are, and something sinister with a love of shrill piping notes, following your every move. A fun, dark, fuzzy, retro-feeling horror soundtrack album.

Visit the Black Goat Of The Woods page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Black Goat Of The Woods

Album Artist: Black Mountain Transmitter

Released: 31 October 2009

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Moth Star

Dark Ambient Review: Moth Star

Review By Casey Douglass

Moth Star Album Art

Moth Star is a dark ambient album from Altarmang, a music project created by Kenneth Hansson and Pär Boström. The album is described as an exploration of the patterns formed by the planets and the stars above, with a title that possibly hints at a lone, malevolent star that draws the curious under its influence, like moths to a candle flame.

Opening track Saiph gives a telling introduction to how the album will sound. It begins with an undulating drone and unnerving echoing pulses. A light tone floats and caresses as the deeper layers rumble and swell with ominous sounds. It feels dream-like and desolate, yet also incredibly old. It made me think of a pitch-black landscape with a lone crumbling building, and a moon-light so faint that all it does is give the merest of outlines to the structure. Creepy but fun to “walk” around.

My favourite track is Saturnine. It starts with a low drone and a hollow tube-like buzzing. The soundscape has a chant-like quality and features a relaxed pulsing and throbbing sensation. There are screechy, fuzzy sounds, distortion and blaring tones. There is the sound of metal impacting and sliding, and an agitating static that stirs the mixture. For me, this track felt like listening to some kind of infernal workshop, one that is deep underground and is the hot crucible in which death-dealing machines are birthed.

The final track Moth Star is a fitting end to the album. It feels like a windy, watchful soundscape, one in which the relaxed smooth tone seems to stoke the wind’s waxing and waning. This is a fuzzy, reverb-graced, gritty track, one with a hint of the void and of great forces at work. It’s also a track that feels like the audio equivalent of a giant being blowing all of the dust from a dead planet’s surface while a strange star looks on in glee.

Moth Star is a dark dream in audio form, a dream of the abyss, a dream of unknown influences that have unknowable aims. The soundscapes manage to hook into that Lovecraftian feeling that I really enjoy, that of cosmic horror and of how the human race should cower in the face of forces that could easily obliterate us and think nothing of it. Moth Star feels vast, deep and very dark. If you like your dark ambient to chill your soul in a soothing, almost relaxed fashion, you should check out Moth Star.

Visit the Moth Star page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Moth Star

Album Artist: Altarmang

Released: 21 December 2020

Friday, 30 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Fifth Nature

Dark Ambient Review: Fifth Nature

Review By Casey Douglass

Fifth Nature Album Cover

One of the main consequences of social media and its “instant stardom for extreme view holders” is that thinking in shades of grey is sadly a rare thing to see. Everything boils down to a “with us or against us” standpoint, with the nuance and complexity of an issue banished to the side-lines. Fifth Nature is a cinematic dark ambient album from Skrika, one that contains a narrative featuring two sides of just such an issue.

Fifth Nature’s album description explains that the events that it depicts are happening in the distant future, that the Earth is fucked, and that the remaining people are split into two different camps: The Lemmites and the Atom Priesthood. The former think that even more technological intervention is the answer, the latter, that nature should be left alone and not meddled with. This sets the scene for sometimes mechanical, sometimes biological, sometimes ritual soundscapes, with chants and field recordings of the natural elements brushing up against sci-fi electronic tones.

My favourite track is Apokrytein. It begins with a deep droning chant and an ear to ear rushing sound. A male vocal begins to sing, a sighing quality in the soundscape behind it at times. When the singing stops, the soundscape fills with hushed whispers and more sensations of flowing air. A deeper sacral chanting begins, and shortly after, a floating high tone. A guttural throat gurgle insinuates itself from the shadows just before a choral vocal starts, the same guttural sound seeming to laugh a short time later. For me, this track felt like a temple peppered with flickering candle-flames, a sermon and the faithful gathered for solace and guidance, with a strange, mutated and unknown visitor chuckling as it peeps through a gap in the wall from the outside.

Another track that really stood out for me was Mechanics of Desolation. This is a rumbling track, with hints of wind that has a faint howling quality. There is a hollow, echoing beat and a bat-like chittering in response, followed by slow, chiming beats. This track feels like it’s “of the junk-yard”, metallic knocks and tones that all come together to create a rhythmic soundscape. There is a roulette-wheel clicking, a gas-like hiss and a grinding stone scraping. It has a feel of rattling bones too, and many of the elements come together at times to create the impression of a doomsday clock ticking away in some dark cathedral.

Seventh Extinction is also a track that I particularly enjoyed. It starts with a low drone and an electronic growl nestled amidst the sound of wind. String-like notes weave in the air and a breathless scuffling can be heard in the soundscape. Higher tones emerge later, along with an organ-like feel to things. This track felt like some kind of angry android trying to perform a task but getting bogged down by the rot and decay that it finds itself in.

Fifth Nature is a journey into a bleak future, one where technology and faith clash together on the battlefield of a ruined Earth. The two main characters mentioned in the album description do reconcile, but apparently, far too late to save the planet. It’s a multi-layered, dark album, one that presents the various elements at play in an accomplished and satisfying way. I look forward to hearing more of Skrika’s creations on Cryo Chamber.

Visit the Fifth Nature page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Apokrytein below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Fifth Nature

Album Artist: Skrika

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 20 July 2021