Wednesday 27 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Threshold

Dark Ambient Review: Threshold

Review by Casey Douglass


In this time of pandemic, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being watched and judged by others. I know this, because I find myself judging people more often too, and I’m usually pretty hot on the old mindfulness stuff. I do eventually realise that I don’t really know a single thing about where someone is going or why, which is something I guess. This watchful state, either as watcher or “watchee”, it’s not an enjoyable feeling. Strangely, switch things to imagining that I’m walking in a haunted woodland, being watched by strange beings in the trees, or watching them in turn, and I find that flight of fancy very enjoyable. It’s this latter feeling that Quiet Dusk’s dark ambient album Threshold brought to the surface for me.

The feeling of being watched began with the opening track: Everything is Known. It opens with a radio-hum, the rustle of rain-fall and pulsing deep tones. There is the “click” of something opening in the echoing space, a resonant chiming, and warping, clipped tones. A little later, the whispers begin, with slow tinkling notes, and what sounds like quiet reversed speech. What this track brought to mind was the notion of watching something that you really shouldn’t be watching. Maybe you’re walking through the woods and you witness a little door opening in a tree trunk a little way ahead. A strange creature rushes out and disappears into the leaves. Then you notice every tree has such a door, and little windows to go with them, and every one of them contains glowing eyes watching you.

I really liked Everything is Known, but another favourite track for me was Walking Vessels, partly because it still left me in this watchful woodland space. Walking Vessels begins with a drone and a smooth pulsing or throbbing. The drone is like a light air-craft flying lazily in the sky. There is also the rustle of wind and rain, hence the woodland notion appeared for me once more. A buzzing joins the drone, one that might best be described as a bee-hive hum, but one you can feel as well as hear. There is another sound that made me think of something opening or closing again, and possibly footsteps. Towards the end of the track, a small engine seems to start, more lawnmower than car. Maybe the denizens of the wood have stolen it and are using it as a generator? Who knows?!

Another fun track is Under The Skin, as it contains an interesting sound effect that made the soundscape feel off balance, in a nice way. It starts with a resonant shimmering sound, and a pulsing note that sounds as if it’s being made by someone breathing down a flute. A fuzzing, knocking sounds in the right ear, which when combined with the airiness in the left, creates a lovely feeling of lopsidedness. Not in a literal “I feel off-balance” way, but in the impression it gives. I don’t know why I liked it but I did. This knocking softens a little later, and is replaced by a whiny electronic, gnat-like tone. The second half of the track features some interesting vibrations and high tones, and finishes with a distant female voice talking about death, and how “there never was a real me”.

The last track that I wanted to mention is, funnily enough, the last track on the album: Gasoline Demons. This track starts with a harsh, buzzing note that appears at a slow interval. The sounds that join it in the echoing space seem a bit like robots chuntering or debating about something. Some warble and squawk, others hoot more like cuckoos. A whistling element joins, a drone too. After the half way point, an “exhale-like” sound appears for a time, and the soundscape feels like it deepens. The “robots” still debate and haunt the place however. I guess my mind latched onto the gasoline part of the title, more than the demonic part. Gasoline-fuelled robots arguing over who gets the body of a dying person in an abandoned gas station? Could well be...

Threshold is an album that, for me, created many moments of the “being watched” vibe that I spoke about above, alongside other moments of uneasy strangeness. In many ways, the music only hints at the things that could be happening or that are causing the sounds, and this leaves a lot of space for the imagination to fill in the gaps. It’s a bit like the difference between seeing a ghost compared to just the feeling of one passing by and setting your body on edge for no apparent reason. I found the soundscapes smooth and lulling, and a fun place to let my mind roam, and I think you might too.

Visit the Threshold page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also have a click around in the full album on YouTube below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Threshold

Album Artist: Quiet Dusk

Released: 13 Jan 2021