Saturday 6 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Dead Dreamer Tapes

Dark Ambient Review: The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)

Review by Casey Douglass

The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)

I love dark ambient music that uses big sounds and drones to create feelings of awe or uneasiness. I also love it when an album manages to conjure those feelings in a more understated way. The Dead Dreamer Tapes comes from Death on Cassette, a side project of Iron Cthulhu Apocalypse, and it falls into this latter style of album.

Before I even get to the music, I have to say that I really love the album cover. It looks like an apartment building in hell, or at the least, some post apocalyptic landscape where who knows what is running wild and free. I particularly enjoy the bottom right hand corner, where on first impression, the sky or whatever it is, is behind the edge of the tower, but on another appraisal, it appears to be closer to the viewer than the edge of the tower. That uneasy feeling of “is it or isn’t it” is further bolstered by the sounds on the album.

The Dead Dreamer Tapes consists of four, 14 minute tracks, each of which has an insidious sound that rumbles along in a calm, purposeful way. The tracks are all different, but they also share so much in feeling and tone. In my memory, I struggle to differentiate them, but my notes detail the way that they each gave me different impressions. Each track has a soundscape that seems to convey a certain theme. The first felt like walking through moonlit concrete corridors. The second felt like utter darkness. The third felt grey and the fourth felt like technology, somehow.

First Tape Side A probably goes down as my favourite track. It begins with a low, hum-like drone and an unnerving, gentle whistling sound. A bassy throbbing begins, a hiss and hollow tone appearing a short time later. This track’s soundscape created such a pregnant atmosphere of desolation, but also of not being alone. The whistling sound seems to latch on to my notions of old sci-fi whizzes and beeps, leading me to think of the moon and the vast distances of space. When teamed with the cover art above, I felt like I was wandering through that hellish tower block, with just enough moonlight shining through the gaping window holes to see the mottled concrete. On a side note, the bass at times had me lifting my headphones off to listen to the outside world, because it sounded exactly like a helicopter flying over my house, which was both funny and uncanny.

I also really enjoyed First Tape Side B. The track opens with a rumbling and a warbling, distant-feeling high tone. There seems to be a rush of air or movement, and a low tone that at times, seems to make the rest of the soundscape sputter and warp. I also thought that I might have heard the muffled sound of distant impacts. This track for me, felt like something was looming over me, and that, if I was still roaming the same decrepit tower block, I was deep in the basement levels, where the air is baking hot and the darkness is like tar. Like the first track, the distant, whining high tone, when matched with the throbbing sounds, created a feeling of both eeriness, and of distant power.

I found The Dead Dreamer Tapes to be a bit of an enigma, but in a good way. Even though I’ve listened to it at least three or four times, two of those back to back, I find the tracks difficult to write about. Sure, I seem to have just done that very thing, but it feels unsatisfactory, like the words are just fussing around the edges of something. It’s a very enjoyable album to listen to, and it certainly creates some uneasy dark feelings with its soundscapes. I think you should head over to the Bandcamp page below and check it out.

Visit the The Dead Dreamer Tapes page on Bandcamp for more information.

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

Album Title: The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)

Album Artist: Death on Cassette

Released: 19 Jan 2021