Thursday 18 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Shapeshifter

Dark Ambient Review: Shapeshifter

Review by Casey Douglass

Album Cover

At one point or another, who hasn’t wanted to turn into someone, or something, else? I know I’ve wanted to, many many times. Something more powerful, less afraid, more capable. Kehseverin’s dark ambient album Shapeshifter seems to be the soundtrack for just such a change, the track names hinting at some kind of werewolf skin-shedding going on.

The first track, Bitter Root, caused me to think about someone watching TV and getting high. Maybe this person isn’t even looking for a “change”, but just wants the discomfort or the pain of life to go away for awhile. The track opens with a kind of cacophonous, channel-jumping feel, a droning tone coming along for the ride. A piercing metallic tone also emerges, the soundscape seeming to swell and loom as the listener hears snatches of TV voices. A little later, a blaring horn-like tone sounds and a low hum begins. The soundscape seems to shimmer and to fill with a bouncing fuzz. Near the end, a static-like rain falls and things start to feel lighter, like the change has already taken place and things already feel a little bit better for it.

Next up comes Lycanthropy, a track that seems to further cement the transformation that has occurred. It begins with small crackles and a bassy drone. An echoing space opens up, and a very faint chant-like tone seems to suggest itself in the far distance. A pregnant pulsing tone begins, joined by an expanding electronic melody with bouncing notes and jaunty, retro-horror energy. A buzzing shimmer floats in the air. At this point the soundscape feels quite discordant and brooding. In the second half of the track, as things come to a close, a wind or crowd-noise sound can be heard, a quiet melody echoing away too. For me, this either meant that the TV watcher was still high and out of their mind with sport on the TV, or they’d ventured into the woods to run and to hunt and to do bestial things.

The final track is Overlapping Consciousness. This track really did seem to suggest an outdoor space. It opens with wind, knocking trees and gritty flowing water or rain. All of these familiar sounds are manipulated into an echoey, strange-sounding version of themselves. There is an insect-like buzz, bird chirping and a deep vibrating tone. The “outside” feel of this track persists throughout, and it makes me wonder where the newly transformed person is going. A morose melody begins near the midpoint, before the sounds of nature re-emerge more strongly again towards the end. Maybe the wanderer is revelling in the feeling and the sensing of everything, even what the creatures of the landscape are feeling and seeing. It’s a great track, one where the everyday sounds of nature sound so amplified and sinister.

Shapeshifter is a brief dark ambient album, and while this adds to its punch, I would have been equally happy if it contained a few more tracks to enjoy. It is an album full of vibrating atmospheres and a strange malevolence, a soundtrack to the otherworldly in a rare instance when it encroaches on this reality. I like how it seemed to anchor stuff in the mundanity of the everyday, and then warped it into something that would be great fodder for an 80s horror flick.

Visit the Shapeshifter page on Bandcamp for more information.

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

Album Title: Shapeshifter

Album Artist: Kehseverin


Released: 2 Feb 2021