Tuesday 23 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Taibhsear

Dark Ambient Review: Taibhsear

Review by Casey Douglass


Taibhsear is a dark ambient album from the Scottish Borders-based ElectronicDeathBlackDogs. The album description describes it as a collection of dismal visions, and explains that Taibhsear is the Scots Gaelic name for some kind of mystic or seer. The tracks are the Taisbean, or visions, and are numbered as such. I guess it’s little wonder that, upon listening to it, my mind took me on flights of fancy that contained dark woodlands, strange magick and cackling witches.

Taibhsear, for me, was an album containing sounds that brought about the bleak tang of medieval squalor. My mind furnished me with recollections of the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film, particularly the sinister witch that I'll admit I found quite scary, watching it as a ten year old in the early 90s. Not as scary as the companion Bryan Adams love song that infested the airwaves for what felt like forever, but that’s a different story. What Taibhsear brought back for me, was the mud, the squalor, the brutality and the harshness of the film’s setting.

For me, the five tracks (there is also a continuous mix as track six) painted the picture of one location but across different periods in history, my own little mental narrative depicting people first settling there, then a witch taking up residence in the woods, getting attacked, taking her revenge and finally, a war breaking out. This last impression was formed by the machine-gun like sounds punching their way at intervals, through track five’s soundscape, hinting at time having moved on.

I noted “Witch attacked?” in my notes to track two, which is where the “witchiness” began for me. The track opens with a low boiling buzz, high tones dancing around above it. There is the beat of a drum and a creaking noise, like an arrow hitting its mark and splintering wood. The sound of tortured strings vibrates in the air. Distant metallic clattering vies with a windy static-like sound, higher tones blaring and shimmering at the top of things. An arrow impacts and judders again, a yell close on its heels. The track ends with a squeaky tone that begins to cut through the listener’s ears, before things settle once more. Maybe this track is the witch taking up residence in her hovel, the locals firing at it as they hunt to keep her at bay? I’d like to think so.

If the previous track is the witch being attacked, the next one, for me, was her fighting back. Cawing birds and the sound of the wind gets things going, alongside a deep bass tone and dead leaf rustling. A swelling tone begins, and what sounds like distant voices can be heard. There are moments of breathing in this track, sounds similar to a massive inhalation or a prolonged sigh. It’s insidious and watchful, and I really enjoyed that. A woman’s voice gasping a “hah” can be heard too, maybe as the witch draws a blade across her palm for some magickal mischief. Later, a more vigorous “hah” sounds, followed by a crash and the sound of cascading wood. Slow string notes inject an oppressive feeling to things, like a mist that hangs around all day but never lifts. This is a brooding, eventful track, and one full of threat.

The final track that I'll describe is track four, as in this track, for me, the witch got her revenge on the yokels foolish enough to pester her. This track begins with a rushing sound accompanied by jittery high notes. Voices roam in the listener’s ears, ghostly and half-formed. A sacral chant simmers beneath everything, with echoes and a blaring horn-like tone appearing later. A crying sound can be heard, like that of someone in pain, wondering why no one will help them. Whispers chunter at the edges, and a deep impact sounds. As the track continues, the crying/moaning voice seems to become more bestial, more animal, a snort escaping pained lips. I think the witch is turning someone into a pig, or something far worse. I loved this track.

Taibhsear certainly lived up to its album description and delivered some intriguingly dismal visions. While your mind might not go down the same path that mine did, the general ominous feeling it captures, and the brooding nature of the soundscapes will almost certainly unlock some equally dark impressions for you.

Visit the Taibhsear page on Bandcamp for more information.

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

Album Title: Taibhsear

Album Artist: ElectronicDeathBlackDogs

Released: 6 Feb 2021