Sunday 28 March 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Radioactive Immersion

Dark Ambient Review: Radioactive Immersion

Review By Casey Douglass

Radioactive Immersion

At times, the beauty and courage of the dark ambient genre strikes me as if I’m discovering it for the first time. Sitting here, trying to decide how to begin this review, reading the album description of Radioactive Immersion, a collab between Dronny Darko and Ajna, it hit me again. An album steeped in desolation, peril, and set in the aftermath of a disaster? What other genre of music offers something so fucking cool?

Said album description depicts the gloomy exploration of dark tunnels, humans edging warily into the pitch black of a space where old, murderous technology sits in standby mode. There is mention of mutated plants, a fungal forest, and hazmat-suited bodies being embraced into strange cocoons. Call it a hunch, but I suspect you could happily wander around in such an environment and not have to give two shits about Covid. Sometimes a different peril is as much of a tonic as a holiday.

Radioactive Immersion features soundscapes that paint a bleak cinematic picture of the events that the listener might be listening to. There are tiny, Geiger-counter-like clicks, there are muted beeps, the sound of dripping water, and the squeaking rattling of metal things as they move, either by human hand or in some other manner. The first track, Anomalous Gravity Distortion, is a prime example. It opens with a clicking, and a ghostly drone, a warm hum bleeding through from beneath. It creates a hollow, echoing space, with hints of insect-like twitching and movement. It feels like walking down a long tunnel. After awhile, you are treated to the sound of subdued radio-voices and the sounds of what might be a generator whining. There is a radio-static hiss and a puttering, and a windy rushing sound that almost masks the small beeps and squeals of equipment. The clicking takes off, like microwave popcorn gaining heat, leaving you with a soundscape that manages to feel both hot and chilly, quiet and busy, at the same time.

Plutonium Clouds (feat. ProtoU) is one of my favourite tracks. It begins with distant echoing impacts. They repeat again and again, almost taking on the mantle of some kind of giant machine or bellows pushing air around the tunnel system. A warm drone grows, shortly followed by a shrill train-whistle sound. Later come high, hopeful tones and a vocal-like “ahh” quality. This track billows and swells with impressions of murky distance, a bit like how the sun can make a meadow mist shine. Just imagine the same thing underground, with a nuclear glow and rattling metal. I like the peacefulness of this track, and how that gets peeled back to utter grimness when you stop to think about it more deeply.

Another of my favourite tracks is Mutated DNA. A resonant tone falls over time and reversed, clipped tones begin to chop into the air. Strange beeps, pops and plinking tones deepen this effect, some of them sounding distinctly wet. It creates a really odd space, and really brought to mind the way DNA might suddenly warp or twist, like a random twitch entering the face of a motionless meditator. It just happens. After the midpoint, the track feels full of scurrying movement and egg-shell cracking birthing. I guess, to my mind, it made something half cockroach, half David Cronenberg creation.

Radioactive Immersion is a dark ambient album that carries the listener along the buzzing, mist-filled tunnels of a disaster. The echoing impacts, crumbling brickwork and rattling metal barriers all seem to vie with the strange wind that fills the lungs of the place. Curious creatures and corrupted vegetation live there now, and I wonder how long it might be before they decide to claim some of the world above for their own use. A great album.

Visit the Radioactive Immersion page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Plutonium Clouds below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Radioactive Immersion

Album Artists: Dronny Darko & Ajna

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 9 Mar 2021