Wednesday 12 May 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Back to Beyond

Dark Ambient Review: Back to Beyond

Review By Casey Douglass

Back to Beyond

Back to Beyond is a dark, space ambient album from Alphaxone and ProtoU, and is the follow up to their 2017 album Stardust. The album description tells tale of a long journey into the vastness of space, mysterious black-hole-emitted golden dust causing the protagonist some consternation. There is also the issue of the protagonist’s cat performing zero-G acrobatics as it tries to feed.

Quantum Zero is one of the tracks that I enjoyed the most. It begins with small ticks or clicks, a sound that put me in mind of hot metal that is slowly cooling. There is a whining noise and the muffled feel of static, and then, a tone a little like a distant train whistle. An airy drone rumbles through the soundscape, the clicks beginning to echo into a larger space. There is a pulsing tone and a little later, deeper vibrations. Towards the end of the track, beeps and radio frequency sweeps can be heard, and what sounds like paper being scuffed. For me, Quantum Zero felt like it described a vast reactor or engine room, one that has recently fallen silent and is in the process of simmering down.

Dreams of Solace is another track that stood out for me. It opens with chuffing air movements and an “air blowing down a ribbed plastic tube” vibration. A rushing sound roams the soundscape, and what might be doors hissing open and closed. Electronic warbles and a long sweeping tone manifest, small trills and whistles in the distance joining them. Towards the end of the track, the sounds of movement through a metal vent seem to be heard. I felt like this track was the best match for the cover art of the album above, the pipes etc. It also, for some reason, brought to mind a scene in the film Brazil, where Robert De Niro turns up and messes with the pipes and tubing in the wall.

Finally, The Edge of Perception is a track that I enjoyed because it felt “watery” to me. That’s not to say literally water-filled, but there are elements to the audio that seemed to impose a distortion to things, a little like how water muffles and warps sound. It starts with a low, airy drone, a distant dripping, and a closer echoing knocking joins things. There is a low, voice-like call or groan, and a deeper rumbling fuzz. There is also a persistent high “ahh” vocal that sits uneasily above things. This is an echoing, flowing track with swells and the sounds of impacts in long corridors. For all of that, it is a warm track, the flowing melodies that come in near the midpoint setting a lovely contrast with the rasping hisses and echoes. Maybe this track is the sci-fi equivalent of a lonely alien minotaur at the heart of a labyrinth made out of cold metal.

Back to Beyond was, for me, the soundtrack to being on a long space journey. Many of the tracks feature metallic vibrations, muted clicks and beeps, and the hisses of atmosphere escaping from pressurised containment. For the most part, it seemed an album of smooth tones, small sounds and mechanical objects buzzing into the void. The darkness it displays is tempered by the warmth it also contains. It’s a bit like the difference between seeing zombies on your lawn in the light of the full moon, compared to seeing them in golden sunlight, while dew is still dangling from spiderwebs and birds are chirping their morning chorus. Both scenes could be horrifying, but the second has its own beauty.

Visit the Back to Beyond page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Quantum Zero below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Back to Beyond

Album Artists: Alphaxone & ProtoU

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 4 May 2021