Saturday 19 June 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Umbra Report

Dark Ambient Review: The Umbra Report

Review By Casey Douglass

The Umbra Report

When it comes to fiction or the imagination, I’m a fan of strange rooms. These rooms are often the kinds of space that might once have been a lounge or a dining room, but that have since been converted or adapted for peculiar experiments. Maybe a room has been cleared so that a séance can take place. Maybe the room is untouched and scientific equipment has been added to monitor something unseen. I just like this mixture of the mundane and the bizarre. Cities Last Broadcast’s The Umbra Report is a dark ambient album that embodies this feeling in audio form.

My favourite track is Disembodied. It begins with a rumbling drone, one populated with scratchy higher tones and static. This feels like a trembling soundscape, like everything is a quiver with strange energy. The image that came to mind to describe this track is a group of fairy beings, e.g. pixies, elves, etc. Said beings are coming down from a magic mushroom high, sprawled about on the floor of a dilapidated mouldy squat. A purer tone sprinkles a sense of sadness over things, and the overall impression that I got was that of someone being out of their usual place and time, disconnected, but not necessarily in a healthy way. It felt very dark to me.

Stares Back is another track that stood out for me. It starts with a raspy, sigh-like sound, a deeper tone soon quietly blooming into life. An airy drone sits behind things, a humming and resonant tone soon follow. The rasping sound twists into a sense of tortured strings and squeals, and faint impacts can be heard thudding at various times. This track felt like what might be going on in someone’s mind as they stare into a mirror, playing a game of “who is the real person” with the reflection. I dare say that in this case, when they turn away, they don’t see the reflection still staring daggers at their back. Just how it should be.

Wherever the Heart Goes is another rich and atmospheric track. Beyond the windy-feeling and rustling, beyond the hints of breathing and static, there emerges what sounds like heavy stone objects sliding. I couldn’t shake the mental impressions gathered from watching many films in which stone temple walls slide, sink or rotate, and with the track title in mind, I fancied I was listening to some strange, dark oubliette of the heart, a soundscape of shifting exploration and deeper ensnarements. It was very cool to listen to.

The Umbra Report is a scratchy, static-filled album, its soundscapes populated by distorted voices, strange throbbing atmospheres, and drones that cloak the whole in a warm, breathing darkness. There are hints and impressions of musical melodies and singing, but they are soon claimed by the more esoteric elements and shredded into a strange, otherworldly waiting-room ambience. The album description hints at the depicted events as being a possible depression, séance or exorcism, but whatever is actually occurring, its certainly creepy and fun to listen to.

See also: Black Stage of Night and The Humming Tapes for more rich, occult-atmospheres.

Visit the The Umbra Report page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Disembodied below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: The Umbra Report

Album Artist: Cities Last Broadcast

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: June 1 2021