Wednesday 21 July 2021

Dark Ambient Review: La Peste

Dark Ambient Review: La Peste

Review By Casey Douglass

La Peste

La Peste is a dark ambient collaboration between Vallée des Larmes & Catacombes de Paris, one that takes the period of The Black Death as its fevered muse. You’d think that I’d have no real appetite for listening to music themed around plagues and mass death right now, but strangely, I do. Maybe it’s because, for all its effect on the world, Covid-19 is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. If it was a virus which proved fatal to everyone who caught it however... the thought just boggles the mind.

The tracks of La Peste fall under the stewardship of each of the creators. Vallée des Larmes’ creations tend to feature distorted music and noise-filled vocals, while Catacombes de Paris’ soundscapes tend to fall into what feels more like the dark ambient genre that I know and love. For the most part, I gravitated more towards Catacombes de Paris’ tracks for this reason, but Vallée des Larmes’ are certainly something to be experienced.

Stella Caeli Exstir Pavit is the opening track of the album, and is from Vallée des Larmes. It begins with cracking thunder and a variety of voices and singing. These are underpinned by deep swells of tone and later, a high radio-like squeal. A repetitive sound-bite says “Shut your eyes and you’ll burst into flames”, and at the midpoint, a violent distorted beat accompanied by a chirruping sound agitates the soundscape into a harsher, forceful space. The smooth voices, the dark words and the harshness set up interesting conflicts, and the way that the track ends with monk chanting is very pleasing. It feels like a battle of wills and outlooks crashing against death.

My favourite tracks comes from Catacombes de Paris, and are Ritual I, II and III. The first opens with a slow, chiming beat and echoing plucked vibrating strings. There is a rasping insidious whisper, and a sparkling shimmer. Around the midpoint, there are small moments of a faster drumbeat that reverberate into the distance, and a crumping impact sounds at times. Ritual II comes a little later on the album, and is a deep, rumbling soundscape, with a high tone that crackles and distorts, and a breath-infused, droning, marching-beat infused space. Ritual III follows hot on its heels and is a knocking, echoing space, with screeching metal tones, quiet blares of sound and delicate chiming notes. I enjoyed all three tracks as they felt like three dark scenes or places. They felt deep, powerful and vast, and like strange forces were moving in the abyss.

La Peste might well be a battle between the human and spiritual elements that were around during the time of The Black Death. The voice and distorted music populated tracks from Vallée des Larmes could be seen as the human side, their words and songs trying to stem the flow of death. The hissing, mysterious cavernous soundscapes of Catacombes de Paris might well be the response from “the other side”. This notion didn’t occur to me until I sat to write this review but it seems quite apt as a way to view things. Regardless, if like me, you give yourself some kind of therapy by deliberately basking in worst-case scenarios, scenarios that make what has actually happened seem less extreme, I think you’ll find tracks to enjoy on La Peste.

Visit the La Peste page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: La Peste

Album Artist: Vallée des Larmes & Catacombes de Paris

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 3 July 2021