Thursday 26 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Syfynetiks EP

Dark Ambient Review: Syfynetiks EP

Review By Casey Douglass

Syfynetiks EP Album Art

Artificial intelligence is a ripe topic for speculation, the questions of if, when, how and what will happen when it arrives, happily consuming the minds of both scientists and creatives alike. Nyctalllz’s Syfynetiks is a dark ambient space album that provides the soundtrack for what might happen if our own eventual AI made contact with the AI of an alien civilization, without our knowing it. It’s an interesting question. I mean, how would your phone or computer describe you and your characteristics to an alien race? Would you even get mentioned at all? Food for thought.

Syfynetiks contains three tracks, each of which feature a host of sci-fi electronic tones, beeps and drones. It feels like catching hints of voice through radio static while equipment throbs and pulses around you. It feels crisp and indifferent to the eavesdropper, but also rumbling, like the gates of hell might be opening up and there's nothing you can do about it.

The first track is Spacetime’s Crack and it embodies the feeling that I mentioned above. The rumbling opening is buffeted by soaring electronic beeps and sparkles. A rasping distortion rises and falls, like a demon gargling radio-waves, soon to be joined by a strange voice that seems to speak in a stilted, simulated way. This track feels jagged and droning, and is infested with radio swirls and squeals. There are hints of a feminine “ahh-vocal” around the midpoint, making me wonder if I was listening to the two AI’s beginning some kind of virtual fling. I hope that no one is being catfished...

Next up is Spirals of Time. This short track opens with a low buzz, one that sits in a space that feels windy and hollow, but in a simulated, digital kind of way. There is the sound of something spinning up and down, and a low drone. The soundscape feels like it’s boiling and gritty, and that it’s populated by a roaming, warping, electronic harmony. As the track continues, it feels more and more like it has a kind of inhaling and exhaling quality, and feels like it’s fizzing in the air. A strange, rumbling space.

The final track is Parallel Observers. This is a track of chiming tones and rustling static, one with a distorted, digitized impression of nature. It feels almost like being outside, but not. There’s a persistent jackdaw-like chittering in the distance and a low tone that bends and twists upwards. After a short time, a warbly, robot-like voice or tone begins, “dripping” echoes pinging off into some murky distance. This is another track that also feels like it fizzes and pulses. The chimes and echoes create a relaxing yet ominous space, and created a kind of “meditating on the Event Horizon” effect, for me at least.

Syfynetiks is a dark ambient album for lovers of space horror, bleak sci-fi themes, and the alien, magical feel of advanced technology. The three tracks on the EP all give the listener some fascinating spaces to explore, or to witness, and while you might feel quite alone in doing so, the idea that there are two AI’s conversing around you kind of means that alone is the one thing that you are not. Whether you matter, or are even noticed though... that is another question.

Visit the Syfynetiks page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Syfynetiks

Album Artist: Nyctalllz (Morego Dimmer)

Label: Zāl Records

Released: 6 August 2021

Monday 23 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Mithra

Dark Ambient Review: Mithra

Review By Casey Douglass

Mithra Album Art

It’s a real pity that we can’t hop in, on, or don our own time machine and flit back in time to the periods that interest us. Actually, knowing humans, it’s probably a damn good thing that we can’t. We always seem to want to rewrite history in a purely mental fashion, the damage we’d cause if we could actually go back would probably be apocalyptic. Music is safer. Ager Sonus’ Mithra is a dark ambient, atmospheric journey back to the time of Rome, and to the time of the Cult of Mithras.

Mithra is an album that is very strong on the instrumental front. There are piano notes, strings and horns, to name but a few. There are also plenty of instances of environmental sounds and drones, delicate plucked string notes often sitting easily with the sound of the wind, or the quietly echoing dripping of water. The eight tracks of the album are all pretty smooth and chilled. Mithra feels like the quintessential album to listen to by cosy firelight.

Beneath is one of the tracks that most appealed to me. It opens with a low drone and a vocal-like resonance. The soundscape has the dripping, echoing aesthetic of a cave, with new tones and quiet pipe-like notes emerging as the track progresses. There are swells of pulsing tone, and at some points, a kind of “laughing” feeling suggested itself to me, like something malignant in the atmosphere chuckling at the audacity of humans. This felt like a lovely dark track to me, one of delving into the earth and into a different realm.

Ritual is another track that evoked similar feelings. This track starts with an echoing chiming and what sounds like distant, ghostly vocals. There are string notes, shimmering cymbals and a deep, slow drumbeat. This track felt like it was full of chittering shadows. It’s the kind of track that would accompany someone as they walk into a dark cavern, flaming torch held aloft, strange air currents carrying the distant scent of incense and dark workings to the explorer. Exploration and darkness is a heady mixture.

Mithra wasn’t all darkness and creepiness though. Dawn is a much lighter track, and one that I enjoyed for different reasons. It begins with low string tones and a relaxed piano melody. There is the sound of the wind and a bird chirping. There are footsteps lightly crunching through grass or leaves, a warbling, horn-like tone and a sparkling quality to the soundscape. This, unsurprisingly, felt like seeing the golden sunlight of dawn bathing a peaceful landscape in warm, soft light. The soundscape does have undercurrents of things twisting later on, notes and tones that create a feeling of things not being as idyllic as they appear. I enjoyed this track for this very reason, as things are never wholly good or bad, lucky or unlucky, in my opinion at least.

Mithra is a peaceful dark ambient album, one that takes the listener into landscapes and scenes of yore, mixing in the light and the dark elements in a pleasing ratio and manner. It has a dream-like, magical quality, and also the feeling of antiquity. On a personal note, I also enjoyed that it led my mind to pondering the concepts of Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius etc. as this would also have been around at about the same period as the Cult of Mithras, as far as I’m aware. A very fine album.

Visit the Mithra page on Bandcamp for more information. You can check out the track Ritual below: 

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mithra

Album Artist: Ager Sonus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 26 March 2019

Thursday 19 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Review By Casey Douglass

Cenozoic Album Art

The Cenozoic is the current era in which we find ourselves, a period that stretches back sixty six million years. That’s a mind boggling period of time, so Cenozoic is also a great name for a dark ambient album that’s themed around some of the giant mega-creatures that wandered the planet during that period.

Paleowolf’s Cenozoic is described as a collection of tracks that convey a symbolic representation of the force and energy that these creatures embodied, and is also said to be the spiritual successor to Megafauna Rituals, another album themed around the teeth, hooves and thunderous calls of prehistoric life.

Cenozoic makes great use of a variety of human vocals in creating its soundscapes. There are various grunts, huffs and chants, and these are accompanied by atmosphere shaking ritual drum-beats and rattlings. Field recordings are used to great effect too, letting the listener reflect on the wind rustling leaves, and strange knocking impacts that echo back from weathered cave walls and tree trunks.

One of my favourite tracks is Megatherium (a kind of Giant Sloth). It begins with static-like sound and a looming drone. Distant impacts echo through what feel like trees, a shrill pipe note piercing the soundscape, a lower note poking at the atmosphere. There are bird-calls, a slow, thumping beat, a sense of the wind, and wooden knockings and rocky scrapings that feel nearer over time. This soundscape felt like a gentle space, but also a threatening one, one in which a gentle creature is trying to survive, but dangerous predators are only over in the next clearing. I liked this feeling.

Mastodon is another favourite track. This one opens with a fast rumbling drum-beat and an elephantine trumpeting call. A vibrating tone rises and falls, creating a sensation of something unstoppable on the move. A swaying rushing sound soon begins, maybe hinting at fur rippling and rubbing on massive flanks. The beat stops near the midpoint and the space becomes airy before the sounds seep back into a chant-laced second half.

Finally, I really enjoyed the last track of the album: Argentavis (giant bird). I think this track stood out to me because it was a pleasing departure, or change of pace, from the land-based creatures of the previous tracks. This track features the howling wind of altitude, and high quivering pipe tones that sit amongst a low throbbing vibration. A bird-call sounds, and things feel easy and calm. A bird-screech echoes from the hard places, a brief drum-beat sounds, and leads to an airy, agitated second half of the track, like the air is full of busy insects and life trying to survive.

Cenozoic Artbook Image
The album also includes a digital artbook featuring the artwork of Andjelko Kuzmanovic.

Cenozoic is an earthy and yet dreamy visit to a distant time. The field-recorded sounds, chanting and meaty drum-beats often give way to airy, swirling periods of dream-like impressions, beautifully hinting at the shamanic elements of the creatures and the journey to see them. These dreamy periods cleanse the mind of its familiarity with a soundscape, and then let the sounds emerge again, in a kind of second chance to be appreciated. It’s funny how a rhythmic drum-beat that you’re lulled by, suddenly stopping, can be just as interesting as the beat itself. On a personal level, I do slightly prefer Megafauna Rituals over Cenozoic, but this is more to do with the animals featured. They are both very fine albums though.

Visit the Cenozoic page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Megatherium below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Cenozoic

Album Artist: Paleowolf

Label: Prometheus Studio

Released: 26 July 2021

Sunday 15 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Submersion

Dark Ambient Review: Submersion

Review By Casey Douglass

Submersion Album Art

I think that almost any time I review a deep underwater dark ambient album, I come away with a fresh appreciation for how dense and abyssal the depths of the ocean can be. Gdanian’s Submersion is another collection of tracks that helped me to remember this impression. It does so by creating glugging, eerie and technological soundscapes, where the listener feels like they are approaching and exploring a strange alien installation, one that sits in the pitch darkness, fathoms below the surface of the sea.

The opening track, Submersion, sets the tone very nicely. A high echoing pulsing tone is met with bassy impacts, strange creature calls and glugs of water. Floating long string notes sweep through the dense-feeling soundscape, a low electronic rhythm hinting at motion and movement. A distorted male voice begins to speak, maybe through a radio-link. This track feels like it places the listener in a vast space, an impression accentuated by the long string notes and booming impacts. I could quite vividly imagine what it might feel like to be the driver of the tiny submersible in the album art, its tiny beams of light barely puncturing the murk around it.

One of my favourite tracks was Strange Forms, as this seemed to hint at the curious lifeforms that might be down there, swimming around in the darkness. The track begins with muted low swells of tone, swells that ring at their edges and meld with a groaning bass sound that seems to ape the rhythm of deep breathing. Brass-like wind notes warble, and a low electronic rhythm echoes along. At times, there are frog-like croaks and the sound of bubbling water. For me, the bass sound in this track was of some unseen leviathan breathing leagues away. The track had a feeling of trespassing, breaching something else’s domain and wondering if it will even notice you.

From track five onwards, it seems that the submersible has entered the larger structure depicted in the album art. There are crackling sparks, the feeling of being enclosed in larger metallic corridors and rooms, and a sense of exploring something new. The track Paradox is another favourite, and for me, it brought an extra dose of sci-fi strangeness. It starts with a low rumbling drone, an echoing electronic beat and a hollow whistling. A vibrating rhythm is joined by tentatively plucked notes and delicate high tones. A rushing sound swells behind them, like the waves of the sea coming and going. This feels somehow, like a whimsical track. The title, when combined with the soundscape, had me thinking about a hollow sphere of energy in a laboratory, flowing sea-waves swirling around and around in its interior. Either that, or a room where the ceiling is covered in rippling water that somehow doesn’t even drip onto the floor. A fun track.

Submersion is a pulsing, flowing, bubbling trip into the depths. Its electronic tones and pulsing throbs seem to ping off into dark, sci-fi, watery places. The suggestive sounds that, for me, hinted at other life-forms, only serve to increase that feeling of the alien or the unknown. Submersion is also a smooth listen, and I think that it’s a great dark ambient album for you to close the curtains, flake out on your bed and nap with.

Visit the Submersion page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the first track below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Submersion

Album Artist: Gdanian

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 10 August 2021

Friday 13 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Bradley Woods

Dark Ambient Review: Bradley Woods

Review By Casey Douglass

Bradley Woods Album Art

Before the local council had part of it cleared, the small woodland down the road used to have some wonderfully creepy moods. Sometimes, the trees rubbed together, making sounds akin to the Yautja in the Predator films. Other times, the leaves ruffle and crumple in a quite insidious, hushed whisper fashion. Pyewacket’s dark ambient album Bradley Woods, brings the sometimes sinister nature of being alone in the woods, to the comfort of your own headphones, feathering in some tasty folklore for extra atmosphere.

Bradley Woods is an album of uneasy rumbling drones, drones that are buffeted by rustling breezes and punctuated by small twigs snapping, cawing birds and, in the first track, a crying baby. The album is inspired by a folklore tale about the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, a ghost that haunts a woodland in Lincolnshire, England. After losing her husband, being raped and losing her baby, she wandered the woods looking for them, and apparently continues to do so even after death claimed her. The first track having the recording of the baby crying in the first moments certainly sets the scene.

I enjoy dark ambient albums that make strong use of drones, but I also find them a little infuriating, as I get to the end and doubt my impressions far more than usual. I think this is because the maelstrom of sound changes slowly over time, and often leads me to hear things that I think are some kind of audio hallucination. A real life example for me is thinking that I hear the phone ring while I’m in the shower. I can almost swear for certain that I hear it, but it’s just the spraying water and extractor fan fooling my brain. Drones do the same thing, although instead of a ringing phone, it might be an impression of a choral chant or a static-filled whisper.

In general, the elements of each track of Bradley Woods are the collection of tones that make up the rumbling drone, the rustling of leaves in the wind and small sounds or bird-calls, but there are impressions of different atmospheres. Track III for me, felt the darkest, as if something dark is coming. Early on, it has the quality of a swelling ‘Heeeee’ vocal, with the occasional small crackle. After the midpoint, the drone feels like it has a hollow quality, with a more prominent sparkly sound sitting in the swelling of the breeze. There is a section where a chirruping bird sounds quite agitated, along with a cawing crow and a snuffling pressure that slinks through the trees. This track brought to mind the way an eerie quiet can fall when atmospheres change.

Track IV continues the impressions of Track III, and for me, it felt like the thing that was coming has actually arrived. The pulsing, rumbling drone still sits in a rustling, breezy space, but the other incidental sounds, such as bird calls, feel more distant or muffled. There is also a feeling of something tap-tapping near your ear. It might be the kind of muffling that happens when something moves between you and the origin of a sound. You can still hear it, but something feels off, even if you can’t name it. Later in the track, the wind swells feel a bit harsher or sharper against the rumbling, and there are instances of faint knocking on wood, unless I’m imagining things.

As dark as most of the tracks are, after journeying through them, Track VI, the final track, has a more peaceful air to it. I think that I feel this because the drone seems to have an element that has a more Om-like chant quality. I also felt that I heard the tones of a church-bell somewhere in the swirling sounds of the track, but this could have also been an audio illusion. Never the less, I’d like to think that whatever has occurred in the previous tracks, the roaming spectre has maybe found some peace for a short while, before the next period of aimless wandering and searching begins at the least.

I enjoyed my time in the rumbling, folklore-infused version of Bradley Woods. It’s a lulling, sinister dark ambient album, one in which I felt that I was listening to a woodland that is falling into the dark embrace of night. The shadows lengthen and vanish into the murk, the breeze picks up, and the leaves seem impatient. The atmosphere changes, feeling denser and charged with a goosebump-inducing chill, the birds falling mostly quiet... the searching spirit begins to wander.

Visit the Bradley Woods page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Bradley Woods

Album Artist: Pyewacket

Released: 15 June 2020

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Yōkai

Dark Ambient Review: Yōkai

Review By Casey Douglass

Yōkai Album Art

It’s always interesting to see how various cultures experience darkness; the forms that their ghosts and demons take. Yōkai are spirits or entities from Japanese folklore, and Visions of Ulnahar’s Yōkai is a dark ambient album that presents some of these beings, in soundscapes that only dark ambient can really do.

In general, the soundscapes on Yōkai make a great use of insidious sounds: cold and hollow textures, ghostly high tones and shimmers, and echoing, throbbing spaces. Something that a good number of the tracks also do is take advantage of harsher, or at the least, unexpected sounds. These keep the listener focussed but also probably rule Yōkai out as an album to drift off to sleep with, which is something I often like to do.

An example of the kind of unexpected sound that you might hear, can be found in one of my favourite tracks: Your Ghost Danced in the Shadows of Old Trees. The track begins with an undulating vibrating tone and the sound-waves of a cymbal or gong reverberating. Sparkling static and sweeping notes convey a feeling of sadness, and these give way to crackles, a roiling synth tone and a low drone. A number of the sounds on this track end abruptly, before you think they will. Once you pass the midpoint, alongside the piano melody that is playing, a sudden female gasp cuts through the soundscape. It happens a number of times and every time it did, it made me jump. It’s quite rare for anything I’m listening to make me jump, and it’s used very well in this ghostly track.

Summoning is the next track, and also another favourite. It opens with a strange shimmering clattering, one that’s clipped and bedded on rumbling bass. The echoes of said clattering have a kind of digital fuzz at their edges, like you’re listening to data corruption occurring. A low drone begins with muffled crackling in the ears. This is a deep and brooding track, one in which the sudden swells of sound fizz and agitate the soundscape. This track feels like the agitating sounds are stirring the atmosphere, helping whoever is summoning a spirit in their endeavours.

The final track I’m going to mention is Confrontation. It starts with a beat that twists down as it echoes. It feels a little plastic, a bit vibratory. A broken metallic sound joins it, a sensation of a ripping or rendering happening. Then come short snippets of muffled melody and an uneasy feeling of metal under strain. This is another abyssal track, the whistling tones, warm synth, and roaming drones setting up a feeling of protoplasm, beeping technology and sparkling lights in the aether. Fast string notes emerge in the second half, lending the whole thing an urgent feeling of time running out. A fun, spooky track.

Yōkai is a dark ambient album of ghostly manifestation, the battle for control, and quiet roaming sadness. Some of the sounds seem fully under the sway of the Yōkai being evoked, while others seem like the environment or surrounding atmosphere reacting to their presence. Whatever is going on, and however the sounds trigger images in your own mind, the underlying feeling of the supernatural comes through nicely.

Visit the Yōkai page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the title track Yōkai below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Yōkai

Album Artist: Visions of Ulnahar

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 3 July 2021

Monday 9 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Creepyscapes EP

Dark Ambient Review: Creepyscapes EP

Review By Casey Douglass

Creepyscapes EP Album Art

Sometimes I like my dark ambient music oppressive and unrelentingly dark. At other times, I like the darkness to have a kind of whimsical counter weight, whether that is in the lighter tones in a given soundscape, or just the general vibe given off by a certain track. Roboxel’s Creepyscapes EP falls into this latter category, giving the listener quarter of an hour’s worth of creepypasta-infused “chiptuney” dark ambient music.

The first track, A Creepyscape Intro features an electronic music-box style melody with longer, drawn out string-like tones beneath it. The next track, A Creepyscape, begins with a fast pulsing tone and a kind of bubbling water effect. There is a humming drone, slow pulses of static and later, chiming notes. This track had me thinking about an office late at night, everyone gone home, but each computer screen flickering to life as something dark floats past.

The Darkest Mist, by comparison, feels like an outside track. It starts with what sounds like muffled thunder and the sound of wind. A low buzz emerges, with a gritty distorted sound and a languid springy two-tone melody. This track felt like the audio equivalent of the eye static you might get if you look at fog for too long. The tiny buzz gets into your brain.

Moonlight Storm opens with an electronic bell-like chiming, one with a kind of cat-meow echo. Plinking piano-like notes describe a chill yet ominous melody, with string-style notes and pew-pewing lazer-beam tones emerging around the midpoint. For me, this is the kind of track that would be a great accompaniment to all of the stuffed toys in a bedroom coming to life as soon as the occupant dozes off.

Finally, A Creepyscape II ends the EP, a track of warbling, shimmering, pulsing tones and static, a track that just might be about an abandoned, dirty hall of mirrors, one in which a ghostly figure is trying to decide which reflection it enjoys the most.

Creepyscapes EP is a fun little collection of dark tracks, tracks that manage to create some uncanny atmospheres and feelings of strange events occurring. Head over to the Creepyscapes EP page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out one of the tracks below:

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Creepyscapes EP

Album Artist: Roboxel

Released: 13 March 2020

Saturday 7 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Necropolis

Dark Ambient Review: Necropolis

Review By Casey Douglass

Necropolis Cover Art

Sometimes, I get review copies of dark ambient albums, fully intending to review them, but for reasons of health or other life things getting in the way, they slip down in my mind. I do have periods where I go back and try to get to some of them however, and Ager Sonus’ 2018, Egyptian-themed Necropolis, is the target for this review.

The album description of Necropolis sets the scene of someone having awoken in darkness, the ceiling and walls feeling far too close for comfort. The air is lacking, the only sound more than likely the person’s pulse in their ears, and there is a feeling of being buried deep underground. As a reality, that would be scary as hell, but as the mental daydream of someone looking for some peace and quiet, it sounds like just the ticket!

The first track, Buried, cements the scene. There is a rumbling swell of distant sound, framed by falling pebbles that click and pop in the oppressive atmosphere. A drone and a deep slow beat emerge, metallic echoes and clattering sounds birthing a variety of higher tones. Later are piped notes and scuffling sounds, a sense of gritty particles and a hint of whispering and voices. This is a track of shifting earth and claustrophobia, but also of other things moving around in the darkness.

Necropolis is a track where this sense of other things moving comes to fruition. It begins slow and low, a faint rumbling, pulsing sound joined by the sound of a distant beat and a high shimmering tone. As before, some of the tones give a hint of a vocal, but hear them again and they sound like they’re just a tone once more. There are sounds of sliding and scuffling, along with the odd rasping sound. Pipe notes begin around the midpoint, before the track deepens and darkens to a rumbling conclusion. For me, this track described being in a tomb where the long dead are starting to stir and to edge back to life.

I think that my favourite track is probably Of Ashes and Dust. I think that this is partly due to how the swells of malice and the bubbling echoes not only continued the Egyptian burial theme, but also brought to mind some of the elements of the score of Alien. There is an impression of sand sliding through cracked stonework, and in some instances, the sound of dragging and chains. This is a quiet and insidious track, the tones low and relaxed, backed by a howling wind or draught. There is a peaceful male chanting vocal, and a slithering in the shadows. It’s great fun to ponder what is really going on here.

Necropolis is a dark ambient album that takes the listener on a journey deep into an Egyptian tomb. The instruments used evoke a great sense of place, and the field-recordings and rumblings create a dense, dark and soothing series of soundscapes to mentally explore. It’s funny how locations and themes that bring the dead closer to mind can be some of the most relaxing, if you are anything like me that is.

Visit the Necropolis page on Bandcamp for more information. You can check out the track Of Ashes and Dust below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Necropolis

Album Artist: Ager Sonus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 20 Feb 2018

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Black Goat Of The Woods

Dark Ambient Review: Black Goat Of The Woods

Review By Casey Douglass

Black Goat Of The Woods Album Art
Album Art

It’s funny how life changes you. When I was a lot younger, if I thought about going down to the woods, my head was filled with ideas about a teddy bears’ picnic, or occasionally, my then irrational fear of wolves. Nowadays, if I see a particularly dark, moody patch of tree-covered ground, I can’t help but smile and wonder what kind of horror film or novel would suit being set there. Black Mountain Transmitter’s Black Goat Of The Woods is a dark ambient horror soundtrack that takes this second idea and runs with it.

The album description explains that the general idea was, firstly, to make a tip of the hat to Lovecraft and Shub Niggurath, and secondly, to create the soundtrack to a lost horror film, one that happened to be found in a decaying cabin in the deepest part of the woods. What the listener finds in Black Goat Of The Woods is a fuzzing, pulsing, reality distorting swirl of unsettling sounds, eclectic tones and an ever present sense of being alone with something coming for you. This all takes place on one, forty minute long track, with each change in mood or tone flowing in a way that takes you deeper and deeper.

Around the 2:15 mark, things really feel like they get creepy. A variety of low wooden creaking sounds echo into the distance, with a strange piping tone seeming to summon a rumbling, windy space. This is joined by a pulsing, electronic miasma of pressure, like something is building and pressing against reality. I liked the “woody” feeling of this section of the track as it sets the scene so nicely for a jaunt in the woods. The electronic elements add a fun dose of discord to things, almost howling or growling at times. When these give way to a period of melodic pipe notes, it feels just as strange and whimsical.

Just after the 14 minute mark, the chiming of a bell begins, strange echoes and warbles playing off the edge of the sound wave. There is an owl-like hooting pipe tone and a sense of the wind, which immediately sets the scene of night having fallen. There is a fuzzy pulsing and a low throbbing that nestle into airy rushes and electronic fluctuations. Things deepen over some minutes, and the pipe notes seem to gain a yipping female vocal quality. I enjoyed how the same instrument seemingly gave rise to so many impressions, and the bell chiming gives this stretch a nice feeling of time running out.

At the 31:20 mark, a different kind of chiming begins. This is more ritual, more gong-like. The resonance created by whatever is being struck twists and warps downwards, an almost guttural voice warbling in the confusion of sound waves. A low rumble emerges with a gritty, trundling quality to it. There is some reverb that agitates the soundscape, some hints of what might be the flapping of wings, and later, a depressing organ-like melody. If time was running out in the previous section mentioned, I think the end is here at this particular point.

Black Goat Of The Woods is a dark ambient album with a lovely aesthetic for horror fans. At the beginning and the end, there are a few minutes of music to signify the opening and end credit music, and the thirty five minutes in-between is filled with the soundtrack to a waking nightmare on a sunny, hazy day in the woods. This nightmare goes from bad to worse, with night falling, confusion as to where you are, and something sinister with a love of shrill piping notes, following your every move. A fun, dark, fuzzy, retro-feeling horror soundtrack album.

Visit the Black Goat Of The Woods page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming it from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Black Goat Of The Woods

Album Artist: Black Mountain Transmitter

Released: 31 October 2009

Sunday 1 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Moth Star

Dark Ambient Review: Moth Star

Review By Casey Douglass

Moth Star Album Art

Moth Star is a dark ambient album from Altarmang, a music project created by Kenneth Hansson and Pär Boström. The album is described as an exploration of the patterns formed by the planets and the stars above, with a title that possibly hints at a lone, malevolent star that draws the curious under its influence, like moths to a candle flame.

Opening track Saiph gives a telling introduction to how the album will sound. It begins with an undulating drone and unnerving echoing pulses. A light tone floats and caresses as the deeper layers rumble and swell with ominous sounds. It feels dream-like and desolate, yet also incredibly old. It made me think of a pitch-black landscape with a lone crumbling building, and a moon-light so faint that all it does is give the merest of outlines to the structure. Creepy but fun to “walk” around.

My favourite track is Saturnine. It starts with a low drone and a hollow tube-like buzzing. The soundscape has a chant-like quality and features a relaxed pulsing and throbbing sensation. There are screechy, fuzzy sounds, distortion and blaring tones. There is the sound of metal impacting and sliding, and an agitating static that stirs the mixture. For me, this track felt like listening to some kind of infernal workshop, one that is deep underground and is the hot crucible in which death-dealing machines are birthed.

The final track Moth Star is a fitting end to the album. It feels like a windy, watchful soundscape, one in which the relaxed smooth tone seems to stoke the wind’s waxing and waning. This is a fuzzy, reverb-graced, gritty track, one with a hint of the void and of great forces at work. It’s also a track that feels like the audio equivalent of a giant being blowing all of the dust from a dead planet’s surface while a strange star looks on in glee.

Moth Star is a dark dream in audio form, a dream of the abyss, a dream of unknown influences that have unknowable aims. The soundscapes manage to hook into that Lovecraftian feeling that I really enjoy, that of cosmic horror and of how the human race should cower in the face of forces that could easily obliterate us and think nothing of it. Moth Star feels vast, deep and very dark. If you like your dark ambient to chill your soul in a soothing, almost relaxed fashion, you should check out Moth Star.

Visit the Moth Star page on Bandcamp for more information.

I reviewed this album by streaming from the Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Moth Star

Album Artist: Altarmang

Released: 21 December 2020