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