Thursday 16 September 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Dark Ambient Review: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Review By Casey Douglass

Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us Art

Illness, and the threat of illness, have been staples of life for the last 18 months. Thanks Covid! Fear peddling, u-turns in public guidance, and the loss of many things that people take for granted, have picked up the glitter-covered dog turd that is life, lifted it to pursed lips and blown away the damned glitter. It’s no real surprise that Covid has become the inspiration for many creative projects. Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us is a dark ambient album from The Great Schizm, one that gives audio expression to the pandemic madness.

The album contains two long tracks, each of which were created at different times during the pandemic. The first, Corona, was created in Spring 2020, the time of the first lockdown in the UK. The second, Mutation, during the first six months of 2021, taking in the third lockdown, the explosion of a number of more infectious variants, and the vaccine rollout. The album description also explains that there was limited access to equipment during this time period, so I’d imagine that this imposed a fair few creative constraints on the project, or at the least, required a different way of thinking about certain things. (As a small aside, Ian Bogost’s book: Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, The Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games, is a worthy read on the notion of constraints aiding fun and creativity.) 

The first track, Corona, for me, had elements of an “abandoned factory” aesthetic. There’s a drone, clinking glass, hissing and hints of voices. A wind-like howl transforms into what seems like a warped radio transmission, and on into a more concrete voice. There are breath-like swells in the soundscape, sensations of mechanical movement and low vibrations. The track felt like walking through a large rusty inside space, weaving through rusted machinery, feet crunching on gritty concrete, golden sunlight fighting its way through dirt encrusted, high-up windows. As the midpoint approaches, things change into a quieter space, with what feels like a building rasping hiss that peaks in a distant, rumbling detonation. And this repeats a number of times. This second space feels more peaceful and lighter in many ways, quivering tones and warbling notes creating a feeling of things having moved on but still being bleak.

Track two, Mutation, for me, felt like a more “outdoorsy” space. It seemed windy and deserted, with church bells chiming above silent streets and birds chirping. It basically has a 28 Days Later vibe, although the early part of the film, not the “being chased by rabid sprinting zombies” part. Around the five minute mark, the impression of a number of whistles even gave me the idea of gangs hunting the streets, whistling in communication with each other. There are moments where I felt like I was inside again though, such as the time it felt like I was in an abandoned train-station, a dark chanting tone and faint gong impact seeming to suggest some kind of cult eking out an existence among the debris of the nine to five life. Things change up around the twenty minute mark however, when the sounds in the soundscape, such as a kind of marching rhythmic beat, led me to pondering if a robot police force was out on patrol. Yes, for me, this track was a little bit horror and a little bit science fiction. A pleasing mixture.

Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us is currently set to Name Your Price on Bandcamp. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys facing the darkness of life head on, not turning away and losing yourself in fluffy distractions, head over to the album page and take a closer look.

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

Album Title: Corona - This Global Sickness Conspires Against Us

Album Artist: The Great Schizm

Label: Cloud Hunter Records

Released: 30 April 2020 / June 2021