Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Abductee

Dark Ambient Review: Abductee

Review By Casey Douglass

Abductee Album Art

When I briefly flirted with New Age instrumental music, before I discovered dark ambient, one of my favourite CDs was about UFOs and aliens. It even had a shiny-eyed grey alien on the cover. Looking back, it was quite a dark album, but if you compared it to Mombi Yuleman’s dark ambient Abductee... well, its a little like comparing a pink unicorn to a denizen from one of the levels of Hell. That’s a good thing, in Mombi’s favour, just to be clear. Unless you have a thing for pink unicorns of course.

Abductee takes its inspiration from the many stories of human and alien interaction that can be found in the Fortean media, and sometimes, in the mainstream. I dare say that there are some notions from horror and sci-fi films and novels in there too, as the subject often provides fertile ground for creepy tales to be told. Abductee contains ten tracks that seem to take the listener on a journey with a hapless abductee, beginning in a forest and taking in hurried chases, furtive exploration, and being returned home at the end of things.

Mombi does a great job of weaving in sounds that seem to embody the subject matter wonderfully. The foremost comes from a number of tracks that feature a kind of ‘rustling plastic’ aesthetic. I don’t know about you, but for me, with the theme of the album in mind, this has the feeling of something medical, something experimental going on. Another prominent stable of sounds are the hissing, beeping radio-like swirls of static and electronic tones. Technology certainly plays its role. And of course, there are those fleshy, screeching, biological sounds that hint at strange creatures and other humans nearby. These three elements meld together so well to create a feeling of being onboard a dank alien craft, a new horror lurking around almost every corner.

Cocoons is a track that depicts the creepy exploration aspect mentioned above. It begins with a swirling, pulsing sci-fi tone and a hint of trickling water. There is a faint, distant high tone and a drone that begins with a sparkle for accompaniment. String-like notes sway and flow, a light melody begins, and a sense of chittering things flying around came through to me. Towards the end of the track, groans can be heard as the atmosphere begins to judder. It probably comes as no surprise that this track conjured visions of rooms full of strange cocoons to my mind, rooms complete with victims begin absorbed into their fleshy walls.

Medical Examination (feat. Noctilucant) is another fine track, one that, for obvious reasons, felt the most medical of them all. The opening sound is the thump of a beating heart. There are bubbling sounds, mechanical equipment whooshing, and an echoing beat that seems to take on the mantle of a clock ticking. There are swells of tone and hiss. There is an impression of juddering, and around the midpoint, a hollowness. Certain of the tones seem to embody a kind of sharpness, their clipped, metallic nature sitting nicely in a soundscape of whirring, pulsing, chiming activity. Flowing beneath all of this are the deep roaming droning tones that bathe everything in an atmosphere of darkness. I really enjoyed this track.

Finally, Grays is another track that I wanted to single out, as it has a majesty all of its own. It opens with a deep drone and a sparkling chime. There are plopping sounds, strange cries and an airy, sinister feeling. A chant-like droning begins, a whistling quality at its edges. It feels very meditative, but also otherworldly, as someone might feel when witnessing something never before seen. Bass impacts reverberate and agitate the soundscape into more strange cries. A rattle-snake hissing and echoing knockings emerge, with radio swirls and a low gritty clicking. As the track reaches its last third, a kinetic, pulsing rhythm begins, tinny squeaks nestling into the wall of drone. For me, this track was about someone finally seeing the answer to a question that they had half feared to know.

Abductee is a dark ambient album that simmers with interplanetary threat, but rather than the “space will crush you” variety, seeds its soundscapes with beings that have a more personal, a more fleshy interest in the targets of their attention. The fact that they seemingly don’t want to kill but simply to experiment or alter, adds an extra layer of mystery and uncertainty to what might actually be happening. This feeling, taken with the sounds Mombi has woven into his ten dark tracks, makes Abductee an album well worth checking out.

Visit the Abductee page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Abductee

Album Artist: Mombi Yuleman

Released: 24 September 2021

Friday, 8 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Creation of a Star

Dark Ambient Review: Creation of a Star

Review By Casey Douglass

Creation of a Star Album Art

Creation of a Star is a dark space ambient album from Planet Supreme, his first release on the Cryo Chamber label. The album and artist names both embody a very apt sense of vastness, as this is also aligned with the feelings evoked by the music itself. Warm sci-fi tones, sweeps, and drones, create impressions of large expanses, gigantic mega-structures, and technology sculpting the worlds it reaches.

An example of said technology and vast feelings is described well by one of my favourite tracks: Scanners. The track opens with the impression of a big, rotating thing, one perforated by the squeals and flares of electronic signals. Things settle into a gently droning space, deeper swells of tone nestling into a machine-like hum. For me, this track brought to mind a space-based vista, maybe a planet looking out on an asteroid belt being mined by gigantic refineries. It’s a little melancholy with the distance it contains, and the latter part of the track seems to have low tones that put me in mind of an old man grumbling. Maybe he’s a miner who lost his job to the bright, new, automated future.

Speaking of robots and automation, another track that stood out for me was Machina, a track that seemed rife with android-based gurgles and growls. A faint shimmer joins them, and a gentle throb that shoots into the distance at times. High tones sit above a low vibrating buzzing, with steadily climbing electronic tones offsetting the shimmer. There is an ah-like feeling around the midpoint of the track, a gentle state of affairs agitated by an irritated tone, and a whooshing, pulsing soundscape. This could be the junk yard where the obsolete models of robot end their “lives”, even our successors getting to experience the pain of being surpassed.

Genetic Cargo is another track that served up some pleasing imagery, something that I noted down as “egg-shell ambience”. It opens with a low drone and dripping, rain-like crackling echoes. Small electronic warbles and tones judder, with longer, deeper tones soon joining. A warm tone takes up residence in the soundscape, a low rhythm and synth notes coming along for the ride. This track felt like it depicted some kind of wet, moist, likely smelly, cargo hold, one with who knows what living in the containers in the shadows. The crackles of this track, and the two tracks that follow, put me a little in mind of the ways that artists Mount Shrine and Proto U sometimes treat rain or wind field-recordings too, so if you enjoy either of those musicians, you should take a closer listen.

Creation of a Star is a chilled, yet warm slice of space ambience. It’s the kind of album that’s an ideal accompaniment for relaxation, as there is little here that jars or agitates the mind. My mind at least. If you are looking out for some space-based sci-fi ambience, you should head over to the Bandcamp page below to check it out.

Visit the Creation of a Star page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Scanners below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Creation of a Star

Album Artist: Planet Supreme

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 31 August 2021