Saturday 23 October 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Nostromo

Dark Ambient Review: Nostromo

Review By Casey Douglass

Nostromo Album Art

Two of my most common internet searches are “dark ambient” and “alien”. Sleep Research Facility’s dark ambient album Nostromo has blipped on my motion tracker any number of times, but it’s only recently that I actually got around to checking it out. If you asked me why it’s taken me so long, I honestly have no idea. The album initially released in 2001 and was later remastered in 2007, complete with an extra bonus track. It is the 2007 version that I am taking a look at here.

Nostromo is an album inspired by the first eight minutes of the film Alien, the description setting the various tracks up as a journey through the decks of the ill-fated vessel. One of the things that I really enjoy about the Alien series of films is the harsh bleakness of the universe, a feeling boosted by the unnerving score, the industrial visuals and of course the unbridled hostility of the Xenomorph. It feels sharpest in the original trilogy but I still think it’s there in the latest offerings, to some degree. What I hoped for from Nostromo, was a series of tracks that tapped into this “bleakness”, hopefully by way of evoking some of the sounds and moods of Alien. It didn’t disappoint.

The album opens with A-Deck, a track that is based around a pulsing rumbling throbbing bass sound that feels like it’s rolling along narrow metal corridors and poking its way through the darkness. A growing, rougher tone and an airy shushing shimmer meld with it soon after, distant muted impacts creating the impression of vast machinery working. It’s toward the end of A-Deck and into B-Deck that one of my favourite sounds appears however.

By the time B-Deck arrives, the listener is listening to tinny, twisting electronic echoes, crispy static, and my aforementioned favourite sound, an understated echoing clicking. This clicking puts me firmly in mind of the small clicks of a motion tracker when it isn’t detecting any movement, just the quiet tick-tick-tick to show that it’s actually working. Other sounds swirl around this, with pulsing bass flowing and ebbing at intervals too. Again, another track that had me feeling like I was roaming a space vessel that is in hibernation mode, the barest glimmer of status lights all that shines from any reflective surfaces nearby.

C-Deck is a static-filled, quietly beeping track, one that shimmers and feels a little lighter. Maybe this is the deck where the life-support lives. At the least, the tones at times seemed a little like a mellow “ahh” tone to me, lending this track a more peaceful, though still dark quality. D-Deck starts with fast pulsing bass that is soon joined by quiet static, vibrating deep tones and flurries of subtle beeps. This feels more “engine roomy” than anything, the rotating whirring that comes later maybe even hinting at ventilation fans. It’s a very lulling track.

E-Deck sees us back in the static again, static that is soon punctuated by somehow sonorous chiming bass tones. It feels meditative, but even the static starts to pulse and react to the bass reverberations. There is also a high whining tone sitting comfortably behind things, one that again, seems to take on the general pulsing quality of the track. Narcissus is a bonus track that didn’t appear on the original album released in 2001, and it’s a great one to finish the album with. It’s a higher pitched, buzzing track, with sounds that fizz and roam from ear to ear. There is a light resonance to it, and a growing pulsing building agitation to the roaming tones. It feels like sanctuary, stress and hope. It deepens as it passes the midpoint, and slowly simmers with slow, possibly cryo-sleep breathing-like sounds as it plays out.

Nostromo is a lovingly dark yet peaceful tour of one of sci-fi and horror’s most well-known spaceships. It’s an album that serves up two things, depending on the listener. If you have never watched Alien, it gives you a deep, rumbling slice of space ambient to chill out to. If, however, you have foreknowledge of what befalls the Nostromo, the whole thing seems to have a calm before the storm feeling, or maybe, the sensation of the future haunting the past. However it might be described, I’ve listened to it every day for a week and I intend to listen again today.

Visit the Nostromo page on Bandcamp for more information.

Album Title: Nostromo

Album Artist: Sleep Research Facility

Label: Cold Spring

Released: 5 December 2007