Saturday 17 June 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Tsathoggua

Dark Ambient Review: Tsathoggua

Review By Casey Douglass

Tsathoggua Artwork

Any H.P Lovecraft fan will likely have marked the annual Cryo Chamber collaboration, released in his honour, on the calender. Or maybe on a piece of ancient paper, one that gives off sinister crackles of green light when it feels a pen’s embrace. Tsathoggua is the newest entry to the Cryo Chamber Lovecraftian catalogue, paying its dues to the toad-like Old One.

As in previous Cryo Chamber Lovecraftian collabs, Tsathoggua consists of two tracks, each just under an hour long. In the broadest of strokes, I’d describe the soundscapes as made up of buzzing, vibrating tones, with lots of little scuffling echoes and insect-like ululations. The drones are supported by a variety of ritual drumbeats, juddery string notes, and shrill pipings, with occasional deep crumping impacts that rumble through the environment. With the toad-like god in mind, Tsathoggua tends to feel wet, close, swampy and at times, cavernous.

One of the highlights for me was around the 34 minute mark of track one. There is something about the five minutes or so that comes next, that I felt pleasantly dragged my mind out from the misty subterranean mire and that hinted at Lovecraft’s world rubbing up against our own, much like Randolph Carter and his dream wanderings in search of Kadath. Where Carter might have heard hoof-beats and anvils (if he heard anything at all), our world seems to impinge at this moment with a number of technological beeps, squeals and tones. This sequence begins with some clattering swells and what I noted as “corrupt organ music” so if you check out the album, listen out for it.

Tsathoggua isn’t all unrelenting gloom however, there are some sequences where things lighten a little, with high tones and drones shining like a pure crystal in the darkness. There are impressions of wind, rain and a static that serves as a kind of balm to the listener’s mind. I was really struck by this at the end of track one when the soundscape had a feeling of “the ordeal is over”. I’d like to add that I mean this with regards to an imaginary protagonist who has traipsed through the strange twisted world hinted at by the music, not that listening to the music is an ordeal! This feeling also made the commencement of the second track a “lets go back in” kind of notion, with unfinished business threatening the delicate tranquillity just recently found.

Highlights of the second track were, around the 7 minute mark, a segment that felt like a small nod to Lovecraft’s The Beast in the Cave. An ape-like hoo-haa-haa sound signals a stretch of track that is a veritable storm-swell of sound. There is a drumbeat, bouncing elastic swells and a windy creaking feeling. The synth, when it appears, gave me that Silent Hill, “sunlight through mist” feeling, the distant cries and candyfloss crackles hinting at a funfair that you might not ever want to visit. At around the 30 minute mark, there is also a section that I noted down as “The Prowling Abyss”, which is a lovely, hollow, dripping environment to let seep into your mind.

Tsathoggua is a remarkable Lovecraftian slab of audio-meat to feast your dark ambient chops upon. Even though I very much enjoyed the previous Cryo Chamber collabs, for me, Tsathoggua is up there with Azathoth and Cthulhu, which are my two absolute favourites. If you follow Cryo Chamber’s dark ambient music output, the chances are that you already have this album and none of this is news to you. Good on you! If you aren’t this person however, let my words kindle a spark of interest in your soul and go and check out Tsathoggua.

Visit the Tsathoggua page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Tsathoggua

Album Artist: Cryo Chamber Collaboration

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 27 Dec, 2022