Wednesday 27 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Mørketsland

Dark Ambient Review: Mørketsland

Review By Casey Douglass

Mørketsland Album Art

The technological progress of the modern world is amazing, but it can also feel oh so feeble. Our days are filled with the tedious “Marimba” of iPhones and the steady beep-beep of drip-fed pseudo approval from strangers. When held up against the heady, tangible world that the Vikings lived in, the present day appears to be little more than the cellophane wrapper on some tasty roasted boar meat that’s about to be offered to the Nordic gods. Mørketsland is a dark ambient album from ProtoU & Oljus, one that tears through the cellophane with its teeth.

Mørketsland contains echoing ritual drum beats, deep drones and eerie spirit-laced echoes that seem to bounce around a harsh, weather-swept landscape. Wind howls and swells, rain patters and drips, and distant thunder rumbles ominously in a pleasing, distant way. Every track of Mørketsland is a darkness-bathed, drum-fuelled homage to the Vikings, with the rites and chants being enacted by the voices almost certainly finding their way to the gods that they hope are listening.

I think that Spirits of the Water is probably my favourite of the seven tracks on the album. It begins with a low, slightly vibrating drone. A bell-like chime agitates the soundscape and a low chant begins. A slow echoing drumbeat is there also, and some strange little bird-like tweets. What sounds like distant thunder cracks in the distance, a ghostly vocal insinuating itself shortly after. Later, there are impressions of wind and waves, strange intonations, and as the drumbeat intensifies, a very deep vibrating tone. For me, this track felt like it was depicting a longboat out on open water, a moonlit fog enshrouding everything except the immediate blackness of the waves.

Wall of Thorns (ft Ager Sonus) is another track that really got my attention. It opens with low echoing drumbeats in a howling airy soundscape, the scratchy pattering of rain filling the ears with threat. There are rustles and creaks, and these are soon joined by a plucked melody and morose pipe notes. The soundscape slowly ratchets up into increasingly booming drum beats and ever busier howls, cries and swells of wind. The plucked melody, taken with the other elements of the track, gave me Witcher 3 or Game of Thrones flashbacks, which is a fun thing to return to.

All of the tracks of Mørketsland transport the listener into dark primal soundscapes, the kind of space in which the ritual drumbeats lend a trance-like energy to the swirling chaos and hardness of the landscapes hinted at. If you like your dark ambient to give you the impression of sitting in the firelight while the ever darkening shadows beyond its limits press every inwards, you might want to check out this album.

Visit the Mørketsland page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the Spirits of the Water video below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mørketsland

Album Artist: ProtoU & Oljus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: May 2, 2023

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Anima Mundi

Dark Ambient Review: Anima Mundi

Review By Casey Douglass

Anima Mundi Album Art

Interconnectedness is a concept that can provide a great sense of spiritual peace. On the flip side, it can also lead to thoughts about how the worst or most undesirable elements of life are also closer than you might think. BRTHRM’s Anima Mundi is a three track dark ambient EP (among other styles) that brings the mystery of life and nature into energetic, musical form.

I think that the first track, Enchanted Grove, is probably my favourite. It opens with the sounds of dripping water and a low drone, with wooden knockings and breathy sighs soon joining. There are creaks and scrapes that give the impression of movement, and high swelling notes and shimmers that float over everything. There is also a peaceful “ahh” like vocal that seems to wrap everything in wonder.

What I really enjoyed about the first track however, is around the midpoint, there are beeps, radio squeals, and electronic melodies that I feel turn things a little “technology meets nature”. For me, this track felt like a deactivated android lying dormant in a rainforest glade, but something triggers its booting routine and it stands and stares in wonder at the life flooding around it.

The second track, Immortal Legacy, felt more like watching a tiny creature emerging from mud. It begins with a low shuddering beat and a rattling vibration. There is a roaming hissing static and a tone that sharpens into a razor edge. The sound of a ticking clock nestles against this high tone, before an 8-bit video-game buzz and melody joins proceedings. A great whirring begins, taking on the aspect of an air-raid siren punctuated with distant machine-gun fire. Before you know it, a warm melody begins, giving everything a “day out in Candy Land” feel.

The soundscape then buzzes like an insect-hive, and it was at about this point that I had the mental image of evolution, and some struggling organism trying to survive and overcome the obstacles of life. Why my mind went to something emerging from mud I don’t really know, but for me, this track would sit well with the images that are frequently used when talking about the evolution of man, from an ape walking on all fours, to standing upright, to walking along wearing a hat and carrying a briefcase. There is a sadness and a quirkiness to the sense of overcoming, but it’s a fun track overall.

The final track is Divine Offering, and this one features a chant-filled dark space that brings to mind some secluded temple hidden in the mountains, with monks sending their prayers up to whatever force they think is listening. It’s a deep, restive track, with a variety of tones and rhythms that come to play in its droning soundscape.

Anima Mundi is an album that takes the listener on a tour that includes both big picture feelings, such as thousands of years passing, and also the smaller concerns of one individual organism struggling in the mud. The darkness that it sometimes contains is more than balanced out by the uplifting nature of the melodies around it. If you enjoy your ambient/dark ambient music when it’s nearer this balancing point of light and dark, I think that you might want to check out Anima Mundi.

Visit the Anima Mundi page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Anima Mundi

Album Artist: BRTHRM

Released: May 5, 2023

Friday 8 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Internal Winter

Dark Ambient Review: Internal Winter

Review By Casey Douglass

Internal Winter Artwork

There’s a pleasing irony in listening to music titled Internal Winter when the sun is shining brightly outside and the air is humid and heavy. Not only does it contrast in the most obvious of ways, but the meaning deepens when you consider how our internal landscapes can be so at odds with the external world. Examples of this might be someone contemplating suicide while smiling in the midst of their own birthday party, or someone else sitting alone on an isolated bench at the coast, happier than they’ve been for months as they watch the grey storm roll in.

G. M. Slater and Rojinski’s Internal Winter is a dark ambient album themed around “five journeys through inner demons, conflict, and turmoil” and is the perfect accompaniment for those moods when the difference between the internal and external is so great that you just want to laugh or cry in astonishment. It’s a dark and ominous album that’s full of thick, brooding soundscapes, with a wind-blasted droning and chiming aesthetic.

I think that the first track, A Blanket of Shadows, is my favourite. It opens with the sound of a gale and what sounds like echoing footsteps. There are wooden creakings and rustlings, punctuated by the occasional shrill whistle of the wind finding small cracks to howl through. Low tones and drones begin to sound at intervals amidst the crackling static of what might be snow on frosted windows. A faint chiming drone sparkles higher in the air, lending a notion of some light to what feels like a dark and decaying scene. The track grows more aggressive as time passes, with various of the tones and wind noises ramping up to create the precarious feeling of a tipping point being flirted with. I would say that the album artwork of the decrepit snow-covered house was designed for this track.

Tunnel of Disillusions is another track that stood out to me, as when I listened to it, I noted down that it felt like a hellish trip to Narnia. It begins with a reverberating chime and soft choral feeling, but soon deepens to create the sensation of being enveloped by a cacophony of whispers and voices. It feels claustrophobic and dark, with sharp-edged tones cutting the air. The insect-like vibrations sit alongside bell-like tolling, and things just seem to go down and down and down. Around the midpoint, things open out again, and I felt like I’d emerged from the tunnel mentioned in the track title. It feels a little like emerging into the farm of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, in tone at least. The heartbeat like rhythm and door slamming beat certainly rub nicely against the ahh-like drone floating above them.

Internal Winter is a fun journey into the shifting miseries of the human psyche. All of the tracks felt atmospheric and gritty, with enough elements of softness to prevent them from feeling a little too unrelenting. I felt that the higher drones and chimes lend a notion of looking for help from some higher power, while the lower elements do well to keep the listener mired in the mud and the murk. If you like your dark ambient heavy and questing, you’d do well to check out Internal Winter.

Visit the Internal Winter page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Internal Winter

Album Artist: Slater & Rojinski

Released: March 24, 2023

Friday 1 September 2023

Dark Ambient Album: The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey

 Dark Ambient Album: The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey

The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey Artwork

I just released another album under my Reality Scruncher music project. It's called The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey and is themed around a ritual that destroys the realities in which it is performed. I aimed for the music to reflect that notion, so each track is the audio impression of the event.