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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lost Kadath - "Monochromatic Regression EP"

Artist: Lost Kadath
Album: Monochromatic Regression EP
Year: 2014
Label: Old Europa Cafe / Kalpamantra
Genre: Drone, Dark Ambient

Monochromatic Regression is a 4 track EP from dark ambient producer Lost Kadath. It was originally released digitally by netlabel Kalpamantra, but was recently re-released in limited edition hardcopy in conjunction with Old Europa Cafe. You may also know him as the drummer for Italian doom metal band (EchO).

The EP opens with "Devoured Soul (Ouija Experience)". The minimal, claustrophobic droning soundscape make me feel as if I am alone on a vast, dark world lit only by my latern. Surrounding me is an impenetrable wall of shadows, and seemingly endless blackness. I can sense undefined shapes moving just out of perception. Every so often something flickers into view for a brief moment before quickly rescinding back into the great nothingness. This song brings to mind the equally subdued space-faring works of Gustaf Hildebrand and would be a fitting soundtrack to one of the more cosmic-leaning HP Lovecraft stories. Musically, it's comprised of deep cosmic droning with various sound effects interspersed throughout. He also makes good use of rising bursts of white noise which brings to mind dead or faulty equipment in a dying space station.
For better or worse, tracks 2 and 3 are basically the same thing. Ab Stract 2.47 is quite enjoyable; the only major difference between it and the opener is a buried pad which lends some framework to the nebulous composition. While I enjoy the shipwrecked-on-a-dead-world vibe of the EP, I get bored during "Pernicious Existence" as the minimalism starts to wear on me. It would have been nice to hear more significant changes - more pronounced, different sfx, some melodies, pads, etc.
The last track, "Wreckage of Neuronal Purification", is more stimulating as it employs some different, more active textures and higher frequency atonal droning which bolsters the aforementioned abandoned spacecraft vibe. This would definitely be appropriate for a survival horror or FPS game that takes place in some outer space related setting, as it certainly conjures visions of trekking through the wreckage of a spaceship or deserted colony on a distant planet.

A bit on the minimal side, but definitely one to check out for those who want to explore the realms of cosmic, eldritch horrors. Somewhat similar to Gustaf Hildebrand, Visions, and Collapsar. I'm definitely curious to hear a full length from this project. My only suggestion would be more variation in his compositions. While I absolutely enjoy this sound, it's 34 minutes of the same exact vibe and it would be nice for him to develop different facets of this realm a bit more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Arktau Eos - "Scorpion Milk"

Artist: Arktau Eos
Album: Scorpion Milk
Year: 2014
Label: Aural Hypnox
Genre: Ritual, Drone

Scorpion Milk is the newest release from Aural Hypnox act Arktau Eos. It's one 48 minute track. It was originally released in a very limited quantity in 2006, and has been re-released with new packaging (which looks exquisite). Now, I should begin with saying that Arktau Eos isn't so much of a music group as it is a ritual/occult group. The music is seemingly a byproduct and/or accompaniment of/to this. That being said, the concept behind the band should be delved into before getting into the music itself as it is critically important in understanding the audio works of this project. The press release and liner notes do a better job than I could, so:

Arktau Eos have never considered themselves a ‘band’ in the usual sense of the word, although their experience in many bands has certainly lent them an edge in working with sound as a transmitting medium. Arktau Eos did not begin as a ‘band’ and certainly not as a ‘project’; behind the scenes, it is more akin to an esoteric exploration unit, a vessel of initiation. Since the beginning, the group has enjoyed a great rapport from outside the music scene, with many independent researchers confirming or augmenting their observations.

According to the liner notes, this album is meant to be a companion to their first album Mirrorion (which, unfortunately, I have not heard). However, they describe Scorpion Milk as being considerably more minimal and focused. As they put it: "a lone candle bearer who responds to no call but silence itself". The title comes from the fact that this album is withdrawn and latent, similar to a scorpion's sting (apparently). Again, it is important to stress that this "album" is a companion to esoteric research, so it must be remembered that this is only part of the full equation.

As the liner notes point out, this album takes the collection of instruments and aural elements used and strips them to their most bare and subtle core. This is immediately evident as the album is incredibly minimal. There are long stretches of a single sound or drone, occasionally punctuated with louder organic sounds which rise and quickly fall. It reminds me of Tibetan buddhist ceremonies, though darker and more unsettling. Definitely music for exploring the more shadowy aspects of the self and the universe. This is music for small, darkened spaces detached from the world, lit only by a single candle - beyond it hangs the black shapelessness of the shadow realm. It feels like walking through a vast, barren desert of black sand searching for buried artifacts containing ancient, arcane knowledge. The listener needs to put this on somewhat loudly with no other distractions and it will absolutely reach out, enshroud you, and suck you in to it's vortex. Over the 48 minute run time, the album ever so slowly creeps forth and builds energy. Honestly, it's a bit too slow for me as it doesn't start getting more interesting until about halfway through, but the final portion of it is very well done and interesting. It's a powerful mixture of entrancing droning, subtle vocals, and various formless sounds that speak to the listener on a subconscious level. This is the kind of album that would immensely benefit from accompanying visuals/movie/projections.

Ultra minimal music for rituals, to used when exploring the deepest chasms of the self. Good for quieting the mind and contemplation. The final 1/3 or so becomes very hypnotic and transcendental. However, for those not looking for ritual music and want background or more active CMI style ambiance, it can feel too boring and sparse. I love the packaging and all the information contained within and feel that this is a very complete album and work of art. I would like to see this level of commitment put into more musical works (from other artists). Will definitely please fans of Aural Hypnox and similar ritual music, and will probably interest fans of drone and dark ambient as well. Personally I prefer some of the label's other releases, but this certainly has it's place.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Check this: Desiderii Marginis re-issues all albums digitally

Dark ambient legend Desiderii Marginis has recently re-issued the majority of albums digitally via his bandcamp site. Some albums come with bonus material and different artwork.

Check it out: BANDCAMP

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GET THIS ALBUM: Tehôm ‎– Lacrimae Mundi

Lacrimae Mundi is the new album of Croatian dark ambient act Tehôm. Tehôm has quite an interesting history; it was form in 1988 by Siniša Očuršćak and it released 2 albums, in 1996 and 2000, on Douglas Pearce's labelTwilight Command. Sadly, after the second album Očuršćak passed away. However, on said album he worked with Miljenko Rajaković who has decided to continue the project now, some 14 years later. Of course it's always hard to guess at what a project will be like after a gap of so many years, especially when the technology and methodology for making music has changed so drastically. While I was somewhat a fan of the early Tehôm material, this new album absolutely blew me away from the first preview I heard. This album was rightfully picked up by Cyclic Law and features the fantastic artwork of Treha Sektori's Dehn Sora and the always solid mastering of label head Frederic Arbour. That said, Lacrimae Mundi is easily one of my top dark ambient albums of the last few years. Every song is incredibly deep and complex, with many different sounds and layers. It is also wide and "open" which really bolsters its depth. There are brilliantly executed tribal elements (hand drumming, throat singing), elements of the traditional CMI school of ambient: metal clanging, distant sfx, sacral moods, etc. and ritualistic elements. This is pretty much an amalgam of everything that I enjoy about dark ambient, and to top it off the production is pristine. On this album, Tehôm conjures up exceedingly vivid visions of ancient, darkened mountain temples containing seldom explored esoteric wisdom, and the music puts the listener not as a third party observer, but right in the midst of these ethereal places. A must own for fans of dark ambient, especially the more active CMI style (atrium carceri, raison, etc)!


Check this: Various - "To Overcome Suffering"

To Overcoming Suffering is a new benefit compilation put together by Lee of Annihilvs / Theologian. It contains 20 tracks of Death Industrial, Dark Ambient, Experimental, Noise, etc. including acts The Vomit Arsonist, Aderlating, Steel Hook Prostheses, Theologian, Spettro Family, Murderous Vision, Skincage, Statiqbloom, Worms of the Earth, etc. Mastered By John Stillings.

In the words of Lee:

"My ANNIHILVS label partner Daniel Kauffman (AKA Daniel Suffering of Philadelphia heavy electronics act WHORID), received news recently that his mother JoAnn's cancer has unfortunately returned after 20 years in remission. She requires surgery and medical treatment, and this news could not have come at a worse time; after having been let go from her job only months ago, JoAnn took responsibility for her own income, pursuing her dream of opening a gift and antiques shop called Carriage House Chic, in St. Peter's Village, PA. 

Daniel is an incredibly sincere and loyal person, and is dedicated to putting quality dark sounds into the world. I am unfortunately not in a position to contribute financially to the online fund which Daniel created to aid his mother, but I have reached out to our friends and musical peers, and without his knowledge, assembled this digital compilation in an attempt to lend a hand to my good friend and his family. 

The entirety of every sale from your downloads will go directly to Daniel, so that he may help his mother JoAnn with her medical bills and general expenses. 

I thank you very much for your support, and I am very grateful to all of the artists who have contributed to this release. 

- Lee M. Bartow, AKA Theologian Prime, AKA Leech 
June 2014"

Get it here: BANDCAMP

Check this: Karsten Hamre - Compendium I, II, & III

This week, dark ambient maestro Karsten Hamre has released three digital Compendium sets via his own label Black Mask Media which contain a very large amount of his work (from all of his projects) from over the years at a low price point. This is definitely something that fans of his will want to be aware of.

Compendium I consists of 12(!) releases from Arcane Art, Defraktor, and Veiled Allusions. It contains 72 tracks.

Compendium II consists of 11 releases from Dense Vision Shrine and The Flux Komplex. It contains 60 tracks.

Compendium III contains 9 releases of material crafted under his own name, including splits with Buben and Kenji Siratori. It contains 64 tracks.

Black Mask Media on Facebook

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Antigen Shift - "Brotherhood"

Artist: Antigen Shift
Album: Brotherhood
Year: 2014
Label: Signifier
Genre: Post-Industrial, Electro, etc

For a while Antigen Shift was one of my favorite projects. I loved his style of uncompromising power noise on Implicit Structures and even moreso his evolution on the sort of "post-power noise" EP Next To Departed which fused crunch and complexity into industrial strength, darkly atmospheric IDM. I was even quite a big fan of what seemed to be his last hurrah, The Way Of The North, which veered some distance away from what people expected from him and was an experience in illbient and rich atmospheres. I would like to say that his newest creation Brotherhood was something I have been highly anticipating, but instead it's more like Starcraft II: for years I was indeed eagerly awaiting a new release, but as time drew on I stopped caring and accepted the fact that the project would never return. Now, presumably like most who were fans of the now nearly defunct power noise movement and accept it's senescence, I come to this album with a great sense of ambivalence. I hope for the best, but have no real expectations.

The album opens with "Forced" which is a catchy track that is somewhat reminiscent of his Way Of The North album. The steady beats, melancholy pads and accompanying melody are all enjoyable throwbacks to that sound. However, readily apparent is the biggest difference: all the grit and dark edge of the past is gone and the new material sounds ultra clean and digital. The next track is my favorite on the record and it sounds like it could have been a lost track from TWOTN. So far, so good. At this point, the album begins to show it's true face, which is actually a myriad of faces merged together. Nothing else sounds particularly like what you would expect, and there are many (loosely unrelated) styles thrown around on Brotherhood. "Legion" mixed trance-y melodies with a chugging guitar-esque rhythm. "Godkrusher" involves almost Enduser-esque ragga-breakcore and combines it with emotive, melodic breakdowns. "Breakaway" is a nice moody, downtempo interlude with bits of IDM. "Console Nation" is a total chiptune club track, like something Bit Shifter would do. "This is an Exit" is a bit like TWOTN if it was turned up to 180bpm and given machine gun fire drums. "Get Off My Lawn" is a pop-dubstep track with lots of mid-range warbles and wob wobs. "Reborn1130" is a sort of 90s trance/electro hybrid. "Extraction" brings back the chugging guitar sound a bit and lots of cheesy 80s style synths over the traditional Antigen hard-edged rhythmic assault. So basically, the album is comprised of several tracks that harken back to the older post-noise sound (the first two, "Colliding Clusters", "So Much Closer Now", "November") and many tracks influenced by various other electronic genres. There is a cohesive production style here and all the songs do in fact sound like the same band, although I can't say the flow is always graceful.

A very diverse album to be sure. Personally, I enjoyed the stuff that sounds like the material of yore and pretty much skipped everything else. I'm not really sure who the target audience is here, but if you are expecting anything remotely like pre-2006 Antigen (and especially if you were not wowed by The Way Of The North), than skip this one. If you want to hear bits from TWOTN mixed with a whole slew of electronic genres and enjoy crossover / cross genre music than give this one a shot. I think this would be better received if it was released under a new alias and didn't try for the tie in to the Antigen Shift history, but then again some tracks carry an undoubtedly Antigen Shift vibe, so it's a tough call. For me, it reminds me that I should go back and listen to the older material because it was excellent and went above & beyond what other power noise guys were doing at the time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

GET THIS ALBUM: Nereus - "Exegesis"

I highly encourage readers to check out the new release from Industrial IDM wizard Nereus. His new release Exegesis is a pummeling sledge of blackened industrial strength IDM which is ultra complex and technical to rival acts like Richard Devine, Xanopticon, Access to Arasaka, Aphex Twin, etc. I was quite impressed with his release last year which resembled Richard Devine if he had more of an industrial, distorted edge, and Exegesis is even more amped up and complex. I'm also a huge fan of the long, black metal-esque song titles. If you're looking for something in the same vein as Xanopticon with layer upon layer of machine-gun percussion over dark, brooding atmospheres than definitely check this out. I can't even imagine how long it took him to program these tracks.

GET IT: Bandcamp
Nereus on Facebook

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Terra Sancta - "Exile"

Artist: Terra Sancta
Album: Exile
Year: 2014
Label: Malignant Records
Genre: Drone

Here we have the new full length album from Australian dark ambient project Terra Sancta. It has been 6 years since his previous full length Disintegration, although he released a 3 song EP in 2011. While the scope of the album is somewhat similar to past work, I was happy to notice that this album has been broken down into smaller/shorter sections: 7 songs at lengths generally from 7-11 minutes, which, at least to me, is more accessible than his previous works of 4 songs with song lengths of 10-20 minutes.

While many dark ambient bands gravitate towards outer space or cold, icy havens, Terra Sancta works with heat and the vast, barren desert. This is immediately evident from the cover art which I find to be a fitting representation of this album. Similarly to much dark ambient, this is generally minimal with strong isolationist elements. There are a bulk of sweeping drones and distant pads, like winds over an ancient desert.  Of course there are also churning, chasmic drones like rumbling of ancient entities deep under the earth. Tracks like "Descent II" feel like being crushed by molten heat and acid rain while trekking through an arid wasteland. This album strikes me as being a great companion to a story like H.P. Lovecraft's The Nameless City which deals with descending through ancient ruins underneath the sands of a lost civilization in search of forbidden/forgotten knowledge. It succeeds in simultaneously being claustrophobic (and/or perhaps fearsome), while also being a portal to some sort of profundity. It's like standing among myriad stones from a crumbling pyramid, while also being able to perceive the boundless sky above. Some tracks contain buried bits of orchestral pads, while others are more formless, like the excellent heavy droning track "Celestial Extinction", which features fellow Malignant stargazer Rasalhague.

Definitely one for fans of slow moving, ancient sounding ambient music. All in all it's very minimal, but strongly conveys the aforementioned atmospheres. If you want some music to help you ponder the mysteries of the desert than pick this up. They should make the Mars One astronauts listen to this to prep for habitation of the red planet.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Known Rebel - "Ocelo EP"

Artist: Known Rebel
Album: Ocelo EP
Year: 2014
Label: Mindtrick Records
Genre: Dubstep

This is the new EP release from downtempo electronic act Known Rebel. I was wondering what happened to these guys; they've been all but silent after releasing their debut on Tympanik Audio in 2011. But now they're back and deliver this short release on the dnb/dubstep label Mindtrick.

Right off the bat it's obvious that this collection of tracks is basically "Known Rebel discovers Burial". While their debut was a blend of IDM, downtempo, and some dubstep elements, this release is focused exclusively on that early gritty, lofi dubstep sound spearheaded by Burial. Whether this is an experiment in working with that sound or a a full on style shift, I can't say. The EP opens with "Reborn". It's got that 2-step shuffle beat, the pitched up random vocal bits, and some retro synths. The wall of heavy reverb provides a smokey and distant overall feel (in a good way). It carries an organic vibe that's not dissimilar from the beautiful cover art. It's not particularly unique but it's competently written and is suitably atmospheric. I like that the production is a mixture of the classic lofi sound and more modern & punchy bits. The second track "Ocelo" is probably my favorite on here. It's similar to the opener but darker and more spacious. It opens with a long ambient segment before kicking in. It's got a catchy groove, and all the elements work together to provide this overwhelmingly rainy day/melancholic atmosphere - this is something that really captured me when I first heard this type of music. There is a remix of this song by a project called Delete, though unfortunately it sounds pretty much the same as the original, except with extremely muddy, weak production. The third and final original track "Cenacle" is a blatant attempt at copying the Burial sound. I mean, they do it well; if I didn't know better and my friend told me this was a Burial track I'd likely believe it. The sad, hazy atmosphere is there; the dub bassline centered around ultra low frequencies; the muted, hat-driven shuffling beat; the arbitrary - but nice sounding pitched vocals; the distant, emotive pads; etc. But here is my main problem with this release: it sounds like they are trying too hard to jump onto a dated trend - they're about 7 years too late. To be fair, they do this sound quite well and there aren't any problems with this EP, however it's a sound that's been emulated and copied by a bunch of other artists, years prior.

If you like the hazy, lofi "classic" dubstep sound than you will enjoy what Known Rebel has done on these tracks. It's very derivative, but undoubtedly well done. I can't complain though; when dubstep was first coming out this was the sound that got me into it and thinking it was going to be an awesome new genre, before it went all mid-range-wank brostep-y. So yeah, this is the "real" dubstep when it was focused on atmosphere & mood, and it's always pleasing to hear people making music like that. For fans of Burial (obviously), Kryptic Minds, Breakage, Mobthrow, Skream, etc. I'm very curious to see where they will go after this.