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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick Looks 1/14/16

Chihei Hatakeyama & Dirk Serries - "The Storm of Silence"
[Glacial Movements]

Newest release from icy drone label Glacial Movements. GM and a project involving Dirk Serries (vidnaObmana)...I bet you can guess how it sounds. As expected, this album delivers 4 fairly long tracks (mostly 10-12 minutes) of hypnotic, arctic tundra-evoking drone with no surprises. While the sound and aural textures are undoubtedly compelling and professional, if you listen to this type of music than I'm sure you already own 50 records that sound exactly like this. That said, this is certainly a suitable musical accompaniment to exploring arctic, sky, inner, or astral regions. It's highly visionary and perfectly captures the sound & mood of overcast, wintry places such as what is shown in the cover art. This isn't my first choice of ambient music styles, but on those cold mornings when I come into work and I'm yearning for something minimal, beautiful, and atmospheric than I could absolutely see myself reaching for this album. Ultimately, this is super minimal drone but it nails all the qualities people are looking for in that style. Fans of the Glacial Movements sound should enjoy it.

Swarm Intelligence - "Rust"
[Ad Noiseam]

Rust is the follow up to Swam Intelligence's crushing, doomy, industrial-tinged juggernaut Faction. This album is pretty much more of the same, although this time with a bit less of the everpresent crushing, doomy atmosphere. Many of the trademarks remain, however: the slow tempos, the noisy, growling basslines; the crunchy industrial percussion; the mechanical, austere synth bits. This is music for the the darkened, emotionless dystopian future and the battalions of robotic soldiers whom march within it. Similarly to his last album, I find Rust to be cool for a few tracks before it starts to feel homogenous and repetitive. Probably would have been solid as a 4 track LP, but 10 tracks is a little long. However, I do like that he mixes it up with more atmospheric ambient passages ("Courtyard", "Chamber" and "Theirbach Demoish" are all straight ambient tracks with no beats) as it adds variety and helps to flesh out the dystopian narrative filled with decaying future cities, forlorn sewer systems, giant compactors, etc. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the ambient tracks and I'd like to hear him do an entire release of ambient music. Check this album out if you want to hear bass music forged in the furnace of industrial doom.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tympanik New Year 50% off sale

From Tympanik Audio:

"Our annual New Year’s Sale is in full swing. Stock up on some tasty sounds at ridiculously affordable prices – CDs and Digital releases as low as $2. To celebrate the new year, take 50% off all CDs and Digital releases from our full catalog throughout the entire month of January. Fill out your Tympanik library with albums by Haujobb, Tineidae, Stendeck, Access To Arasaka, Zinovia, Legiac, Comaduster, Totakeke, ESA, Displacer, Tapage, Disharmony, and many more.

Visit our Bandcamp site and enter discount code TYMPANIK16 as you add items to your cart. Large orders please email us for shipping discounts. Hit the ground running in 2016 with sounds of the underground. ORDER HERE. "

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Quick Looks - 12/30/15

Council of Nine - "Diagnosis"
[Cryo Chamber]

The second album from Council of Nine fits perfectly into the sort of standard Cryo Chamber minimal-droning-ambient sound. Like I mention in practically every single review I do, I'm not a particularly avid fan of this real minimal stuff. That said, Council of Nine makes it known that he can pull off this sound. His work has noticably matured since his debut, despite this being released less than a year later. Diagnosis is full of ghostly, incredibly spacious atmospheres that take the listener through seemingly endless amorphous, darkened realms. Tenebrous droning swells mix and wash over each other, occasionally co-mingling with more melodic droning to create contemplative aural environments. With this kind of minimal music there is truly a fine art to crafting subtle brilliance vs. boring shit, and Council of Nine is well on his way. While this doesn't quite achieve the profundity of something like Kammarheit, it is certainly getting there. For me, the best track is absolutely "Void Of Regret" which succeeds at being brilliantly hypnotic and capturing the boundless depths of unseen/inner worlds. Judging by the improvement from debut to second album, I am eagerly awaiting what Council of Nine will put together in the future.

Wordclock - "Self Destruction Themes"
[Cryo Chamber]

Similarly, here was have the second album from fellow Cryo Chamber project Wordclock. To be honest, I never listened to the debut; it was one of those records I put on once and wasn't captivated within the first 12 seconds so I turned it off and then never had the time to go back to. However, this one has quite a lot of hype behind it so I figured it was worth a more in-depth listen. And its got collabs with the always-excellent Apocryphos and Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri/Sabled Sun) so it must be good. Unfortunately for me, it's of the minimal drone variety, and like all that stuff each track is basically a couple of drones and little else. However, Wordclock succeeds in cultivating all the appropriate characteristics of that style - hypnotic, captivating, etc. While this style isn't my favorite, I cannot deny that these songs are richly textured, well crafted, and engaging. Even though some pieces could, I suppose, be labelled as "dark ambient", this record reaches way beyond that into much more accessible realms of ambient and drone music. While many of tracks, such as "When Indecision Strikes" are charmingly meditative pieces that feel like slowly floating through the nebulous astral realm, Wordclock explores several moods and environments on this record. For example: "It May Come" is a beautifully sombre and highly cinematic piece which would fit perfectly into a moody film noir, "Something Else" has something of an eastern/desert current running through it, and the closer "Lack Of Language" explores churning, post-rock vibes. You really cannot go wrong with this album if you are looking for something minimal yet inexpressibly deep and wonderfully evocative. Even though I'm not a huge fan of this minimal sound, this record won me over and I feel like I could listen to this for days on repeat. I think this will prove to be quite a hit with fans of the label and ambient music in general.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Get This Album: Alone In The Hollow Garden - "Nothingness Without End"

I just came across the artist Alone In The Hollow Garden on a recent compilation from the label Black Mara and decided to check out more of his catalog. This was the first release I looked into and I found it to be really engaging. Some excellent Eastern-themed ritual ambient which utilizes many traditional instruments and sound sources, while maintaining a dark and intense vibe. Unlike most ritual music, this is not minimal but is more in-your-face style with lots of elements continuously evoking new and morphing textures. Definitely something to check out for fans of Aural Hypnox and the like. It's available as a limited cassette with a handmade linocut engraving print attached, and digitally.

[ Get It Here ]

Flowers For Bodysnatchers - "Aokigahara"

Artist: Flowers For Bodysnatchers
Album: Aokigahara
Year: 2015
Label: Cryo Chamber
Genre: Dark Ambient
Website:  cryochamber.bandcamp.com

Don't know anything about the artist, but I find myself fascinated by the strange project name. As for the album itself, Aokigahara is the name of the so-called "Suicide Forest" in Japan; you can't really go wrong with subject matter like that which merges nature and death.

Aoikigahara is an interesting and dynamic album. Just when you think you've got the sound pegged, he switches it up and takes an unexpected turn. The opening tracks "Prisoner Of Night And Fog" and "And There Is A Darkness" rely on ghostly piano and cinematic strings as their focal points, over top of minimal, darkened textures and nighttime sfx such as thunder & dripping water. The piano melodies are not terribly complex, but are aptly catchy and harmonious (I honestly prefer this style to something more jazz-y or whatever). These compositions are fairly minimal and if the entire album was done in this style than I think it would get tedious, but two tracks are the perfect amount. Strikingly solemn & evocative, I would definitely put these on if I was in the mood for something melodic and minimal such as Robert Rich's Open Window. I also enjoy that his compositions have notably different sections to them and evolve/shift the mood over their duration. "Field Of Ink" is a nice little segue into the next part of the album, although using the same banging noise throughout the entire piece gets annoying. "Kuroi Jukai" gets into more droning ambient territory and introduces heavily reverbed Japanese female singing; coupled with the dismal textures these vocals have quite a creepy feel to them. From here on out, the album gets less melodic and focuses more on droning soundscapes. "There Will Be Lies" begins as a meditative piece which slowly builds with the introduction of industrial-ish mechanical & heavily reverbed percussion. The longest piece on the album "Night Heroin" opens with a long passage of loud, kind of in-your-face wall of sound ambient before subsiding into calm, churning blackened textures mixed with various sound effects. Though lengthy, I never found it to fall into tedium. The title track "Aokigahara" is one of the most interesting pieces on the album; it opens with the melodic piano of the opening tracks for a couple of minutes before descending into waves of drone mixed with evocative forest sounds & muted, haunting flute-esque pads. The final two tracks "A Man Metallic" and "The Games Foxes Play" both feature long passages of pleasantly bleak organic/earthen atmospheric droning mixed with somewhat industrial sfx clanking and scrapping in the background.

Overall, this is a solid debut from a new project that has captured my interest. Certainly fits the bill for a soundtrack to a haunting but yet somehow wondrous forest at night. It does a good job of being dynamic while also retaining enough of a common sound throughout the entire album. It doesn't sound all that much like other acts, but if I had to compare I would say it is somewhere in between Steve Roach and a very stripped down version of Herbst9's The Gods Are Small Birds, But I Am The Falcon with some Hall Of Mirrors thrown in for good measure. While it's quite good (and definitely recommended!), it's not perfect and I am excited to see how this project will develop in the future.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Angelic Foe - "Mother Of Abominations"

Artist: Angelic Foe
Album: Mother Of Abominations
Year: 2015
Label: Equilibrium Music
Genre: Neo-Classical, Darkwave
Website: www.equilibriummusic.com

Angelic Foe is the new-ish project of Annmari Thim, best known for being the female vocalist of Arcana. Mother Of Abominations is the second album from the project, though unfortunately I am unfamiliar with the debut so this is my first experience with them. As expected, this album is fairly reminiscent of Arcana in many ways, while also being it's own unique entity in the neo-classical / (dark?) medieval style.

I've always been a huge fan of Annmari's vocals in Arcana and was rather excited to check out this project. On the vocal front it absolutely succeeds - her vocals are as good as they ever were in Arcana and with this project she has the room to fully take the lead and be even more diverse in her delivery. The opening track "Daughter Of Comfort" sets the stage for what can be expected on this album - lofty, cinematic soundscapes and bombastic percussion. Apparently the lyrics for this track are from texts by John Dee and Edward Kelly (enochian magic, bro) so this immediately has my attention. It feels as a sort of prologue & overview which introduces us to the world we'll be exploring for the next 8 tracks. While the opener is good, but seems more suited to being background music, the second track "The Get" is more engaging and catchy. The perfect amount of catchy melody coupled with steady, heavy martial-leaning drumming while the vocals are suitably up front and grab the listener's attention. This song is like the scene where we meet the films protagonists and get psyched for the journey they are about to undertake, as the peons offer cheers and the priests offer them talismans to aid them on the path ahead. The next track "All Her Princes Are Gone" does a good job working with dynamic moods, as it ebbs and flows through several movements during its duration. At this point we hear the sombre-yet-hopeful mood of our heroes setting off their long tumultuous quest. The rest of the album follows this same path, accented with a hobbit tavern here and there, grandiose meetings with charming forest spirits, and numerous epic (so much epic!) scenes of travelling across mountains and/or forests. After much exploring we arrive at track 7: "Workers Of Harm" which is one of my favorites. It's very catchy and the steady percussion carries an almost industrial/mechanical feel. Here the heroes (presumably elves, because elves are the best) have arrived at the mines and are asking the dwarf king for some ore to make better weapons for the final battle. Which brings us (after more epic travelling and seeking advice of the spirits in "The Judgement") to the closing track "Enemies of God" which takes the listener through our fantasy movie of choice's final epic battle where it slows down to emphasize the struggle, and zooms in on the main elf who begins to lament that his crew is getting taken out and he needs to perform some heroic act to win this thing - and then he does cause the last couple minutes of the song are real uplifting. As you can see, I pretty much mentally wrote my own High Fantasy story while listening to this -- easy to do as it's so evocative; and I encourage you to try the same - these tracks really bring your imagination to life. This is pretty much the ultimate Renaissance Faire album, or accompaniment to any given Tolkien or related book.

Angelic Foe lies somewhere between the soundtrack to a well-produced epic fantasy movie and the best moments of Arcana. Musically and production-wise, the album is absolutely incredible and I can't say anything bad about it. The instrumentation excels at conjuring fantastical imagery, the drums are punchy & driving (and epic, duh), and the vocal performance is stellar - I'd also like commend the vocal production/mixing which is masterfully done (perfect use of reverb, harmonies, etc). Fantastic mixing & mastering by Peter Bjargo (of Arcana, et al.) However, stylistically this album is not always my cup of tea and it has some moments which I feel are too cheesy. But seriously, despite not always enjoying it subjectively, I can objectively say that Mother Of Abominations is a really, really well made album and I'm positive that fans of this type of epic medieval / neo-classical will absolutely love it.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Favorites of 2015

Usually we put together something resembling a "best of" list of the year's releases, but I don't feel like I was on top of things this year as much as I have been in the past, so this time it's just a list of some of my favorite stuff from throughout the year, in no order (and trust me, I missed a lot of probably awesome records this year). As you can see, Malignant and Cryo Chamber really delivered.

Yen Pox - Between The Horizon And The Abyss (Malignant Records)
New album from Yen Pox in quite a long time (13 yrs) and proves they are better than ever. Absolutely massive and crushing.

Shibalba - Samsara (Malignant Records)
I just got this one (released Dec 22), but I'm glad I did and was able to add it to this list. I've had it on nonstop since getting it. Exceptional Eastern-themed ritual ambient that is incredibly captivating and contains everything that I like about this style of ambient.

Leila Abdul-Rauf - Insomnia (Malignant Records)
Didn't immediately stick out as a top 10 record, however after thinking about it, I realized that it's one of those that I can put on and let play forever. Excellent sombre, dreamy atmospheres by way of an opium haze.

Sabled Sun - 2147 (Cryo Chamber)
Simon Heath never disappoints and I think that this may be the best yet from his Sabled Sun project. Fantastic post-apocalyptic drone music.

Apocryphos + Atrium Carceri + Kammarheit - Onyx (Cryo Chamber)
Two of dark ambient's best producers combined with one of the most promising newer artists - there was no way this wouldn't be a top 10 record. It goes without saying that this is a masterpiece of an ambient and needs to be owned by everyone.

Aegri Somnia - Monde Obscure (Cryo Chamber)
Not sure who this guy is or where he came from, but this album is absolutely brilliant and I can only hope for more from this project. While Cryo Chamber focused a lot on minimal droning ambient this  year, Aegri Somnia makes the style I like most which contains numerous layers of elements in constant ebb and flow. Definitely a must own for those of us who like more "active" dark ambient.

Ionosphere - Nightscape (Loki Foundation)
He created one of my favorite albums with The Stellar Winds in 07, but to be honest after nearly 8 years of silence I assumed the project dead. Much to my surprise not only is it not dead, but Ionosphere has delivered another incredible offering with Nightscape.

Also Notable re-releases:

Die Sektor - To Be Fed Upon Again
The greatest modern harsh EBM record made gets a re-release with bonus tracks and a 2nd disc containing the exceptional (and finally mastered!) EP Scraping The Flesh along with tons of b-sides.

Ionosphere - The Stellar Winds
I was never able to find this album in hardcopy, but thankfully Loki Foundation re-released the Ionosphere backcatalog digitally this year. This remains one of my favorite dark ambient records and is a must hear for fans of droney space ambient.

Troum & Yen Pox - Mnemonic Induction
This absolutely colossal (and long sold out) collaboration was finally made available again in 2015, remastered and in brand new packaging. Obviously a must have for all dark ambient fans

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Arditi - "Imposing Elitism"

Artist: Arditi
Album: Imposing Elitism
Year: 2015
Label: Equilibrium Music
Genre: Martial Industrial / Dark Ambient
Website: www.equilibriummusic.com

Here we have the latest album from Arditi whom need no introduction - they're one of the front-runners of the martial industrial genre and have been releasing steadily since the early 00s. Their new album is called Imposing Elitism, because it's Arditi and of course it's fucking called that. And as a martial industrial record its 9 tracks of exactly what you'd expect. It has been released in pretty much every format: in CD and 2 versions of vinyl (one being gold) via Equilibrium Music, and on cassette by another label called Temple Of Death Productions.

Once again, Arditi thrusts the listener into a dismal world of perpetual strife and warfare. Over the years they've gotten quite proficient at it and this record absolutely nails the "martial" atmosphere. The opening track "Imposing Elitism" is absolutely my favorite here; it is the perfect mixture of gloomy, ambient atmosphere and militaristic bombast. The rolling snares of marching legions fit perfectly with the muted strings and ghostly drones. One thing that I really enjoy about this record is the focus on ambient passages which develop atmosphere, and not as much emphasis on the bombastic stuff that can easily be overdone in this genre. While many of the tracks of course have the aforementioned heavy percussion, pads, etc; there are also several such as "Heroic Age" which focus exclusively on building atmosphere and either contain no percussion or use it instead as an accent to the heavy, foreboding ambient soundscapes. While these types of tracks may not be as "exciting" per say as the heavier ones, they are crucial in crafting the overall tone and mood of the album. I feel that Imposing Elitism completely captures the feelings you'd have in this old world they've created: The fear and terror of marching into the fog of war to face unknown enemy assailants. The depression of standing in your crumbling homeland ravaged by years of warfare, juxtaposed with the yearning for honor gained by fighting for and defending it. And on tracks like "Sturm auf die Zukunft" the glory of arriving home from battle alive amongst your remaining battalion.  Although they hit all the cliches of the genre, Arditi successfully uses them exactly as they were meant to be used. Tracks like "The Earth Shall Tremble Under The Tramp Of Our Feet" and "Dawn Of A New Mythos" expertly use crushing drums, choirs, speeches, keyboards and drones to deliver that archetypal martial industrial that so many strive for but fall short. My only complaint is that the production is still very raw and not nearly as crisp or hard-hitting as Triarii (who in my opinion is the zenith of this style), but I feel that it is an improvement over older material and I suppose it could be argued that the rawness contributes to the overall bleak atmosphere.

Lets be real, nobody is blowing minds in the martial industrial genre and neither are these guys. But when you want to immerse yourself in the darkened world of an age past, where the landscape is scarred, cities are ravaged, all of humanity is engaged in endless war, and men are struggling for honor & atonement than you can't go wrong with this record. While it remains safely within the boundaries of the typical "martial" sound, I feel that Arditi does an excellent job at "worldbuilding" on this album and each of the tracks further crafts & builds upon this world that the listener is being transported to. Each track works together well and as a whole it is a very cohesive album. As I said earlier, this is pretty much the archetype for "martial industrial" and would be a very good place to start for someone looking to explore this style.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Get This Album: Huron - "Fissure EP"

Fissue is the new EP from IDM producer Huron that is scheduled to be released by Mindtrick Records on Jan 4 2016. I've been eagerly anticipating new Huron material after his incredible 2013 album The Other Side Of Reality (Raumklang Music) which made it onto my personal top album list of that year. This new EP follows the blueprints he forged on that album and is a continuation of all the good things found there - the extremely spacious, futuristic IDM with something of an industrial slant crafted from crisp digital tones, compelling glitchy beats, and dreamy melodic content. Music for trips through a space station and/or a sad but beautiful future. The mixing and mastering are once again excellent and really bolster the depth of this music. If you were a fan of his previous work or acts like Access to Arasaka, DNN, Proem, etc than you must check out this EP! The only downside is that it is not a full length, but hopefully he will deliver one in the near future; this is an excellent offering in the meantime and one not to be missed. I can confidently say that Huron is one of my favorite IDM producers releasing new music.

[ Get It Here ]

Get This Album: Jihad - "Live in Bratislava"

Coming a mere 18 years after their debut A Prayer In The Night on Ras Dva, 90s dark electro act Jihad makes a comeback with their new (live) album Live In Bratislava 28.02.2015 as recorded at the Dark EBM Souls festival. The album's 8 tracks feature some classic material, some new material, and a cover of fellow 90s dark electro act Benestrophe. It is available as a limited edition hardcopy which I believe you have to get directly from the band (which is now just James Mendez), and digitally via bandcamp. In addition to this album, Jihad has been working for the past few years doing remixes for various acts on Electro Aggression Records, and has a new studio album in the works to be released through the same.

[ Bandcamp ]
[ Jihad on Facebook ]