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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Quick Looks 3-01-12

Hoarfrost - "Last Message...(Unknown)"
[Exploratory Drilling Productions]
Last Message...(Unknown) is a mini CD packaged in a 6 panel case. Apparently it is a recording of part of (why only part?) a live show in 2009. It is one 21 minute track. First, let me touch on the packaging and say that it is quite beautiful. The cover image captures the stark emptiness portrayed by the sounds on this album. I'm not at all familiar with Hoarfrost's previous work, so I can't comment on whether this recording consists of previously released songs or new material. I can tell you that it is a long, steadily moving piece of dark droning ambient. It is pretty interesting stuff, there is enough happening to keep the listener entertained throughout. There is a typically a predominant droning sound with the occasional sound effect (crunching, crackling, etc); rising and falling drones; old, gritty sci-fi esque synth sounds; and the occasional spoken word sample. This recording retains a constant mood throughout: dark, abandoned, emptiness. It definitely has a gritty earthy/organic feel to it. Like walking though vast fields, littered with time-worn ruins of ancient dwellings. The sky is overcast above, and the rains come sporadically on your endless journey through oblivion. My biggest critique here is the mix: for almost the entire song the frequency spectrum is highly skewed; there will be one dominant mid-range drone and a throbbing subbass, while the rest of the spectrum is unnecessarily sparse. The high volume of the mid range begins to grate on the ears after a short time & makes the recording sound hollow, and the overly loud subbass forces you to keep the volume kind of low, which in turn causes you to miss the rest of the track as it is much quieter than the sub. Wish it had a more filled out, even low end. The best part of the recording unfortunately doesn't come in until about 18 minutes in when a rounded low end comes in, coupled with lots of crunching sounds and some quasi-creepy vocal samples. Overall, if you know this guys work this is probably worth checking out. If Hoarfrost isn't a name you're familiar with though, I wouldn't start here. [5.5/10]

Oureboros - Dreaming In Earth, Dissolving In Light
[Ant Zen]
Oureboros is a new side project of Richard Oddie from Orphx, and is quite different from the pounding noisey techno that group is known for. Dreaming In Earth, Dissolving In Light resides in the cold void somewhere between dark ambient and post rock. It predominately leans towards experimental, droning soundscapes, although several tracks, such as "Dissolving In Light", "Black Water", and "The Descent", contain phantom, delayed strumming sounds more akin to post rock. Guitar sounds aren't my thing, but I can appreciate the effect of these sounds here. Overall, this is a really good dark ambient album. Very dark, very earthy and certainly atmospheric. It is subdued and droning, but there is tons of stuff happening inside of each track. The tracks seem to have a foundation of deep, looping sounds which suck the listener in, combined with a plethora of strange and mutating sounds (sound like analog modular synth) which never repeat, and/or panning ghostly effected guitar drones which genuinely convey an otherworldly mood of sadness and despair. There are no beats, although some tracks like "At Twilight" have percussive sounds which clank along in odd patterns (a bit like orphx I suppose, though no kick drum). Dark ambient is not known for structure and this is no exception, however the tracks do plod from one space to another and move and shift over their duration so they aren't boring, and it is clear that time was spent crafting these works. The production is solid and has a very well rounded sound. It's gritty in all the right ways. Definitely a record to pick up for fans of active dark ambient who may also enjoy a bit of the more ambient side of the "post" sound like Isis or Godspeed You Black Emperor (thankfully no distorted guitars and acoustic drums - that stuff is fine but not for an Ant Zen record). [8.5-9/10]

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