It’s always exciting when a new netlabel launches. Petroglyph Music is a fresh Norwegian label which intends to focus on ambient and experimental music and their subgenres. The label currently has two releases under its belt, having been launched just over two weeks ago. Some of Rune Martinsen’s earlier work can be found under the name Abhorrent Beauty; Øystein Jørgensen has also recorded fairly prolifically under the Ambient Fabric name.
To say that the minimalist cover of “Mysterium Cosmographicum” gives nothing away would not be totally correct. Indeed, it’s perfectly fitting in the case of such a satisfyingly dark ambient album as this, where the music is built upon a deep sense of isolationism and unease. Some of the track names refer to astronomical matters, and where this is relevant I’ve added links to Wikipedia for further information.
The title track immediately draws us into a desolate and uncomfortable space, dark textures stretched out, first to one corner and then all around. “SN 1604“, the longest take here at 9:04, is cold and unforgiving, its deep thuds in complete contrast to the waves it beams across the cosmos. “Ion” is very mysterious, phasing and swirling under ripples and sizzles which shoot off into the ether, like objects untethered by gravity.
“Somnium” takes us to the album’s midpoint. It’s ominous and foreboding, with black drones under high-pitched, desperate skittering tones. This is almost musique concrète, and the effect is both baffling and dizzying. Perhaps the most conventional cut, “Spacewaves”, begins with drone and pulsating keys; high static shapes rise over an aural field of rotation.
My favourite track here is “Kuiper Belt“, with its breathy space pads unfurling over coiling bass stabs, effects, and an occasional bell-like clang; it feels barely under control, and bristling with malevolence. “Steel Rain” opens slowly with dark pads and plucked piano strings, rumbling and dramatic under metallic tones. Finally, “No Return” kicks off with question and answer synth notes, leaving a dark final trail on an exhilarating 43 minutes.
It’s a cracker of a début release for any label, taking the listener somewhere novel and uncharted. I’m already looking forward to listening to the label’s second release, SiJ‘s “Fragments of Memories“.