Posts Tagged ‘dark ambient’

Fresh from Webbed Hand Records is a new EP from the mysterious Van Aken Project. I can’t find anything by way of background information about the artist, who describes the release as “a deep and dark journey in the dreadful corners of the soul”. Upfront, there’s an expectation that the listener may be in for something bleak.

“Crawling Rapture” kicks off with a clambering bassline which pulls the listener into a slow, loping trip hop rhythm, fuelled by spooky organ stabs, and with scattered snatches of what sounds like a police radio scanner. It’s very short, but it’s an excellent opener. Dark, but not in a dark ambient sense.

“Kira”, the centrepiece of the album at over fifteen minutes long, starts with a distant, pummelling beat and ethereal voices, and quickly takes us into a series of single piano notes, before moving into a beatless void of dark ambience. A ticking sound, like a warped clock, moves in and across the soundfield. A slow, almost funereal organ plays a sequence of notes while the ambience shivers around us. A mid-range metallic thud begins underneath a repetitive wind instrument. Clarinet, perhaps? A dark pad brings in a descending motif, and an angelic choir fades in and overlays the top of the music as the pad makes way for gentle piano. Discordant strings push the piano aside, before it returns with more urgency. The track fades out with ghostly, distressed voices. It’s quite a journey.

Mid-way through the album in terms of tracks, “Room22” has a much more industrial feel, with a clanking machine-like beat. Odd snatches of spoken word and singing appear; a different room in the same building. The penultimate cut, “Outside”, is set in a big, dubby space, with harp and far away birdsong. A minor series of synth chords pulls us forward relentlessly. Strings and trumpet move in as the dub beat leaves. It feels as though we’ve been placed right inside a story where we don’t understand the rules. Lovely stuff.

The EP finishes with the oppressive “Entombed Colony”. A relentless buzz of alien insects draws the listener into a dark, factory-like hive. A solid, complex rhythm propels the music forward; the rhythm gives way to quiet, delayed synth stabs, which float the track towards the final closing of the hive-tomb’s heavy entrance.

Label: Webbed Hand   Cat: WH230   Artist: Van Aken Project   Price: Free

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The netlabel We Are All Ghosts, based in Motherwell, Scotland, launched in April 2012. They’ve released two albums to date; this was their first.

Cousin Silas’s “The Path Between the Trees” opens with “In One Corner of the Sky (Jupiter Sings)”, which has some lovely stereo cracks and glitches overlaid on peaceful piano, and immediately gives feelings of innocence and fresh, icy air. “Of Ancient Ways” has electric guitar and piano, set in a wide space, occasionally overlaid with children’s voices; again, some nice stereo delay washes across the soundfield. The two opening tracks are both soundscapes rather than ambient music. “Beneath the Foundations” definitely is the latter, though, and it’s dark, too; dense, and probably best not listened to alone in the dark. Prepare to be startled a couple of times during this one.

The title track leads us on something of an ambient journey, and evokes its name well. “Rediscovered” is the first music on the album that has a percussive rhythm, and it carries a lopsided, almost cinematic feel to it, with clear guitar over a muffled piano. “Strange Qualities” spans across the album’s half-way point, and is eerie, claustrophobic, and once again very dark, with snatches of grim, almost demonic processed speech. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling, which is just how it should be. In contrast, “Lost Images” starts with a clear, almost hymn-like piano, overlaid with relaxed electric guitar notes which seem to offer answers to the questions posed by the piano. It’s very easy on the ear, and very restful.

On “The Sealing of the Pothole”, we’re drawn back into territory similar to “Beneath the Foundations”. Deep bass rumbles of dark ambience drag the listener down with their gravity, while alien chatter heightens the experience of being dissociated from our everyday surroundings. The second of two rhythmic tracks, “Diversions”, is a moody, bluesy and almost conventional diversion. Finally, we close with “Lowland”, where comfortable electric guitar merges with some Fripp-ish overlay and little backwards sounds. Fascinating. It’s a very pretty end to an interesting mesh of light and darkness. I look forward to hearing what else the label has in store for us.

Label: We Are All Ghosts   Cat: WAAG_REL001   Artist: Cousin Silas   Price: Free

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