[review] KAMMARHEIT – Asleep And Well Hidden

I rarely think that music is perfect. Perfection is so difficult to achieve. It has to be just right. But sometimes, just sometimes, there will be something that comes damn close to being perfect. Asleep And Well Hidden is just one of those albums.

What makes this album so good, then? Well, I can’t really explain. With this recording, it’s all in the little details and subtlety. It’s definitely not your average Dark Ambient album. It has all the elements of Dark Ambient but I can’t name any album or artist that sounds like this or even comes close. Kammarheit stands out from all the other Dark Ambient acts out there because of it’s original and very calm sound. It’s also one of the albums that nails the genre on his head like no other. This is the soundtrack to true desolation and places devoid of all life. Every track is a different portrait of an apocalyptic landscape in the same world. The entire albums just feels complete, every track carefully selected to fit in with all the others. At first, this might sound like a ‘simple’ album but there is a amazing depth presented here that I didn’t really feel or found anywhere else. Some artists and albums seem to suffer from nothing having a clear line throughout their recording and it feels that some tracks are out of place. On Asleep And Well Hidden, every track just flawlessy flows in the other and it sounds like a whole. I heard people complaining about it’s short length though, but I think that’s one of the strengths of this album. It’s not too long and not too short. Just… Good.

One of the best, if not the best (in my opinion), Dark Ambient albums out there. This is darkness incarnate, but a very pleasant darkness indeed. One of those albums you put on during a miserable night, if you just want to see things disappear for a while. A very immersive experience, and I recommend this to everyone. Even those not into Dark Ambient, oh yes. It’s that good.

This album has just been re-released and looks gorgeous. Buy it here: http://cycliclaw.com/


[review] PARHELION – Midnight Sun

Oh, how I love cold and dark winter days (and nights, of course). Everything’s quiet and peaceful outside and static. It always brings my mind at ease. In summer, the world is always ‘awake’, while in winter, the world is always ‘asleep’. I prefer to sleep than to be awake. But, being asleep all the time would mean that I wouldn’t have time to listen to music and to do other interesting things. So winter is the perfect combination of both living and sleeping. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Parhelion.

Midnight Sun is just one of those albums you would listen to on a winter evening, when you are all by yourself. Your only company is a good book and a cup of hot beverage. Staring outside, the snowflakes fall to the ground and it’s too cold to go outside. But you don’t want to go outside anyway, since you have everything you need. Most people, and the label itself, see this album as an audial presentation of the arctic climate and landscapes. I somehow never really heard of felt that in particular when I was listening to it, I always saw it as a more lonely and somewhat gloomy album. I love to listen to this album when I’m feeling down. It perfectly suits my mood then.

The sound of Parhelion is crystal clear and the entire album sounds awesome. The subtle use of guitars here and there and melodies just add that extra special bit to the overall sound of cold drones and atmospheres. Midnight Sun is a very special album and while still being dark ambient, it brings (for me, at least) something new to the table. Mainly because of the song Forgotten Outpost this release will always stand out for me. The post rock background is definitely there, but certainly not overwhelming.

Buy the album here: http://cycliclaw.com/

[review] HYIOS – Consuetudines

Sometimes I just like to drift away in total blackness where everything is seemingly unimportant and you can shut yourself down from the outside world. Night is obviously the perfect time for this. I’ve been sleeping rather bad these days so I’m more active at night. Of course you need suitable music for that, and what is more perfect than some nice dark ambient in the background for the deeper hours, when everything is quiet and the world is asleep?

I started looking around for more obscure releases and I landed at the awesome Malignant Records. I was already familiar with quite a few of their projects but when I browsed I came across a lot of new names and the name Hyios just stood out for me. I was attracted by the strange name, album title and the description of the album. The front cover also hinted towards megalithic structures and all that good stuff so I couldn’t wait to hear it. I didn’t really know what to expect at first. It was all shrouded in mystery and that’s how I like it.

Consuetudines is a trip to the most inward and forgotten regions of the Earth. By that I mean forgotten ancient places, hidden away for thousands, if not millions of years. When you look at the cover art and inside the digipack it becomes clear that this was the purpose of Hyios: to explore these regions and to experience them in the form of audio. Lost cities, strange monoliths, you get the picture. I like how this album manages to create an almost perfect harmony between mechanic and organic sounds, something that I find to be lacking in a lot of dark ambient.

Hyios are shrouded in mystery so I can’t tell you much more about them than this. Although nothing new, Consuetudines is an awesome and solid release that should appeal to anyone into dark ambient music. Can’t wait where they will take us next, hopefully into deeper and darker places. If anyone knows more about them, besides the fact that they come from Germany, let me know.

Buy the album here: http://malignantrecords.com/

[review] SLEEP RESEARCH FACILITY – Deep Frieze

I always thought Sleep Research Facility was one of the coolest artist names I’ve come across. It’s right on the spot and is perfectly fitting for the type of music he creates. The music of Sleep Research Facility can be described as cold, emotionless and mechanical (in a way). It’s just there and doesn’t do much else besides just being there. And that’s just the point of it all. It’s meant for filling up the air with sound, at low volume so that it remains at the back. This sounds a bit… Cold, right? Is that all there is to Sleep Research Facility? In short; yes and no.

The guy behind Sleep Research Facility stated in an interview that he started this project purely for himself. When he came home from a long day he wanted to listen to music that had no beats and couldn’t cause any distraction at all. He couldn’t really find it in artists he was listening to so he decided to make it himself. And so Sleep Research Facility was born. His previous releases were (and still are) totally unmusical, consisting out of sounds from broken household equipment,then heavily edited and managed to create a really empty and eerie soundspace. A portrait of a seemingly endless black space.

Deep Frieze, however, is all but that. The purpose still remains the same, but what is presented here is different in many ways. The emptiness what marked the previous outputs is still there, but forged into something more earthly. Deep Frieze shows us desolate cold plains, where nothing is alive or could possibly survive. Antarctica, anyone? What caught my attention was that the album contains actual subtle melodies at some points and a clearer structure. I welcome this very much, since it offers a more interesting listening experience than Nostromo or Dead Weather Machine. Nostromo and Dead Weather Machine are two releases I put on purely for background purposes, while I can enjoy Deep Frieze as something to actively listen to as well.

Sleep Research Facility does again what he’s good at: creating empty and rarely changing soundscapes that are meant to be enjoyed as background sound on low volume. But, Deep Frieze offers more than just that. It offers an immersive experience that fans of drifting Ambient music are sure to enjoy. This album is also easier to get into than his other works, so for those just getting familiar with Sleep Research Facility, I suggest you try this one first.

Please support the artists and buy his music here:  http://coldspring.co.uk

[review] HALO MANASH – Language of Red Goats

I had a period where the only thing I listened to was ritualistic Ambient and anything that came close. I almost literally devoured anything I could find and came across many great artists and albums. The ones that struck me most were Halo Manash and all other Aural Hypnox related projects. While most ritual Ambient is focussed on tribal influences (Voice of Eye and Zero Kama, as an example) the projects on Aural Hypnox focus more on creating beatless atmospheres through intense and all-consuming soundscapes that suck you in. At first, most releases of Halo Manash were a mixture of electronic sounds, traditional instruments like guitars (heavily manipulated, of course) and the more onorthodox things like bells, gongs and flutes. Nowadays it almost seems that they’ve abandoned the use of traditional instruments and electronic sounds, and are purely focussing on the use of the latter instruments. This is something you don’t see very often and definitely gives them an even more ‘real’ vibe.

Language of Red Goats is minimal in the sense of the word. They’ve limited themselves on this release to the use of a gong, horns,  bells and vocals. This proves to be highly effective. The atmosphere present on this release is strange and otherwordly. This is all because of it’s ultra minimal nature. It puts the listener, when listened to with full attention, in a state of trance because of the ‘rhythm’ that is repeating itself throughout the entire recording. The whole slowly evolves into a being that will slowly devour your consiousness until you are stripped bare of all that you once were. After the journey you wake up, refreshed and awakened. A soundtrack to rebirth, if you like.

There is not much to say here, besides the fact that is an album that defines ritual Ambient pretty much. Language of Red Goats is part of series of three CD’s that are in the same vein, but still differ quite a lot from eachother. I thought that Language of Red Goats was the best of the three. Essential for those into ritualistic music, less essential for those who are looking for easy listening and ‘entertainment’.

Please support this artist and buy the album here: http://auralhypnox.com/

[review] AGLAIA – Nights In Nubiland

When I checked out Alio Die for the first time I also got to know about his own label Hic Sunt Leones. Alio Die mostly releases his own work on this label but also makes room for projects that are related to him in some way or another. Since he doesn’t do this too often there are only a few other artists to be found in his currently large catalogue. I came across Aglaia and decided to check out some of their albums. They’ve now become one of my favourite Ambient artists ever. Their style and sound is definitely something else and I can totally feel why HSL would support an artist like that.  Aglaia are known for their organic, hypnotizing and soothing soundscapes and long drawn out songs. It’s hard to describe them at all since they do vary a lot between albums and collaborations.

Nights In Nubiland is, according to the description found on the HSL website, fully electronic and no acoustic sounds or instruments have been used. It has a huge impact on their sound, but this is not to be seen as a limitation. They created a new path for themselves with this album and once again they show what they’re capable of. This album must be, in my eyes, the most complete work I’ve heard yet from Aglaia. On their previous outputs it seemed to me that they were looking for a specific sound or direction but were still not really able to find it. On Nights In Nubiland they managed to channel all those directions and ideas into one defining creation.

Compared to the rest of their work this album has a darker aura. It reminded me most of Mondi Sensibili, but more tranquil and less ‘full’. Of course, the title says it all. Not dark in the negative sense, but nightly. Daylight has faded and darkness has taken it’s place. While albums like Three Organic Experiences and Reveberant Skies were quite ‘present’, so to speak, Nights In Nubiland remains in the background, slowly drifting along. More minimal in nature and with shorter songs, this album manages to keep the listener intrigued and immerged into the sound. This development in their sound is something I can only be happy about. They’re great at creating long soundscapes, but even better at creating shorter pieces. They’ve already proven that with Reveberant Skies and Naked Movements.

In short, Nights In Nubiland is in my opinion miles above their other work and I can’t wait what they will bring us next. I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a milestone in Ambient music but it comes damn close. This album really defines the term ‘organic Ambient’. Highly recommended.

Please support this artist and buy the album here: http://www.discogs.com/seller/HicSuntLeones

[review] DRAKH – Bethlehem

Do the names MZ.412 and Nordvargr say something to you? If so, you know who this Drakh is. If not, here’s a short introduction. Drakh is one of the masterminds behind the Industrial project MZ.412 and he frequently made collaborations with his fellow bandmember Nordvargr, resulting into Nordvargr/Drakh. Both are excellent projects and I highly recommend them to you if you haven’t heard of them before.

Since Drakh has an Industrial background and works with a lot of beats, noise and all that stuff I expected another release in that style or with that approach. The Nordvargr/Drakh releases always had their fair amount of Ambient influences but the clear Industrial touch was still there. On Bethlehem, that touch is almost gone. The only Industrial/Noise influence I could think of are the subtle noisy sounds and the rarely appearing beats. The closing track though, ‘Walk of Life’, is a traditional Industrial track with noisy beats and rhytmns.  Besides that, Bethlehem is a dark and unsettling, yet calm and soothing album. In short, you could call Bethlehem Ambient Noise, but the Noise part is to be taken with a grain of salt. I still think it’s important to point it out, since it definitely defines the sound of this album.

Bethlehem seems to be a very personal album that he must have written mostly for himself. Titles like ‘View Over Tuscany’ and ‘On A Plane From Missoula’ indicate that he must’ve made songs about his travels around the world. Or maybe imaginary travels? I have no idea, but I like to think that he made all the songs with such memories in mind. But, since the album is pretty dark and somewhat sad in nature, how must these journey’s have been for him? Were they really memorable?  Did some unexpected events happen? Did he make these journey’s during a hard period in his life? It leaves me with a lot of questions of what his intentions were with this album. To bring out certain feelings, or just to create a soundscape around his memories from his travels.

Despite all that this album leaves anything open for the imagination. It shows an entire different side from Drakh, a somewhat normal side. This album sounds really natural to me for some reason in comparison to his work in MZ.412 and Nordvargr/Drakh. Really ‘ human’, but still with a certain twist. This album was a  pleasant surprise for me and stands out from anything else Drakh has done before with his other projects. I’m not sure if he’s done other solo albums but if so, I’d love to hear them.

Please support this artist and buy this album here: http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=253186&ev=mb