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Cryo Chamber Collective * Noone * The Null Spectre

Noone - Crocodile

Yog-Sothoth

CRYO CHAMBER COLLECTIVE – YOG-SOTHOTH

Dark Ambient is a genre tag with a bit of a bad reputation – a bit like New Age’s opposite twin brother. Too much church-bells and singing monks in easy arrangements have given the genre a bad name (as did too many dolphin sounds for New Age). But: don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! There’s a lot of interesting ‘dark ambient’ too – if only you know where to find it.

The Cryo Chamber label is a good place to start delving: the Oregon based label is specialised in the genre and offers many quality releases: “We portray distant worlds, dusty cathedrals, damp forests. We field record in ghost towns, abandoned subway tunnels and on dwindling mountain paths.”

It’s no surprise that this music of darkness is deeply connected with the work of H.P. Lovecraft, american writer of horror fiction whose work laid the foundation of the Cthulthu Mythos often referred to in all things dark and scary.

Yog-Sothoth (also known as “The Lurker at the Threshold, The Key and the Gate, The Beyond One, Opener of the Way, The All-in-One, The One-in-All”) is a cosmic entity from the Cthulthy Mythos: an omniscient god, locked outside the universe, meaning he knows and can see all of space-time all at once, that there is no secret hidden from Yog-Sothoth.”

Not an entity to speak lightly of, so for this release almost the entire cast of Cryo Chamber artist are summoned for a two-hour collaboration tribute to the work of H.P. Lovecraft.
The double CD is not a compilation album, but consists of two continuous mixes involving contributions by acts like ProtoU, Alphaxone, Kammerheit, Atrium Carceri, Randall Collier-Ford, Dronny Darko, God Body Disconnect, Northumbria (and many more).

This two-hour set of dark cinematic soundscapes is the fourth in the Lovecraft Discography series, preceded by Cthulthu (2014), Azathoth (2015) and Nyarlathotep (2016).


Noone - Crocodile

NOONE – HOW DOTH THE LITTLE CROCODILE IMPROVE HIS SHINING TAIL

Noone knows who Noone is, because it’s just the music that’s important. No distraction by non-musical trivialities. It’s not very hard to find out who it is if you do a little search, but I won’t disclose this unknown identity who has until now self-released 10 digital (‘practically identical’) albums. Most are simply titled with a number, with the occasional exception to that rule. So this new release (the first physical release on the Midira Records label) is not entirely without context.

The somewhat odd title is taken from a Lewis Carroll poem (in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland):

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

You can take that as a warning: don’t let the gentle smile and cheerful grin lure you into the claws of the crocodile! Not every drone is a soothing sound.

How Doth The Little Crocodileis an hour-long soundscape that can be frightening at times, somewhat psychedelic even. The cinematic drones are filled with sound effects (like loud echoed slaps), strange noises and toy sounds. Culminating into a strange animal-like sound in the end, it feels as if you have descended into some underworld you shouldn’t want to enter. Or like the poor little fish that finds himself in the jaws of a gently smiling crocodile.

An ‘instrumental audio drama, a soundtrack for your imagination’ .


Wendigo

THE NULL SPECTRE – WENDIGO

Speaking about ‘dark’: The Null Spectre is an ambient artist (personal details unknown) from Seattle, Washington, who aims to create “soundscapes that will haunt your nightmares…”.
The Bandcamp collection presents eight (self-released) albums with promising titles such as The Darkling, Lord of Shadows and Fears of Men… so you know what to expect: bleak soundtracks of darkness and superstition.

Wendigo is also created as a soundtrack for a fictitious movie full of suspense and horror. The liner notes even suggest a plot synopsis, but I think it’s better to leave the story to the imagination of the listener. In a different context, the music may also turn out to be less dark and ominous than intended.

The short (25 minute) 4-track album is available as a Name Your Price download.

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[Law-Rah] Collective/Cinema Perdu; Celer; Book of Air

Celer - Two Days and One Night

Invocation

THE [LAW-RAH] COLLECTIVE / CINEMA PERDU – INVOCATION

Since 2000, The [Law-Rah] Collective has been operating in various formations on different projects. Their discography boasts 14 full albums and numerous other projects. Bauke van der Wal is the constant factor of this ever-changing group of contributors.
On this occasion, he is the single [Law-Rah] member performing. Other tracks on this split album are performed by Martijn Pieck – who has been releasing his work as Cinema Perdusince 2012. In times, he was a member of the collective too. So, in a way, this album can be seen as a ‘collective’ effort, too. Each performer delivers two solo tracks, and they perform together on ‘Invocation 4’.

According to the liner notes, this album is all about friendship. Or rather: the ways friendship can end.
It’s also about friendships that never end, ‘even when said friend has left this dimension. The feeling that we’re left with is just about the worst feeling ever…’
The tracks on Invocation are ‘personal views and interpretations of the emptiness that remains. Finding closure in a process of grief’.

The extended, minimalist drones clearly do not radiate happiness – but on the other hand you would probably have a different interpretation of these sounds when you didn’t know about the artists’ intention. Drones like this create their own vast space to let your thoughts wander to whatever occupies your mind.

With an average length of about 10 minutes each, these five tracks are the kind of sonic immersion that makes time stand still, while everything outside the space it creates seems to disappear. At the same time, the sonic space is filled with sparse details, accents that seek attention and can keep the listener focused and avoid drifting off too far. Especially on the collaboration track, Invocation 4, which has a more industrial feel and is less ‘droney’ than the other pieces.

Van der Wal and Pieck each have their own approach but they obviously share the same artistic vision too. That is why they fit together very well on this split release that feels like a single album instead of being two completely different parts.

Also on Spotify


Celer - Two Days and One Night

CELER – TWO DAYS AND ONE NIGHT

Coincidentally, Celer‘s Two Days And One Night is another album about loss and dealing with grief. On this album, Will Long retraces the steps his great-uncle travelled in 1984, from Tunis to Hammamet, ‘where he rented a hotel room, bought swimming trunks, and by the afternoon had drowned in the ocean.’ He was 80 years old.

Celer re-creates this trip using his own experience, ‘a re-imagining of what my great uncle might have heard and experienced 31 years before.’
The ambient washes of sound in the longer tracks are merged with shorter – sometimes almost inaudible – local field recordings, creating a dreamlike and slightly exotic atmosphere.

It is amazing how personal Celer‘s music feels, considering his enormous output. But, as personal as its background is, this music tells a story everyone can relate to somehow.

“It’s a shame he didn’t see the burnt orange sunset swirling over the horizon as I did… but then again, maybe he did.”


Vvolk

VVOLK – BOOK OF AIR

Think of a group of 18 improvisers ‘with roots in jazz and classical music’ performing. What sound do you expect to hear? Personally, I expected mayhem, pandemonium, ‘organised chaos’ and disruption.

So much to my surprise, this music is none of that. Or maybe it is, but in a completely unexpected way.
In these two pieces, each referring to two seasons of the year, the Book of Air collective demonstrates an almost incredibly controlled restraint.  This is especially fascinating considering they do not use electronic instruments: the ensemble features drums, bass, guitars, harmonium, euphonium, rhodes, saxophones, flute, percussion and kankles.

 

I’m not sure what the title, Vvolk, refers to exactly (*). But maybe it’s the VV is the ancient notation for W – in which case it translates to “cloud”.
The music originates from the questions Book of Air asked themselves:
“what are the possibilities in playing music, when changes in this music pass by unnoticed? How do we as musicians relate to the running time of a performance? How does our hearing and memory react to these slow changes?”

Vvolk is the follow-up to Fieldtone from november, 2015, on which Book of Air performed as a quintet created music dedicated to ‘roomtone: “the ‘silence’ recorded at a location or space where no music is played or dialogue spoken’.
Check that one out too, if you can. You’ll probably have a hard time finding any better ‘ambient jazz’ than this.

(*) [Edit august 2018]:
Only recently I found out that Book of Air is the name of the ongoing project series, and thus not the ‘band’ name.

Fieldtone and Vvolk are the two different collectives that perform the first two parts of this series. I left the text above as I wrote it in 2016. 

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