Tag Archives: ambient

Underground Sounds: Vėlių Namai – Kúrir

Label: Self-released
Artist: Vėlių Namai
Origin: Lithuania

I’ve shared music by Vėlių Namai before, for the reason that it is exceptionally beautiful, harrowing and evocative at the same time. This time Julius Mité is delving in a different piece of earth, namely that of Kurland or Kurzeme. Though parts of this are lost in history, this is believed to be the realm in the west of modern-day Latvia, currently also called by the same name, and western Lithuania.

With ‘Kúrir’, a sound is being delved into. Moving away from the ambient vibes of previous records, this feels much more like entering the catacombs of history with more synth-based sounds, stronger beats and a different level of intensity and forcefulness, but that’s never a bad thing, is it?

Instantly, you recognize the almost dungeon synth-y vibe to the sound. Though not falling into the dusty tomb cliché, we do experience that claustrophobic experience on ‘Sussrúmnir’. It swells up at some point with a clearly traditional element, which is a persistent thing in the music of  Vėlių Namai. This is different though, it takes you really to a human place in history with the deep drones and easy passage of the sounds.

This record feels more like story telling as well, it really takes you through somewhere, instead of letting you simmer in a mystical atmosphere. On both fronts Vėlių Namai performs great, but for me tracks like ‘1042’ and ‘Sventovit’ speak to the innovation in a more concrete way. Granted, I’ve been to Lithuania and Latvia and have seen these lands and meditated on their past and for that, this recor is the perfect soundtrack in all its warm, overwhelming glory.

 

Underground Sounds: Cân Bardd – Nature Stays Silent

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Cân Bardd
Origin: Switzerland

Nature is never really silent, but sometimes you find yourself in a spot where only the silent humming, gentle trickling of water and wind is what reaches you. That is where Cân Bardd takes you on their very first full length, which has a cover that kind of gives away something of what you can expect.

The Geneva natives have been at it for 2 years. The band consists of two members, namely Dylan Watson and Malo Civelli, who both share membership of the band Kaatarakt. That means the folky, traditional themes in their music are not really coming out of nowhere, but a more subtle take is definitely there on this recording.

A medieval, folky intro starts the record, including the ambient sounds required. Slightly dungeon synthy keys enrich the sound and create an extra layer of grandeur. The launch into the atmospheric sound is black metal with a lot of space. The sound is like a valley with a lot of open air for it to breathe in between on ‘My Ancestors’. The folk music never really leaves and even more, it takes the forefront on ‘An Evolving Painting’ with a strings effect.

Though the black metal parts of songs can sound dense and heavy, there’s always an element of condensed force to it. The sound never gets the full space of the spectrum, so folky passages and soothing synths are always at the edges. For example, check the song ‘Océan’, which harrowing cries and silent intermezzo’s, but also the waxing of the waves and burly drums of war. On ‘A Gift of Nature’, we leave the album in smooth tones, pleasant and warm.

A remarkable record by Cân Bardd, hard to really pin down as a black metal record but captivating nonetheless. Enjoyable to day the least!

Underground Sounds: Wolf Faced God – Stone Altars

Label: Dead Moon Records
Band: Wolf Faced God
Origin: USA

As we look back to our past, we delve further on to find meaning. The prehistoric times have started to fascinate us and various artists are exploring the sounds from that time. Wolf Faced God is one of those acts and with the album ‘Stone Altars’, the artist behind it reimagines the ancient past in a world full of wonder.

Hailing from the United States, Thorn Skarthborg is also the owner of the label Dead Moon Records, which releases various exciting acts in this dark ambient/ritual corner of the more explorative music. Boldly treading ancient realms and howling at the moon that still on a good night can fascinate us.

The trickling of water and eerie flutes resound in the distance as the tribal drumming starts. Instantly you are taken to a world, much quieter and smaller than ours. Peculiar synths reach through the hermetic, hallucinatory rhythm and take you to a bird’s eye position, from which you soar from opener ‘Children of the Sun’ to ‘Glacial Journey’. The wind rattles you as drones create the semblance of a song structure, but perhaps it is simply your mind trying to find structure in the wild sounds of nature?

Even more low and foreboding is the sound when we enter the ritual on ‘Paleolithic Rituals’. Humming, murmuring tones sometimes break through, evoking the sense of ritual chanting. A wonderful experience, not unlike the one on ‘Cult of the Mammoths’, which sounds playful and lively like the great forest. Immerse yourself in the splendor of a world that is simply much more dangerous and fleeting with this record, filled with magnificent ambient tunes. I absolutely love it.

Underground Sounds: Atrium Carceri/Herbst9 – Ur Djupan Dal

Label: Cryo Chamber
Artists: Atrium Carceri & Herbst9
Origin: Sweden/Germany

It’s a given that Cryo Chamber releases are superb. My expectations for this joint release by Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 are therefore high and I expect some exceptional material here on ‘Ur Djupan Dal’, which is a cooperative piece of gloomy ambient music.

The story starts in a harbor, warm and mysterious, perhaps in the orient? But this is a land of magical beings, of giants and dragons, but also of mystic vapors and strange rituals. Atrium Carceri is a project by Simon Heath, known for his involvement with Cold Meat Industries and founder of Cryo Chamber. Herbst9 is a mysterious new age/ambient project from Leipzig with various other expressions.

Unearthly mumblings and rumblings open the record and allow you entrance into this realm, as a shrill whistle blows and various ambiance and field sounds seem to fill your consciousness. Slow, gliding and with a sense of immenseness drums guide you forward as the utterances keep disturbing the sense of tranquility. In the sound, there’s always something at the edge of your perception happening though. Something ominous, foreboding even, of other events that might lurk.

That whispering takes a clear shape on ‘Ur Evighetens Pipa’, where an almost mechanic rhythm is disturbed by utterings in an unidentifiable language. This mysterious tongue seems full of mystery. On ‘Drakhuvud’ we even hear ritualistic chanting, as the sound drones onwards with unremitting power and booming strength. That is what draws you into the sound of this record, it’s sheer force and overwhelming ability to captivate and demand attention with heaviness you feel in your gut.

Underground Sounds: Astral & Shit – Divo

Label: Black Mara Records
Band: Astral & Shit
Origin: Russia
Astral & Shit is not a band name I recommend if you want to make it big, but for an underground ambient project, it works to get the interest peaked and look a bit odd in the big mass of releases. This is their latest release on one of my favorite ambient labels, titled ‘Divo’.
The act in fact only contains one member, namely Ivan Gomzikov, who hails from Nevyansk, a town north of Yekaterinenburg deep into mother Russia. Astral & Shit is extremely productive and releases records by the month it almost seems.
The record opens with ‘Riphean Mountains’, which opens up like the sun going under over a rocky facade. First gently cresting the edges, before becoming fully removed from your vision. Then every sound intensifies, with the nightly sounds and rumblings of the earth around you. Repetitive chirps accompany the droning sounds produced by Gomzikov, enhancing the nightly aura. But the drones keep swelling. The concept of the album revolves around an alien entity, that once came out of the earth. That is Divo, dangerous, but mostly not understood by us.
The drones turn very heavy at times, almost taking up the whole of what you hear, for example on ‘Polota Crossing’, where it simply seems to surge and pulsate as crackling or breaking sounds fill up the sonic gaps. It’s powerful, looming, but most of all fully submerging the listener. It’s the sound of nature, the silent droning you only hear when you are really, really quiet yourself for a moment. That’s the beauty of it.

Underground Sounds: ΚΑΤΑΠΥΓΩΝ – ΜΗΟΥΣΑ

Label: ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ
Band: ΚΑΤΑΠΥΓΩΝ
Origin: Russia

ΚΑΤΑΠΥΓΩΝ or Katapygon translates best as ‘the finger’, so that should be clear. The project combines ancient Greek music with electroacoustic and ambient sounds in order to create a uniquely flavored concoction of blips, chants, and ancient rituals. It makes up a rather miraculous release altogether.

ΜΗΟΥΣΑ, in turn, translates probably best as ‘muse’. The description with this record is strange, to say the least. Suggestive and shrouded in mystery, the notes refer to a poem by Paul Celan, to the philologist Wagenheim (which might be a Latinized name). The Russian group creates a record with all these references, that suggests the dispersion of humans from the islands of Hellas millennia ago in music that defies description.

From the operatic opening of ‘Jenseits Der Menchen’ onwards, you’re drawn into a world of mystery and wonder with this mixture of folk, ambient, and drone. Classical samples and odd incantations fill the air, as this collaborative effort with Noises of Russia rolls forward. Spoken word passages whisper over the droning, heavy drums, which only hid after large intervals. By the time we get to ‘Пчёлы Персефоны (feat. Sal Solaris & Noises of Russia)’, a full on martial, throbbing beat takes over as a whispering voice pronounces the words. It’s odd, wet sound is almost uncanny if it weren’t for the supporting regal drones.

The chanting ladies on ‘O Phosphor Hecate’ take it all to a more ethereal level, with dense, vast beats and that traditional ecclesiastic singing in an uncomfortable disharmony. The chanting evokes a melancholy and yearning, that harks back through the aeons that separate the suggested origins from the obtruse age we live in, where magic and art no longer are an intertwined, integrated part of life. As we move towards ‘Persephone (feat. Neznamo)’, we are once more taken on that journey of mythical chanting and fat, physical beats. You can feel this in your gut.

This record is quite something. It defies proper description, but really rattles the listener. Recommended audio-experience!

Underground Sounds: Paleowolf – Megafauna Rituals

Label: Self-released
Band: Paleowolf
Origin: Serbia

Back to the time before time

Back into the primordial realm, to the days before history, with the latest release by Paleowolf. This record is titled ‘Megafauna Rituals’ and explores the shamanistic hunter-gatherers of the 150.000-9.000 BC era, when early man was faced with giant wildlife known as Megafauna. Check out their previous records too.

When we speak of giants walking the earth, this is a time we can certainly speak of. Nature was still dominating human life, overwhelming our ancestors, who carved their image into walls and objects in reverence to their primitive, raw power. This album, the fourth by Paleowolf, explores that in sound.

‘Aurochs’ opens with a firm, reverberating drown, paying homage to the ancestors of our cattle. A mighty race of cow-like creatures, whose grunts and bellows merge with the droning and drums, that sound with ominous force. The Auroch was actually part of our landscape up till the 16th century. The ‘Sabertooth’ is a very different beast. Its ferocity is captured in fiery tribal chants and drums, but also in the low growling and eerie drones. There’s a reverie in the song for this mighty beast. A proud statement, with matching sounds.

A similar expression follows with songs like ‘Totem’ and ‘Cavebear’, tribal utterings and beastly suggestive passages, that keep the listener in that strange trance. It takes you to something untapped, something reptilian in your brain of an instinctive nature. Only with the majesty of ‘Megaloceros’, we are awoken for a bit with its sonorous bellowing. All an imitation of course, since this mighty creature no longer walks the earth. The sound swells to a mighty roar, with powerful, firmament-shaking drums. You can feel the fires dancing over the leafy roof above the tribesmen as they dance to their primitive deities on ‘Direwolf’. Attempting in their rituals, to quell the natural forces that proved to be a danger during day and night. That’s when the howling resounds and eerie drones take over.

We end with the mighty ‘Mammoth’, after which the primordial realm gently fades away again.

Underground Sounds: Isa – The Sky in the Salty Wells

Label: Shadowplay Records (album released independently)
Band: Isa
Origin: Russia

It seems that Russian act Isa has now determinedly started to move away from their black metal sound on ‘Небо в солёных колодцах’, which translates as ‘The Sky in the Salty Wells’. Not only in sound, but also in artwork and track titles. From the first release onward, Isa numbered their tracks in a continuous sequence, stringing the songs on four releases together into one descriptive piece of art detailing the pastoral Russian country life.

Previous releases would feature covers with landscapes. An almost still life of rural life depicted on them. This record shifts to a new dimension, where it seems like the human aspect takes the forefront. The cover features a collage of images of people land and nature, cut and paste together in an odd manner. It feels like a logical next step in the career of this Novosibirsk band, who constantly amaze with their beautiful music.

The result is a shimmering, brooding record full of melancholy. It is as if the winter has covered all the land, all life, and passion submerged by the mercy of a white blanket over its soil. Warm tones creep by, never really taking on any sort of force. The drums sound muffled, buried in the music that flows like a warm bath. Noteworthy is the collaboration with Lesnoy Tanets on the track ‘Poplars’, where hushed vocals speak raspy words over

On ‘Blind Man’ it is as if an accordion is woven into the sound. It feels folky, but also hazy. Almost as if you’re listening to memories of the past in abandoned streets.  Yet, streets where only the ghosts of a better time dwell. The gentle murmurings never feel urgent. The music progresses slowly, which feels a lot like the daydreaming on a winters day, staring out over the frosty landscape. The melancholic sound of Isa is a mellow swamp of keyboards, guitars, and drums, all melting together. As a result, the music  becomes an immersive dream. Melancholic and cold, most noteworthy on ‘Singing Skyline’ with its wonderful intro, is a highlight.

Isa has made a remarkable new album and found a direction to explore musically. I’m keen to hear what new works may come in the future, but this one is a record to keep coming back to.

Underground Sounds: Eldamar – A Dark Forgotten Past

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Eldamar
Origin: Norway

Eldamar is an atmospheric black metal project from Norway, with a sole member in its ranks. Mathias Hemmingby from Askim has a profound love for the fantastic, which is evident from the projects name (a reference to Tolkien’s elven realms). ‘A Dark Forgotten Past’ is the second album of the band.

This is the second full length for Eldamar, which has existed since 2015. The debut ‘The Force of the Ancient Land’ came out in 2016, so respect for unleashing the next work only a year later. Most of the music is generated on the computer and inspiration comes from the likes of Elderwind and Howard Shore alike.

The sound of Eldamar lingers somewhere between dungeon synth and atmospheric black metal. The guitar riffs sound as tight as your most epic sword-guitar wielding power metal band. Due to the production all is rather polished, yet the atmosphere is vastly different. The grimy, abyssal vocals match up with clean, angelic singing. A broad spectrum of sound unfolds, with the mission of casting a spell you with magical, harmonious songs.

The melancholic chanting might remind you of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks or even some moments in the World of Warcraft lore. Its profound sadness works well in line with the steady blast beats and solid riffing. You journey to an otherworldly place with a song like ‘In Search of New Wisdom’. It’s as if the guitars and drums merely function as rhythmic devices. The synths dance their very own dance in harmony with the vocals. It works marvelously and after listening to this record for a while, I’m finding myself thinking of mighty mountain peaks, deep dwarven halls and fiery craters of doom.

In conclusion follows the particular highlight of the climactic ‘A New Understanding’, which closes the record. It completely swoops you up and carries you to the realms far, far removed from where you normally reside. Nothing quite sounds the same as Eldamar.

Underground Sounds: qqqØqqq – Burning Stones Of Consciousness

Label: Casetta
Band: qqqØqqq 
Origin: Italy

qqqØqqq is a project dedicated to silence. It’s a creation by Tomasso Busatto (Plasst) on synths, who also runs the Casetta label and Carlo Mantione (Contemplatio) on guitar and pedals. Their sound is a dedication to silence, to meditative calm and the serenity that can be found in there.

The duo hails from Italy and has a certain affiliation with murmur mori. Their music could be described as minimalist and meditative. Their record is out on Casetta, but also on E’ Un Brutto Posto Dove Vivere , Contemplatio, Dreamingorilla Records and Insonnia Lunare Records. This is the sound to immerse yourself in and simply drift away.

The music feels like triphop meets postrock, with plenty of audio samples. The sound has a certain flat flow to it, which just carries you along without ever deviating from its continuation. At times the sound swells to a more violent timbre, but never leaves the current where it is in. Particularly ‘All this Heaviness is just my monolithic self’ stands out by its intensity.

It’s peculiar how spacious the sound can be of qqqØqqq, because the sound at times feels so immense as if you are completely getting lost in it. Ethereal and earthy at the same time, the lazy beat and eerie soundscapes offer a profound expression. The titles appear to refer to states of mind, which are invoked by the sound. For example ‘Crumbling plains and burning stones of consciousness (Feat. H!U)’ has a certain forlorn sound to it. The slow beats crush anything that is still out there, untill only void remains.

This is how qqqØqqq completely blows you away with abstract sounds and immersive beauty. Classify this as ambient or drone, it doesn’t matter, it’s music for the mind.