Tag Archives: ambient

Underground Sounds: Varkâna – Rite

Label: Independent
Band: Varkâna
Origin: Iran

Dungeon synth is a peculiar genre and is being made in strange places. One of the acts I came across recently is Varkâna. The inspiration for their sound comes from Iranian paganism and history, which obviously offers a wealth of inspiration for any artist seeking topics to work with. Varkâna is the old Persian word for a region south-east of the Caspian sea, now known as Hyrcania. A region now partly in Iran and partly in Turkmenistan, which was incorporated in various historical empires.
So, because I was really curious I got in touch with the artist behind the project and I’ll share the reply the way I received it: “It’s based on Iranian mythology and nature. I composed all the tracks when I was away from the city and deep into the vast lands and forests of northwestern Iran, the name varkana means land of wolves which is a part of Iran it’s called Gorgan now which means the same.”
The music of Varkâna summons images of the tranquil beauty that this verdant realm in Iran is. It’s vast forests and radiant green colors. Of course, a few pictures that I could browse don’t cover the full extent of the region, but it links you to the visions that inspired the artist. Mellow drones and calm, thudding drums bring on a trance-like feel. Intricate melodies weave through this flow of sound. There’s an aspect of dungeon synth present in that the music seems to be produced with the traditional software. The music is slightly different though. If only simply in the atmosphere that the sounds and patterns evoke.
On ‘Gathering’ I feel I can actually hear the oriental vibe. It’s the way the heavy reverb of the drum is followed by the cascading music, the little tang right after and the way it fills you with a sense of foreboding.  It’s where you really realize that this is a different place when you stumble upon ancient ruins and imagine the sounds of those past places, obscured in the mists and fog of history.  Mellow folk influences dance through the tunes, which really work the imagination.
There’s a serenity in the music of Varkâna, a peaceful spaciousness. Dream away with forgotten histories and far of lands with this piece of remarkable ambient music.

Underground Sounds: Bròn – Зарђала Круна/White City, Black Circle/Ruins/Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

Label: Kunsthauch/Independent
Band: Bròn
Origin: New Zealand

The project Bròn originally released an album with a very natural vibe to it. It had the eerie magic of the night sky over the mountains as depicted on the cover of ‘Ànrach’ and I absolutely loved it. I wrote a little about previous release ‘Fògradh’ too.  Bròn is the project of Krigeist, or Andrew Campbell, from New Zealand. Campbell relocated to Scotland and there’s a definite connection between that move and the sound of Bròn it seems. He also plays in the amazing Barshasketh and Belliciste.

I missed the fact that Bròn had become a prolific outlet for the musician in the past year, so high time to catch up with the astonishing 4 releases of last year. I was reminded of this, because of the live show I saw in Little Devil recently. All exploring new aspects of nature and different sounds that express that passion and beauty found there. So this is 4 reviews of one artist. Never do words like this do justice to the full force of these albums, but I feel that I need to cover all for completion.

Bròn – Зарђала Круна

January 2017 saw the release of this record, which sticks close to the familiar Bròn sound with a lot of soaring guitars and tremolo riffs. The inspiration comes from the devil in nature, that is the only info given. The choice for a Cyrillic font does say more than that though. A later notification on Facebook said that it was inspired by the Serbian wilderness and the darkness within. There’s a definite darkness to the Balkan forests that is caught in the looming, dark sound of this new EP. The untarnished sky above it at night, the shades of the trees.

The record is a multi-part atmospheric black metal piece, with a definite Burzum doom and gloom vibe to it and the grandeur of an Elderwind.  The crisp clear production sometimes borders on overly polished but keeps on the right side of the track in all its overwhelming force. At other times it has the gentle trickling of an empty forest, where all you hear is the gentle sounds of the natural world around you. Pure magic and all of that in one long piece of over 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it’ll be the last black metal release, thus wrote Krigeist. His newer soundtracks take on different shapes.

Bròn – White City, Black Circle

Living in an urban environment requires a different soundtrack, wrote Krigeist on Facebook. He explained the sound of ‘Зарђала Круна’ while introducing this new release. The organic sound of the previous releases is vastly more fitting for the verdant realm indeed. The album signifies a radical turn in sound for Bròn. With a groove that is more triphop we enter the realm of tarmac and concrete, with lamp posts illuminating the grey jungle around you. Meandering between the aforementioned, synthwave and maybe a little dungeon synth, the sound is peculiar but fitting.

The titles are in Croation, referring to central themes revolving around that of Bròn (sorrow). It offers songs of those dark, nameless places we dwell in. Whether that’s a city in Croatia, Norway, Scotland or I wager even in New Zealand, there’s a sort of nameless grief there. The mixture of beats and ambient drones conveys that feeling very well. I particularly enjoy the mixture of that with the synths, which is always the sound of the urban environment. Towards the end of the record, the music is lighter, warmer as if the sun has broken through the smoggy haze. We leave the city here to the free part of the world.

Bròn – Ruins

On Ruins we find the same instrumentation, but a more Ulver or even folkish vibe at times with spun out tones and long passages of melancholic music. The music is calm and soothing and does, like the title tells you, remind of the tranquility you find in between forgotten ruins. That is also what the song titles refer to, to various locations of ancient ruins in corners of Europe, places that make you think and imagine. The vocals are gentle as well, almost chanting in a meditative way. The record even includes a folk cover ‘Twa Corbies’ from Scottish lore.

The sound has a clarity to it, everything is wavering and calm like an easy breeze. It’s almost like listening to an acoustic performance with various musicians, all delivering the minimal bits of sounds that make out the complete tapestry.For me, this might be the most beautiful album that Bròn has created this far. The music is so intricate, without ever sounding difficult or overly contrived. It’s a natural expression of the feeling in easy flowing, but still heavy music. After this record, Krigeist announced a hiatus for Bròn. That was definitely not meant to last after this june 2017 release.

Bròn – Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

A trip back to New Zealand was the impulse that Bròn needed. Krigeist was revitalized and inspired to make music again under that banner and three tracks expressing the untapped dark energies that dwell in New Zealand’s wild places. There is definite darkness on this album, which almost faded on ‘Ruins’. A long murmured intro with foreboding synths leads us into this new record. Eerie synths slither out of the speakers, while a creepy, scifi tune is played on the keys in the most bombastic tones.

But then there’s also the guitars and the screams. It would appear that Bròn comes full circle here and finds a sound that truly embraces the atmospheric output that Krigeist is looking for. The melancholy of the synths, combined with the harsh, ruggedness of the guitars. The ragged fury of the vocals, like that furious sea wind biting at you, while ver in motion on the waters. Three tracks tell the story that is both beautiful and grim at the same time. I guess it makes sense what Kant once said on the sublime in art, which really goes for nature. It’s overwhelming force can overwhelm us with awe and wonder in a sense. This is well conveyed in this piece of music by Bròn, which I really enjoy.

Let’s see what the future holds for this explorer in both the geographic and artistic realms.

Underground Sounds: Paleowolf – Genesis/Prehistoric Meditations

Band: Paleowolf
Origin: Serbia

Paleowolf really impressed me with their shamanistic debut album, full of beautiful, transcendental ambient music. The record was a surprise in an otherwise dense forest of mediocre interpretations of the far past. Apart from releases of the Russian Nomus Dei and Black Mara labels, not much can come clos to the work of Paleowolf in my opinion when it comes to ambient that embraces the primordial.

So, what I didn’t know is that Paleowolf is the side project of Scorpio V of Metatron Omega. With Paleowolf we travel through the world before it was civilised, when drums echo in ritual in valleys between rough mountain ridges. Where bonfires are the illumination during the night, to keep predators at bay and allowing the poeple to marvel at its destructive force. War, death and the hunt of primitive man is painted in the tones of this music.

Genesis (2016)

Label: Cryo Chamber

source: bandcamp

On ‘Genesis’, we hear a Paleowolf in a complete immersion in Paleolithic life. We see the fire emerge from between the trees and rise to a roaring height, illuminating the wide region like a beacon of sorts, for all wanderers. Is it fa friendly fire or is it danger? Is this then the first fire to be raised in an otherwise dark world? In that case, it would match the title. With the finding of fire, mankind enters a new era of domination.

The music is the sound of bird and the crackling of the fire, the eerie sound of wind instruments and throaty, shamanistic singing. Tribal drumming in praise of forgotten gods and to announce war or ceremony. A hurried, hunted sound forms on ‘Hunter II’. The listener witnesses the shapes running between the trees in chase of prey. This all happens in a forest filled with sounds. On ‘Eastern Tribes’ we hear more of a threatening sound. Not necessarily of war, but of seizing each other up. Of people encountering each other in the vast emptiness of the primordial world. The primitive instruments  resound in the play of power, where drums are banged and morose mouth harps resound.

Interesting fact, is that this release is different design-wise. The picture shows a shot of nature, fire between trees, with a discrete logo with runes. This differs from the self released records by Paleowolf, which are more designed and feel more abstract. ‘Genesis’ is a record that grows, that opens up and takes the listener to a different time.

Prehistoric Meditations (2017)

source: bandcamp

On the self-released ‘Prehistoric Meditations’, we enter a more meditative mood, less descriptive, more inwards and abstract. Slow droning sounds, pleasant nature sounds and dreamy passages. This is a different sort of record. Unlike  ‘Genesis’ the music is less focussed on the surroundings and more on the internal listener.

The listener therefor goes more on a spiritual journey while listening to this record. It’s made to meditate to, to relax to and explore. I’ve read about the Aborigines ‘Dream world’ and I think that this resembles most closely where Paleowolf is trying to take you to with this meditative record.

The album consists of three tracks, offering a three step rocket into the subconscious, a  gradual descent into the magical times. The droning tones, the gentle whisperings and tittering of birds touches upon something primal within you. It allows you to focus completely and try to detect the origins, it is a mind cleaner, a deep meditation and quest. Gently water is flowing, wind pipes chime and a gentle buzz fills the ear. As you come to a deep calm, deep voices chant again.

This is an album for headphones, for a solitary listener in a state of rest. It’s drony, ambient minimalism is a unique listening experience and I’ve not been able to find an artist who comes close to the sound of Paleowolf. Their attempt to reconnect with the primordial self, with the ancestor cult is something you need to be open to as a listener to truly find your way in the sound, particularly relevant on the meditative records.

Underground Sounds: Coume Ouarnède – Celui Qui Vide Les Arbres

Label: Nomos Dei
Band: Coume Ouarnède
Origin: France

I’ve been intrigued by the releases of Russian label Nomos Dei, since I found out about them. This is another mysterious release, that is in fact a quest of discovery to find our ancient roots in the mighty mountains of the Pyrenees through music, ritual and ambient sounds. Something profoundly archaïc can be found for those who dare search for it.

Yan Arexis is a percussionist, who also has been active in Stille Volk (pagan folk) and Sus Scrofa (pagan black metal). He pretty much founded all those, but also La Breiche and Cober Ord. Another set of projects unveiling archaic Pyrenean folk. So, all in all Yan Arexis is at home in the field of music he is practicing on this record. This explains the compelling force of the record for sure.

The name of the record translates as ‘those who the empty trees’ and the purpose is to create music, like it was 10.000 years ago. In awe and respect of nature, to please the gods. The percussion you hear is natural. In the description Arexis claims to use stones and rocks. The forest sounds surround the central musician, who murmurs ancient words on a whispering tone, while tribal drumming sounds softly. The sound of howling birds sounds in the background as the listener is slowly talked into a trance.

Sometimes the music is barely audible, but it’s a constant trickle of sound. Mild ambient, softly blaring sounds and the echo of something akin to bells. In particular the track ‘La Coume Ouarnède’ is a track to sink into and let go of all other things. The tribal drones are the leading element, helping the listener to find a calm. This whole record is hard to describe as a rational experience. It’s a primordial expression of spirituality and offers a meditation gateway for the listener. One needs to be open for that. If so, you’ll find a wealthy, rich album of ancient folk.

 

Underground Sounds: Forest of Trys – Frostburn

Label: –
Band: Forest of Trys
Origin: Lithuania

There’s  a joke in the name, because Trys just sounds like trees. The profile picture on bandcamp is a fat cat and you might start having doubts about the seriousness of Forest of Trys . Still the sound of the band is not one for light jokes and fun, but a grim affair indeed.

Forest of Trys only has one member listed on Metal Archives, namely Šmėkla. Another fact is that the band hails from Kaunas and did release a full lenght earlier in 2016, titled ‘Architect’.

‘Stars I’ is the opener, which starts with hazy, distorted noisy black metal. It feels like an industrial haze with the lecherous sound of Fat White Family somewhere hidden in the sonic fog (no clue how I take that from it). Then suddenly it merges into an old carnival tune, not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack by David Lynch. It all sounds just a bit of and wrong, which makes the vibe more slightly unnerving. Guided by martial drumming, the song moves back to the noisey dissonance. Shattering sampling and icy beats follow for the next part of the track, creating a noisy template of assault.

A more gritty sound can be heard on ‘Stars II’, where we seem to move away even further from the noisy black metal sound. Groaning noise pulsates in the air, while string elements create a semblance of style and class in sharp contrast to the colossal noise. Again, such a peculiar sound, but the final song, surprisingly titled ‘Starts III’ really takes the cake. Grim, desolate and full of industrial elements, it consists of more effects and samples of people speaking in an order that feels completely random. Pulsating, humming, squeeking the sont thunders on, with a seemingly random drum pattern offering a semblance of steadiness in the sound.

The record is an almost nightmarish trip. This is a peculiar album, with only black metal as a spirit present. Lithuania seems to have some interesting musicians out there. This record would go down well with noiseheads and experimental listeners too. Nice stuff!

Underground Sounds: Cober Ord – Le Revers du Soleil

Label: Nomos Dei
Band: Cober Ord
Origin: France

The dark holds many shapes, even the other side of the sun might be dark if this album is any indication. The French duo Cober Ord take inspiration from something deeper than nature. Something more primordial than the earths shaping, which you find in an underlying rhythm and timbre.

The duo embraces the spiritual idea of animism. This means that certain objects and beings possess distinctive spiritual qualities. That is something they try to put into their sound, which is stripped of human elements in a way. It’s the forgotten caves, the underground rivers and the unknown corners of the world. Think ambient, but also just sounds, field recording meets drone. All of that and more by Ynn (vocals, noise and sounds, known from Habsyll) and Yn (percussion, known from Stille Volk and Ihan).

The dark, meandering drone reminds me of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Is it a drone or an organic sound, because it feels alive and puts up the hair on the back of my neck. It’s a part of the 17 minute opening (and title track), which gradually leads you to the deepest parts of the world, where only inhuman sounds occur. Towards the end, bestial roars interrupt the drone. In the dark with nowhere to go, this is not what I’d call a pleasant moment of the record. Droning, doomy and with sounds that make you feel slightly queesy and unnerved, the sound meanders on. The vocals are modified and mutated to unearthly entities, but all still is part of a rhythmic, natural sounding progression.

That changes when the percussion takes the forefront on ‘Forêt V Cathédrale Glas I’. It feels like you’ve ended up in a different place, an underworld furnace, where mad rhythmic hammering is resounding. It’s a hellish racket, but almost industrial sounding and strangely magical as well. The vocals indicate other creatures from more mythical sources, working their instruments here in a devilish symphony with pumping bellows and clanging of anvils. Guttural barks resound over this rhythm.

It’s amazing how strongly this music plays on the imagination. It’s like a black metal paradise, but what makes it so unnerving is how real the sounds are, how every peep and squeek is audible, as if they’ve really went down into the darkness to make recordings of an unknown danger. But there’s a beautiful harmony to the sound as well, it’s always rhythmic, organic and flowing forwards unstoppably. It’s an aural journey that resets your thinking in a profound way.

This is magical, hauting and a bit creepy, but such a wonderful effort. I really recommend locking yourself up in the dark and listening to Cober Ord. Maybe in a dark forest, to experience the otherness. Well worth it.

 

 

 

Underground Sounds: Afsprengi Satans – Seiðgall

Label: self released
Band: Afsprengi Satans
Origin: Iceland

Itś a bit muddy where this group just emerged from, with their peculiar cover and lack of info. There has been a band in Iceland with the name Afsprengi Satans, which is related to the groups Myrk and Momentum. Oh, and they’re from Reykjavik, but that is quite frankly all I can tell you about them.

The record is rather short, only five songs, of which four don’t reach the three minute mark, but number five lasts 14 minutes. The songs have the titles of the four compass points, where the final track is titled Experiment.

THe music you get is the sound of wind, blowing hauntingly, laced with soem further effects to create a blaring form of ambient music. In that torrent of sound on ‘Norður’, a rapid rhythm is discernible, but it is unclear what casues it. It may be something fluttering in the gale of wind, or tribal drumming. The tempo of that decreases a lot on the next track, which seems to have some horns  sounding through the unrelenting winds, howling and lamenting.

With only slight variations, the record just continuous its path. Whistling, blowing and biting, the wind goes on. Now and then it sounds as sif there’s cut up sounds, messed into the music. Hacked up, mutated and strange to even create more of a fearful environment. The final track is another long ambient piece, which randomly seems to change direction. A rather intriguing piece of music if I may say.

So yeah, this is a weird release, but also fun and interesting. Give it a spin, you might enjoy its haunting atmosphere.

Underground Sounds: Nubiferous – Primeval Forest Hymns

Label: Black Mara
Band: Nubiferous
Origin: Russia

Nubiferous is no novice act in the ambient/folk soundscape realm and produces a sound that is akin to other acts in the Black Mara stable. It blends the elements together to create an almost soundtracky/filmic experience for the listener.  The origin of the act is the Russian town of Pyatigorsk and the man behind it seems to be called Andrey.

‘Primeval Forest Hymns’ looks like a book and I guess apart from my film comparison, that is pretty much a great way to depict and present something that has so many different stories to tell. So time to get into this I suppose.

This album opens in the most annoying way possible, by the approaching sound of a moskito as if it’s right in your ear. Luckily that immediately shifts to horns and a tribal rhythm. Obviously there’s a lot of that traditional folk with blaring horns and the rhytmic drumming, but the most fascinating part is how natural sounds are blended in together with the music. For example ‘Ridge of Fiery Owls’, where traditional instruments and birds form the sound together.

The connecting of the two worlds of nature and culture feels like a step back into the forest, a movement from one towards the other. The trickling of water, the chiming of bells, the sound of the forest and gentle toms, it’s all in harmony, melting together in the clean, pleasant mix. Sometimes a folk melody emerges, but more often, like on ‘Old Forest Cult \ Rise of Shadethicket Beast’, the nature elements are the most present. Sometimes the sound is eastern, sometimes very Slavic, but it always feels so natural and unrestrained.

It’s a record full of beauty, poetry and harmony and you should just let yourself be engulfed by it, like nature encroaches upon the musician.

Underground Sounds: Mrako-Su – Путь В Белое

Label: Black Mara
Band: Mrako-Su
Origin: Russia

Black Mara is a Russian label from Novosibirsk that has been releasing great records for a while now. The genre they fit into is dark ambient and Mrako-Su is their latest production. An ambient record that takes us far from the daily life that we embrace in our modern society.

Behind Mrako-Su is an entity known as Twilight or The Twilight (translation may not be perfect). A sjamanic explorer who retreats far into the forest on ‘Путь В Белое’. Inspiration is drawn from Chinese flute music to funeral doom metal , the music is a blend of strange, dreamy sounds.

The tones that you hear on the opening track are bells in the wind, blaring drones and unearthly vocals. This is the sounds you hear in the night, when you magnify your senses and fully embrace your surroundings. It’s the mind working on full energy in the darkest part of the forest, creating a forceful experience for the listener.

But the sound can also be harrowing and rather unpleasant, like the sharp sounds on ‘Чёрная Зима’, which is like standing next to a horrible machine. There’s a lot of dissonant, eerie sounds on the record, that seems to traverse from song to song to darker realms than before. The endless repetition puts the listener in a trance that doesn’t easily subside.

All in all this record has a more grimmer approach to the sjamanistic experience. Screeching sounds, buzzing drones and an almost unearthly experience await you. This makes sense, looking at the description with the record. It’s an escapist record, mournful about the loss of human nature and thus trying to cling on to it by recording it. It’s a record that will move the listener and maybe help you look at the green world differently and with more respect.

Underground Sounds: Vėlių Namai – Laumių Šokis

Label: P3lican Partisans
Band: Vėlių Namai
Origin: Lithuania

Ambient music is like most electronic music genres quite a thing in the Baltics. It’s fairly easy to acquire the means to make it and I suppose it fits in the nouveau hip state of the countries, which you find in the capitals mostly. Still, ambient can also turn back and look at the past or nature, which is exactly what Vėlių Namai is doing on this record ‘Laumių Šokis’.

This one man project is done by Julius Mité, who is a Lithuanian that appears to travel a lot. Still, his music or art (I feel that ambient often drifts in that direction more) is firmly rooted in his motherland. The album is dedicated to Laima, the goddess of earth and pictures of him in ethnic clothing can be found on the Facebook page. This immediately draws me even closer to the music, having just undergone a Romuva wedding in Lithuania myself, this feels close to the heart (yes, my own wedding indeed).

‘Migla’ sounds like what it means, misty with drops falling and gentle piano play piercing the hazy air. It feels a little like some of the ’90s postrock bands.  The sound shifts after a good 7 minutes when we shift into ‘Prabundu’ (I’m waking up). The music is introverted, maximizing only the elements it needs to achieve its purpose. Carefully crafted drones fill the lower sound regions and convey the voice of the earthy, while the cobwebs are still lingering in the fuzzy sounds.

The music lends itself for silent contemplation and introspection, it’s slow progressions and eerie soundscapes seem to be of the darker sort, but so is the mind. The listener is suddenly awoken from those thoughts by the vocals on ‘Mudu du, pilkume’ (us, in grey), by Hannah Knowles. Easy going, it breaks the solitude of the songs and breaks the cycle for the listener. After this we get back tot the solemnnity of the drones, synths and rare guitar line, as we find on ‘Laumių šokis (The dance of laumės). The record is not a very open one, the sounds are cavernous even and therefor the earth feels like the surrounding element.

Also there’s a sense of feeling forlorn, drifting through this undeground world and its wide expanses by yourself, weightless with just the mesmerizing drones accompanying you and painting the sight that fails in darkness. Slowly buts surely, all the other stuff falls away and just the elements remain on a minimal song with lamenting tones like ‘Vėlių takais visi mes eisim (The home beyond)’. Graceful and with a natural beauty.

This album is an experience, possibly best enjoyed with the Baltic landscape in view. Get closer to the essence and to the self and this is your soundtrack.