Tag Archives: ambient

From the mountains to beyond the wall of sleep

It’s music that sometimes helps to take you away from the dull, mundane affairs that fill our daily lives. We don’t all get to be sassy Instagram models, parading the luxurious holiday places or the exceptional bits of nature, some of us just need to join the daily drag. So do I.

These are tunes that take me to those places though, to the magical bits of nature that I can only dream about most of the time, the vast mountains and deep forests through synths, ambient and other forms of music. Follow the path, sometimes it’s overgrown and hard to find, but it’s there and leading far from the regular throng of people that stick to their Netflix and literary thriller reads.

Kaya North – Tribal Mountain

Origin: France
Label: The Eagle Stone Collective

There’s hardly a more awe-inspiring image to present than a sheer face of rock. The pillars on this cover, truly captivate me and so does the mild drone that sets on as I launch this release by Caleb R.K. Williams. Under the name Kaya North, Williams is releasing a  project of improv music, next to the solo work, Eagle Stone, Old Green Mountain, Uktena Kult and Cosmic Canyon (and probably a dozen other). All projects of ambient, nature-inspired. This record just offers the drones with little ripples, like the tiny holds and nooks you’ll find in the rock. It’s booming, with the odd sound of a circling bird of prey resounding through the booming tunes. There’s a tension in the sound, that you recognize when you’ve ever climbed a rock face with little between you than the rope, a next clip a meter or three ahead and your trembling fingers. It’s a feeling you can barely describe, but you can capture it in sound it turns out.

Black Hill & Silent Forest – Tales of the Night Forest

Origin: Hungary
Label:  Self-released

The artwork by Kapiller Ferenc is easily confused by me for that of Costin Chioreanu. It depicts nature as something idyllic, something almost perfectly outlined in the green, vibrant and natural colors he uses. It’s perfect over by this release of Black Hill & Silent Forest. A duo of projects that mash into the postrocky storytelling on ‘Tales of the Night Forest’. Like a gentle, babbling brook the guitars flow by. The lack of drums help to diminish any ostentatious flourish in the music, keeping the flow tranquil and soft. From the elusive ‘The gathering of deer’ to the melancholy of ‘An old owl calling’, the album keeps you in a state of flux, just as a witness to the beauty and pleasant harmony of the forest. An absolute pleasure to dwell within the tunes of Black Hill & Silent Forest for a while, no matter the pressure you’re currently feeling.

Kalmankantaja – Tuulikannel

Origin: Finland
Label:  Illuminandi Service

Kalmankantaja translates as ‘death bearer’ and is a black metal band from Finland, who uses a lot of synth and atmosphere in his music. An odd including perhaps in this aural traverse, but his easy flow makes his work as immersive to me as the others, so I gladly sidestep tot the shimmering stream of black metal that opens ‘Tuulikannel’ with ‘Aarnihauta’, a track that will last up to 14 minutes. The progression on both tracks is slow, with the occasional guttural scream emerging from the murky mists of the forests the sound appears to emulate. On the second track, we encounter a melancholic dirge, that repeats and meanders onward for minutes. Even when the music swells to a more rocking sound, there’s always that hint of continuity and an endless stream moving forward on ‘Tuulikannel’. The vocals sound hateful, but this is merely a crust to the deep greyness of the music. Which is wonderful…

Sun Through Eyelids – Glacial Iridescence

Origin: New Zealand
Label: ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ

But let us step back into nature with Sun Through Eyelids. A deep ambient act, consisting of Tom Necklen and Meghan Wood. On ‘Glacial Iridescence’ they take you to an eerie polar landscape or an Alpine glacier, where they freely explore sounds and let nature offer its healing magic to the listener on the drony tunes of ‘Shelter of the Taiga’ or ‘Subarctic Oasis’. Booming sounds, with reverb attached to its edges, gets complemented with distant music and cold keys, maybe with a mouth harp here and there? It sounds like the buzzing of an insect as astral waves wash over you. Yet as you stick with the sound, your blood seems to thrum in your veins and your ears feel like they are in the middle of the sound instead of simply receiving it. An almost transcendental experience looms, with the sound of water, birds and nature, all acting in harmony and pure majesty together, not needing humanity one bit for its perennial cycle and balance.

Oneiromancer/MAW – Oneiromancer/MAW

Origin: USA
Label: A Moment of Clarity Records/Orb Weaver Collective

Oneiromancery is a form of divination based on dreams, which is quite an apt name for the act that provides the first side of this record. Titled ‘Dukkha’, it’s a slow waxing and waning of tumultuous drones and odd chanting, which feels as if it gets lost in the sounds of the wind. The droning keeps intensifying, forming a wall that drowns you in it, drowns the noise in your head and takes you to a place of tranquility. A valuable experience, when you’re caught up in thinking instead of doing. Subtle melodies weave through, but not at regular speeds but briefly rising from the noise and sinking again. ‘Naljor’ by MAW then just slithers by mostly, in near silence, with far-removed sounds, but ending in what feels like a guitar wall. A mystical experience, all in all, this release.

From The Bogs of Aughiska: Fairy trees, remote places and black metal

Far corners of the world breed the most astonishing music acts. ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’, the latest record by From The Bogs of Aughiska, is proof of that in all its splendor. From it’s mild, folky tunes, to it’s ambient and recorded samples to harrowing black metal, it shows the limitless possibilities black metal offers.

Conchur O’Drona is the single mind behind the entity that has become From the Bogs of Augishka. When you’ve stumbled upon this work of art in the past you must already be hooked to the mystique that is this band. Over the years, the project has evolved into a full band, but something singular always remains with the group and its sound.

With ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ out in the world, I was curious to get in touch and ask some questions about the music, this album and context of the group and kindly I was granted answers.

Above and below: From The Bogs of Aughiska

How are things going for From The Bogs Of Aughiska?

Things are very good, thank you. We’ve just completed a UK tour where the four of us played together for the first time and despite a few technical problems at some of the gigs, it was a successful run.

Finally, after some years in the works, the new album ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ is seeing the light of day at the end of the month. I think this is the strongest FTBOA music to date if I may say so myself.

Could you take us briefly through the history of the band and how it was formed?

FTBOA was originally created as a solo project in 2009 when Myspace was still a thing. The first FTBOA song that was written was the track ’Leabhar Gabhala Eireann’. The self-titled debut album was released in 2010 on Lone Vigil (Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth’s own label ). In 2011 I started performing live, the very first 2 show were in The Netherlands (one in Utrecht and the other supporting none other than Ulver in Rotterdam) and a split with Dark Ages (Roman Saenko from Drudkh / Hate Forest) came out later that very same year. ’Roots of This Earth Within My Blood’ was released in 2013 to much acclaim and around that time the band became a two piece and toured Europe. The ’Fenian Ram’ EP came out in 2016 and this year as a four piece we are gearing up to release our third album ’Mineral Bearing Veins’.

Now, I know that Aughiska is a place, as the new album deals with nearby locations, such as The Burren and surrounding region. Could you take me (and by extent the reader) on a mental tour of the region and why it is so essential as your inspiration?

Aughiska More is the region I grew up in. It’s an area on the road to the world famous Cliffs of Moher between Lisdoonvarna and Doolin in County Clare on the West Coast of Ireland. As a child, the place was a massive bogland (wetland created from a dead forest) but over the years the forest has been replanted. For such a small area it has so much interesting nature and has had a massive inspiration on my life.

Your sound appears to me more as a form of aural storytelling, through the atmosphere and spoken word fragments, combined with black metal as expressive means. What, the sort of feeling and maybe message, do you want your listeners to take from the music?

There isn’t any particular feeling or message, it seems everyone has a different reaction to our music.

FTBOA hails from Lisdoonvarna according to your bio. It would seem that this makes the band rather isolated and it has an impact on the sound. Do I understand this correctly?

Lisdoonvarna is a small town that’s famous for its spa water and believe it or not an annual matchmaking festival that has been running since the 1800s. Growing up there I was definitely feeling somewhat isolated and I discovered extreme music myself as a way to escape (I was listening to The Berzerker & Pig Destroyer amongst others from my early teens). I don’t really feel connected to any scene as such.

Can you tell me more about the latest album ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ and take us through the process of its creation?

I think ’Mineral Bearing Veins’ is the most complete FTBOA album to date which combines dark atmospheric soundscapes with elements of black metal while still having the Seanchaí (a traditional Gaelic storyteller/historian) vibe going through the record. The album flows like a journey that will take the listener on an otherworldly trip.

Regarding the creation process, I record the dark ambient parts using basic computer software and add field recordings, the audio of which is usually taken directly from the videotapes of the footage we use when we perform. I tend to mix this all in stereo to give it a cinematic feel and then send my parts to the other lads who layer it with guitar, drums & vocals.

I would love to learn a bit more about the cursed fairy trees, dark underground cave systems in The Burren, isolation and Irish superstition that form the themes of the album. These are aspects most people might only have a very faint idea about and perhaps you can share a bit about it?

A running theme throughout his record is cursed fairy trees, this is influenced by the protest storyteller Eddie Lenihan held at the turn of the century when a lone whitethorn bush was going to be removed to make way for a new bypass between Newmarket-on-Fergus and Ennis in Co. Clare. He warned of terrible consequences if the fairy bush was destroyed, saying that the site in 10 to 15 years time would have a higher than usual casualty list, including fatalities. In the end, the developers changed the route so the tree wouldn’t be removed and it is still there to this day. The other main themes on ’Mineral Bearing Vein’s are underground cave systems and isolation which are portrayed on ’Poll An Eidhneain’, named after the Doolin Cave which contains one of the world’s longest known free-hanging stalactites which remained undiscovered for years. The track is about being a cursed soul trapped in the internal darkness of the cave.

On this record, you move towards a more harsh sound and more black metal elements. What made you go in this direction? Was it the themes and stories or a musical preference?

This was always my goal when I first started FTBOA. I wanted the music to be a progressive journey via extreme music that portrayed the atmosphere from living in a unique place and which told the stories I heard growing up in the west of Ireland.

Did you do any other things differently on this album that you’d like to share?

This is the first FTBOA album that was recorded as a band. With me doing all the electronics, fielding recordings and some vocals. Bryan on guitar. Ronan on vocals, guitar and recording and Padraic on Drums. We also had guest appearances from Eddie Lenihan (Storyteller who feels like a member of the band anyway), Liam from Soothsayer, Paul from Corr Mhóna and Johnny Rua on Harp.

What role do you consider for traditional music in the art you create? It seems to be an ever-present part.

Traditional Irish music is in my blood and will to a certain extent feature in the music I create. It’s really not something you can take out of me so I might as well incorporate it.

The mastering was done by Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams), who worked with artists like Perturbator and Leviathan. Was he your first pick to create this new sound and how did this work out in your opinion?

Ken has been a friend for a good number of years and shares the same outlook on music as me, so naturally he was the first choice when it came to getting the album mastered. He heard the record for the first time while being snowed-in in Cork on his trip to Ireland in Spring this year which I thought was rather fitting.

Perhaps an out of the box question, but I wonder, would you make the same music, if you lived anywhere else? Also, what does it mean for you as a musician to be Irish?

No, I think the place you are brought up in shapes your life. If I had grown up in a city I might have become a Grime artist. What does it mean for me as a musician to be Irish? Playing the music I do, it’s just an expensive hobby with no support despite the fact that a lot of people chose to visit Ireland after seeing our live performance and seeing the visuals we play in the background. The Irish Tourist Board should be giving us a grant!

What future plans does FTBOA have?

Currently we are working on the final details for our first proper ’video’ and ’Mineral Bearing Veins’ comes out on September 28th so hopefully, the album is received well and we get to play live more often.

If you had to describe FTBOA as a dish, what would it be and why?

Braised Venison stew with red wine & redcurrant sauce served on horseradish mash. Rich food with a lasting aftertaste you won’t forget.

Underground Sounds: Warden – Krochtenmagii

Label: Skyggeraich Productions
Artist: Warden
Origin: the Netherlands

Warden is an act I found under dungeon synth, but his/her music is much more connected to ambient and drone music. Sure, there is a certain mysticism to his work that invokes images of the realms of our imagination, but also something very earthy and desolate clings to the notes on ‘Krochtenmagii’.

This is the third record by Warden, released in the same number of years. The production is not as high as with some dungeon synth artists, which is probably a clear cause for the high quality and narrative experience the music offers. Let’s delve in.

The image of mountains of the cover perhaps captures the droning wind and sonorous booming that opens the album. Is surges on till the next movement engages, with more soothing, harmonious sounds and the flow of water casually in the background. Then swelling it grows into a wall of sound and as the story with the music tells, time is by that point utterly lost.

By the 20-minute mark, you’ve reached a state of calm, that only the emptiness of nature can evoke. Sure, it’s an inhospitable place that Warden has taken you to, but it’s also filled with peace. In the very last movement though, we enter the realm of the dungeon synth. The wind and water are gone, yet an earthy, cavernous feel remains. After moments in this safety, the music slowly fades after what seems like a lonely journey through the wild.

 

 

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.