Yen Pox – Between the Horizon and the Abyss CD Malignant Records 2015
Although I was not expectantly waiting for a new Yen Pox release, the announcement that 2015 would herald a new album did catch me by surprise. I guess this is symptomatic of the glacial pace of new releases, making the fact that there is a new album from the duo all the more impressive, given it has been a LONG 15 years since the last full length ‘New Dark Age’ and some 13 years from the collaboration album ‘Mnemonic Induction’ with Troum (..with those sorts of timeframes, surely some newer fans to dark ambient music would not appreciate the impact that earlier albums had). Whilst 2011 did see the release of a 10”ep ‘Universal Emptiness’, to my mind this was a bit of a between albums ‘stop gap’ release, as Yen Pox’s sprawling compositions are much better suited to the full length album format.
From the opening moments of ‘Between the Horizon and the Abyss’ it does not disappoint, with ‘The Awakening’ revealing a track of engulfing and downward spiralling sub-orchestral drones. Here its sonic tapestry is multi-faceted and all encompassing, where layer upon layer of dense drones fold in on themselves; combining, fracturing and radiating out again with renewed strength. But before falling into a recognisable pattern, the next piece ‘White of the Eye’ opts to feature a main driving tone derived from a mangled only vaguely recognisable guitar, which presents a divergent tone for the group within a heavy and swirling sub-orchestral drone framework . ‘Cold Summer Sun’ continues the expanded sonic palate with a multitude of sparse clanging metallic textures to generate a more ‘industrialised’ version of Yen Pox’s typical dark ambient sound. Likewise further sonic variants include: the layered ghostly vocals (male and female) on ‘In Silent Fields’ (which although all separated provide a broad choir like texture); and the middle-eastern hue of the wailing horn and sparse flute playing of ‘Ashen Shroud’. Given the vast variation in tonal quality and instrumentation used; far from being passive listening, this demands full engagement and presents a massive constantly churning mass of sound. Towards album’s end the pair of tracks ‘Tomorrow in Ruin’ and ‘The Procession’ revert to a cataclysmic sub-orchestral dark ambient frame; which is a sound Yen Pox appear to be able to evoke with ease.
With the monolithic sound of Yen Pox’s dark ambient soundscapes, they effortlessly articulate a vast cosmic sonic scale which overshadows a human scale perspective, which is perfectly reflected in the artwork. Noting that the artwork of ‘New Dark Age’ was lacklustre at best (and downright cheesy at worst), it did not go anywhere near doing the music of that particular album the justice it deserved. That failing has been rectified here, where the artwork is superb in evoking a sense of monolithic scale and awe through complex geometric patterns and a stand of ominous monoliths. On this new offering Yen Pox hit all of their old hallmarks, whilst expanding the sound anew with a varied sonic palate and source instrumentation. ‘Between the Horizon and the Abyss’ is no less than a revelation and welcomed return of a pinnacle act.