Stuzha – Butugichag CD Ksenza Records/ Infinite Fog Productions 2015
Having not come across this Russian dark ambient project before, this is their second album since 2011 and as the name translates to ‘Severe Cold’ this along with the cover image gives a hint at the sonic preoccupations of this album. The liner note further highlight that the album is dedicated to prisoners of Kolyma Labour Camps, with the visuals also reflecting this theme within its 6 panel digi-pack. 4 lengthy tracks make up this album (average of 10 minutes a piece), which each containing their own version of a desolate icy pitched tone. Ultimately Stuzha deliver the aural presentation of glacial barren vistas, which at times approaches an isolationist ambient tone, although there is generally more underlying movement and sonic elements (such as sparse piano) to make this more animated than the pure isolationist ambient works of someone like Thomas Koner. Also on more than one occasion Northaunt comes to mind as an appropriate benchmark of the style and feel of this music, as does a number of other Cyclic Law related releases in a similar sound.
The opening piece ‘A Night By The Foot of the Mountain’ comes positively roaring out the of the speaking, with think walls of bass intoned drones and field recordings to match the title context (crackling fire, footfalls in snow covered ground, clanging gates, barking dogs etc.), thus generating a widescreen ‘mind’s eye’ picture in the process. ‘Uranian Mines’ follows and apart from its sweeping to rumbling drones, has a large portion of its sound based on slow scraping metallic textures, but is a rather laid back in overall mood. ‘Raging Blizzard’ is much as the title suggests, but this is the sound of it experienced indoors, as the muffled sounds of the storm and its whipping winds rage unabated outside (…late piece the tone elevates to the point where it sounds like the roof is going to be ripped off). The final album track ‘Lilac Polar Darkness’ is the most musical piece on offer and presents a slightly more serene tone of interweaving semi-orchestral drones and treated washes of sparse guitars which follow a broad ebb and flow style, as a mediative means to conclude the album.
In a general underground scene context and over the arc of the last decade (or more), Russia has been gradually elevating its status in underground ambient and industrial spheres, where this Siberian project released on a Russian label stands as a strong testament to the calibre of material coming from such quarters.