Atrium Carceri – Metropolis / Aegri Somnia – Monde Obscure


Atrium Carceri – Metropolis CD Cryo Chamber 2015

Aegri Somnia – Monde Obscure CD Cryo Chamber 2015

The Cryo Chamber label is helmed by Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri and since 2012 has primarily functioned as a ‘24 bit’ digital label, but also releases selected ’16 bit’ CD’s for those like me who are still clinging on to a belief in the importance of the ‘physicality’ of a release (…even if in the instance of Cryo Chamber this technically amounts to a reduction in sound quality).

‘Metropolis’ is Atrium Carceri twelfth album since 2003 (with seven albums issued via the defunct Cold Meat Industry label), and noting that the project is self-described as ‘cinematic dark ambient’ this is particularly spot on for what can be expected. As such the eleven tracks spanning 53 minutes of ‘Metropolis’ very much constitutes a soundtrack for a non-existent film, perhaps something with a mysterious sci-fi slant to the story.  As the album progresses, different tracks engender different moods and atmospheric approaches.  Oscillating from abstract and foggy dark ambience to brooding musically composed segments, the later includes sullen rhythmic passages and other musical elements such as piano melodies, floating synths or orchestral synth pads.  Noting the ‘filmic’ quality, a nice thematic touch is the scant character details provided within the cover, which hint at a broader story arc that the music is framed around.  Being highly refined and very professional sounding, with particular attention  to tonal depth and sonic layering, it is worthwhile noting that Atrium Carceri contributed music for a computer game ‘The Old City’ (this soundtrack has also been released on Cryo Chamber).  Clearly this is an album which will be highly appreciated by staunch dark ambient devotees, although for those who prefer slightly harsher and less refined tonalities of industrial music mixed with their dark ambience may find this album a touch too refined (…although of note the concluding track ‘The Machine’ contains elements of more grating sonorities).

On the other hand Aegri Somnia are a new signing and project to the Cryo Chamber roster, whose approach is generally more abstract and earth bound than Atrium Carceri. This is the most part due to a large proportion of ‘Monde Obscure’ being based on strong undercurrent of field recordings made in a variety of abandoned urban locations.  As such the tonal atmospheres are darkly hued, articulating sparse cavernous spaces and crumbling empty ruins.  The field recording elements play a large role in this by sonically articulating creaking doors, scattered metallic textures, dripping/ splashing water, shuffling footfalls etc., which are augmented with abstract synth pads, vague floating ‘minor keyed’ musical touches (i.e. sparse piano notes), distant disembodied whispered or chant like vocals, sporadic chimes and sparse percussive flourishes .  Accordingly these elements are subtly combined and presented for utmost effect, where they never overwhelm the sound palate, but work to positively in a minimalistic fashion to generate barren and desolate wasteland soundscapes.  ‘Les Temps Ont Change’ deserves a particular mention where its ritualistic chimes and reverb drenched moody piano melody is used excellent and more focused effect, as does ‘Noir et Blanc’ with its sampled choral vocal chants.  For all its general abstractness ‘Monde Obscure’ does an excellent job of creating engaging and sonically detailed widescreen atmospheres, which dually functions to demonstrate the diversity and creativity which can still be found within the rather bloated scene that is the dark ambient genre in 2015.

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