Phelios – Human Stasis Habitat / Ionosphere – The Stellar Winds

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Phelios – Human Stasis Habitat CD Loki Foundation 2016

Ionosphere – The Stellar Winds CD Loki Foundation 2016

What can be said of cosmic and deep space focused dark ambient music in 2016 that has not been said before?  Clearly such a style and sound has generated a huge volume of material over recent decades and continues to do so given it is now an effective micro–scene within the broader post-industrial underground.  Yet for such music to ultimately work, it is about capturing a particular essence which elevates the music from bland background music to a level which can be fully engaging and hold interest throughout. In this context Loki Foundation have been at the forefront of such a style and sound and continue to release leading examples of galactic soundscapes and droning dark ambience, where the new releases from Phelios and Ionosphere constitutes some of the strongest material of this type.

Up first is the new album ‘Human Stasis Habitat’ from Phelios, which is 3 years on from the ‘Gates of Atlantis’ album on Malignant Records (reviewed here).  With 7 tracks spanning 49 minutes, sonically speaking and despite having a ‘cold deep space void’ focus, this new recording engenders a warmer and enveloping tone overall.   Apart from its slow morphing soundscapes, there are particular movements where buried melodious and rhythmic bass tones surface, such as found on ‘Light Curve Wave’.  Likewise ‘Spectral Momentum’ has a sacral tone generated through its distant like bell toll and sub-bass melodies and choir-esque textures, while the concluding track ‘Eye of Terror’ showcases a slow booming ritual pulse and deep fog horns as a call to oblivion.  The packaging and presentation is also perfectly suited, with images of cosmic clouds and completes geometrical shapes spanning a 6 panel digi-sleeve.

Moving on to ‘The Stellar Winds’ from Ionosphere, this is not a new album, rather a re-release of their second album from 2007, released in a limited run on CDR via Avatar Records.  For this new edition the album has been remastered and includes two additional tracks.  Although being in a similar sonic world, Ionosphere’s sound on this album is a much colder is tone and is mechanically tinged its sound and construction.  Based predominantly on layered loops, the 13 interlinking tracks (45 minute play time), are constructed with elevating intensity, where swelling drones and muted radiating sub-orchestral melodies form the backbone off which a range of atonal minimalist metallic clatter and fragments of mechanical churn are hung.  Vocalisations are also sporadically used, but these are rendered indecipherable as garbled radio chatter.  Noting that the varying sonic elements are drenched in reverb and echo, it facilitates suitable cavernous depth, where although the sound is on first impressions quite minimalist, on closer listening is unassumingly varied and complex.  Whilst not deviating substantially in form one of the additional track on offer ‘The Atom Abundance’ does manage to stand out from the rest due its far more driving and forceful tone.

Although both Phelios and Ionosphere have their basis in the same genre traits, both of these albums carve their own sound and particular niche, and are both masterfully atmospheric in their individualistic sound.  Through these releases Loki Foundation again demonstrate why they are still a leading label for this particular style and sound.

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