S.E.T.I. – The Sphere Of Density 2CD Zoharum 2020
Andrew Lagowski’s long-standing project continues to forge ahead with his now trademark deep space focused drone/dark ambient musings. For this recent release it features an album of new studio material, in addition to a live recording from the 2019 Wroclaw Industrial Festival.
For the studio material, it is characterised by galactic scale drifting drones, and with only five tracks spanning 114 minutes, it gives a clear hint at the slow pacing and evolution of The Sphere Of Density. Coupled with the monolithic widescreen drones are the tasteful use of sparsely melodious synths provide a hint of musicality and on occasion rise towards a tonal level which provides an oblique nod to the early Berlin school sound. Also of note, while the swelling melodious progressions are of a particular minor key scale, they are not overtly dark, rather contemplative and drifting in atmosphere. Sparse ‘alien-esque’ rhythmic phrases also appear on occasion but are subtle and unobtrusive while functionally adding an enigmatic mood. Yet the final track 11th Dimension stands out from the rest, with the inclusion of transmission signals and scattered radio chatter against a heavier and more forceful cosmic churn.
The live recording on the second disc was evidently based on improvisation and consequently differs from the studio material. Although the sonic undercurrent is still drone-ambient in flavour, the overall execution is slightly more post-industrial tinged, where tonal slashes, sonic shards and mechanised rhythmic whir variously interjects over the singular 40-minute span. The end result is both a sonically strong and enjoyable, but also mostly feels to be a bonus disc rather than equal half to the studio album.
Perhaps as an overall observation, Andrew has released pinnacle-level material for literally decades now, which makes it all the more difficult to stand out against his own discography. Yet sidestepping such a suggestion of Andrew needing to complete with himself, simply put The Sphere Of Density is yet another superb stellar sonic journey, where the vastness of deep space slowly unfurls within the inner mind’s eye. Six-panel digipack with exquisite graphic design rounds out the presentation of an excellent release.
Tehôm – Phobos CD Zoharum 2021
Tehôm is an old name for me, being a late-1990s project who recorded two decent ritual dark ambient albums prior the untimely death of sole member Siniša Očuršćak. With Miljenko Rajaković having assisted with some recording elements on 2000’s post-humous album Theriomorphic Spirits, he then decided to reactivate the project in 2010 as a tribute to Siniša. While I note a number of Tehôm albums have been issued since the project’s reactivation they have passed me by, so I have picked up the thread again with this recent release. As vaguely alluded to by the title, this is a live recording of Tehôm’s performance at the 2019 Phobos Festival (Wuppertal, Germany).
As with the earliest phase of the project, Phobos inhabits ritual dark ambient spheres. Thus earthen drones, guttural horns, and archaic ritualised sounds abound across the eight untitled interlinking movements. Pacing as expected is catatonically slow, wherein the most part deep percussive thuds function to articulate elemental forces rather than resembling human-derived rhythms, although a passage of tribal driven beat does appear in the latter half of the album. Additionally, moody orchestral-toned drones provide a melodious edge, while a human element sporadically comes to the fore with intense non-lyrical vocal chants.
At a shade over 40 minutes, the album is not a lengthy one by any measure but packs an impact in that runtime all the same. Likewise with the bulk and heft of the recording, and to further mention the detailed and forceful production, clearly this is a professional soundboard recording that has benefited from further mastering treatment. A six-panel digipack with suitable imagery rounds out the physical presentation of a very enjoyable release.
Jarl CD – Hyperacusis CD Zoharum 2021
The long-standing project of Eric Jarl sees a continuation of his sonic explorations within experimental industrial and dark ambient spheres. The subsequent result is the generation of gloomy yet animated soundscapes where the tonality of the organic and the clinical merge and intertwine. Given the instrumental focus of Jarl’s recordings, there is an immediately recognisable amorphous approach to composition and sound construction. This means that rather than the broader sound and approach significantly changing between albums the devil is in the sonic detail.
With reference to this new album’s title, it refers to a medical condition of a reduced tolerance to sound, which can be caused by aging or exposure to loud noise, while 50% of cases are also noted in combination with a psychiatric disorder. Obviously, this amounts to an extremely suitable theme context to frame the album. So while on face value the tone is quite minimal, the sonics are extremely active and varied, ranging from pulsing clinical tones and other elements which seem rooted in organic generated sources. Likewise, apart from its outwardly apparent minimalism, the two lengthy soundscapes are extremely detailed and active, building to sonic peaks based on shrill and invasive drones. The widescreen sonic production functions to highlight each of the multiple tonal elements, which are cleanly and clearly separated, while a broader ebb and flow technique and vaguely rhymical undercurrent drive the pieces forwards.
Although by now most should be well versed in the general sonic world of Jarl, Hyperacusis is a further exploration and refinement of that approach and illustrates how expertly crafted Jarl material is. As such. the sound waveform illustrations which adorn the cover of the six-panel digipack is a clever yet simple visualisation of the sonics found herein.
Jarl / Envenomist – Tunguska Event CD
For this album the Swedish Jarl (aka Erik Jarl of IRM) has teamed up with Envenomist; an American project helmed by David Reed whom I incidentally have not come across before. Thematically this album refers to the ‘Tunguska Event’ which occurred in Siberia in 1908, where there was a massive unexplained explosion (estimates ranged from 3 to 30 megatons) caused possibly by an asteroid or comet exploding in the upper atmosphere, whilst other theories have included: an explosion of underground gas; a crashed UFO; or black hole passing through the earth. So although this event and potential explanations make perfect thematic fodder for this type of release, rather than the music taking a literal interpretation of the theme; sonically the album engenders a ‘mysterious’ and ‘covert scientific research’ type of tonal aesthetic.
5 tracks spanning 43 minutes makes up the album and with the title of each track being relegated to being referenced as Part I to V, is it is a partial acknowledgement that each part covers a tonally similar sound by playing out variations on the clinically edged and animated dark ambient sound. Here a tensile sonic aesthetic prevails; one where mid-ranged tonal shards of sound and surgical pulses swirl and entwine, but also never reaching harsh noise oriented realms. Being multi-layered in construction, the tracks are often built on a base of a low level rhythmic mechanical churn, over which radar buzzing sounds, subdued siren tones and sweeping drone textures interweave. Noting that much of Jarl’s output inhabits a more minimalist realm, a fair amount of morphing and twisting territory is traversed here and having not heard Envenomist’s material before I can’t say how it directly compares, but it would seem logical that his input has provided the more dynamic edge to material.
Packaging consists of a 6 panel fold out eco-wallet, design courtesy of Karolina Urbaniak, and features what appears to be aerial satellite photography of the region to match the album’s theme. Although ‘Tunguska Event’ is a dark ambient album at its core, it also skews the typical cavernous/ deep space sonic aesthetic of much of the genre by its sound being heavily rooted in clinical industrialized tones within a fluid and flowing structure, making an interesting album in the process.