AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Shrine – Ordeal 26.04.86 (2016; Cyclic Law)


Shrine is the stage name of Hristo Gospodinov, an experimental ambient musician and composer. On Ordeal 26.04.86, his latest release that will be out on October 26, Gospodinov sonically explores the Chernobyl disaster.

The album begins with Atomgrad, a 9-minute piece featuring birdsong coupled with ominous background synths and washes. A foreshadowing of what is to come, the latter grows louder in comparison to the former as the track progresses. Radiant Skyline (Unit 4) follows, a dense synth-laden effort full of rumbling bass and discordant drones. Gospodinov states: “I witnessed the nuclear sunburn effects myself back in 1986 when I was a kid.” Both sweeping and grinding, the track forms an apt representation of such horrors. Under the Graphite Clouds’ electroacoustic crackling invokes a dark hellscape of fallout-infected rain.

The remaining three tracks continue in this vein – thick drones, computer-generated effects, pulsing rhythms, occasional indecipherable spoken words, and a driving undercurrent of ruin. Gospodinov views the events of Chernobyl as being parallel with the biblical book of Revelation, and does not shy away from creating music that reflects apocalypse.

Ordeal 26.04.86 serves both as a memorial to mankind’s worst nuclear disaster, as well as a grim warning to those who might prefer to ignore this date in history. But even without these thematic elements, the music exhibits considerable depth and character. Repeated listens at the appropriate volume will reveal subtleties and an attention to detail. Despite the intended subject matter, there is a lot to like here.