AMN Reviews: Common Eider King Eider – Shrines For The Unwanted, Respite For The Cast Aside (2017; Cold Spring Records)

Common Eiders and King Eiders are both categories of large ducks. Be that as it may, Common Eider King Eider is a dark ambient group consisting of Rob Fisk (formerly of the quirky pop band Deerhoof), Andee Connors, and a host of guests. This album, Shrines for short, is perhaps their 10th depending on what you count.

It starts off routinely enough. Thick, bassy drones ponderously exploring a haunted landscape. Over the course of Cast Out to the Wolves to be Devoured, They Were Instead Embraced, the movements become louder and more menacing, yet the tension remains in check. The second track, The Dark Winter, introduces synth washes and wordless chants. By the five-minute mark, it has already grown into a multi-layered crescendo – and from there it keeps going. Chaotic percussion and dense walls lead to an outro of twisted vocals. Elk Tongue takes it down a few notches, with eerie, windswept atmospherics. On the 25-minute finale, Litha, all hell breaks loose. Beginning with deep chants, the track slowly morphs into synth-led thematics over growled vocalizations. Slowly the droning becomes more distorted, and the growling becomes frantic screams…and continues for several unsettling minutes before settling back into the original chanting and a soft, distorted drone.

Shrines is a deliberate journey from unsettled quiet to all-out madness. It is a carefully and beautifully crafted hellish nightmare. With so much music out there that falls somewhere in the general category of “dark ambient,” it is refreshing to hear an artist not only serve the genre so well but break new ground in the process. Highly recommended.