Source: Bandcamp Daily.
The notion of pairing music with ritual practices dates back centuries. In traditional societies, singing and music-making was often a communal affair, and it served a number of purposes—like communicating traditions, or strengthening community bonds. In other cases, music is used to achieve more mystical ends: Native American and ancient Greek societies believe that music can have healing properties, and Buddhist and Hindu cultures use chants and mantras to aid meditation.
That concept of “ritual music” continues to the present day, with many artists—particularly in the realms of dark ambient and drone—seeking new ways to combine their haunting sonics with spiritual energy. In the early ‘80s, bands like Psychic TV drew inspiration from paganism, Buddhism, and the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley; they even boasted their own affiliated magickal fellowship, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Peter Christopherson’s Coil drew Buddhist temple music to radical queer ends. Their first record, 1984’s How To Destroy Angels—a bleak soundscape of ringing gongs and eerie drones—was subtitled “ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy.”
Where Psychic TV and Coil led, other early ‘80s groups like Lustmord, Nocturnal Emissions, and SPK followed, exploring aspects of shamanism, Satanism, and paganism as a route to enlightenment. Much modern dark ambient owes its sound to these early experiments. But as Rudolf Eb.er, Austrian sound artist, shaman, and devotee of Dzogchen explains, those spiritual pursuits can fulfill a deeper purpose. “Speaking as an artist, I’d say it is of profound importance to know how your mind and your creativity works,” he says, “for not just poking in insignificant bullshit.” In short, this is music—but it’s also something more.