AMN Reviews: Monocube – Substratum (2019; Cyclic Law / Malignant Records)

Substratum is a fitting title to this set of eight haunted ambient pieces from Ukranian act Monocube. Instrumentation consists of modular synth and plucked string instruments (mostly guitar, it seems), with a clear emphasis on the former.  But deep drones dominate the recording – bass-heavy echoings of lost chambers, unlit passages, and windswept ice-scapes. Tectonic shiftings accompany chant-like voicings. Dissonant static and found-object noises accentuate these dark layers.

The overall result is an album that cannot be ignored or played in the background. While undoubtedly atmospheric, Substratum demands the listener’s attention. The ambiance includes a sense of growing anxiety that ultimately filters into your consciousness.

As the drone genre goes, it can be hard to break new ground. Monocube does so by acknowledging the formula but choosing to build on rather than rely on it. Listen at high volume for the full wall-shaking effect. You may be unnerved but will not be disappointed.

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