As Autumn brings cooler temperatures and shorter days, dark ambient artists are busy releasing new material that captures the accompanying cyclic decay of nature as well as otherworldly existential dread.
Kloob – Parallel States (2021; Winter-Light)
Dani Kloob’s haunting soundscapes rumble and unfold in an understated fashion. Almost hypnogogic, these pieces are felt as much as they are heard. While long, slow drones dominate the foreground, crackling electroacoustics and processed sound elements poke around the edges. Evolving at tectonic time scales, each track is surprisingly rich and densely layered. One contains patterns of beats that provide a further cinematic intensity to this offering.
BlackWeald – 90377 Sedna (2021; Bandcamp)
Coming off of an 11-hour(!) release earlier this year, BlackWeald has toned it down a bit in terms of length on 90377 Sedna. But this album comes with a short story, a video, and extensive artwork, so maybe not so much. The focus here is space ambient, with dark, shimmering drones, synthetic voices, and distorted walls. These sounds certainly evoke a combination of machinery and the vastness of deep space, with more than a little horror thrown in. The digital release comes with a 32-minute bonus track, сингулярность, which is an extended, slow-moving drone – perhaps not essential but enjoyable nonetheless.
Altus – Hypoxia (2021; Bandcamp)
Altus (Mike Carss) takes things in a different direction with swelling and ebbing waves of clean synths, not unlike the works of Steve Roach and other more “mainstream” electro-ambient artists over the last two or three decades. Unassuming sequenced patterns come and go from the background. Nonetheless, there is a distinct tension to this work, an underlying anxiety or urgency that occasionally comes to the fore in programmed beat patterns or rougher textures. Some of this can be found on Metal Fatigue, a track that couples synth washes with boiling static. Carss has over 50 releases out under the Altus moniker, and Hypoxia is a solid jumping-off point for exploring his lengthy discography.
Ager Sonus – Niflheim (2021; Cryo Chamber)
Ager Sonus (Thomas Langewehr) is back with another percussive ambient excursion. This one also focuses on heavy use of flutes and synthesizers. Aiming to tell a story of battles and Nordic mythology from the 9th century, Langewehr’s rhythms are both tribal and martial. The synths, combined with effects and recordings, create a complementary sonic environment. The flute, coupled with occasional use of stringed instruments and throat singing, adds gritty primordial textures and a few jagged moments. Nonetheless, the synth work is smooth and layered for the most part. The feel is not overtly warlike, but gives rise to the impression of preparation for war – a small army readying for battle by torchlight in a darkened stronghold. I’ve made comparisons between Ager Sonus and Robert Rich before, and such similarities hold.