Conflux Coldwell – The Phantomatic Coast (2022; Subexotic Records)
Michael C. Coldwell spent several years traveling the east coast of England, gathering field recordings of waves and fog signals. He used them as the basis of this album, along with sweeping drones, loops, and sculpted static. Ultimately a hauntological exercise, The Phantomatic Coast explores how erosion causes the sea to change landscapes, leaving only hints and memories of what once was. Accordingly, there is a distinct forlorn feel to these recordings, with additional frictive elements and background spoken word passages. This sense of sadness and loss is coupled with a handful of distinct melodic patterns that repeat for short periods of time along with the layered synth. The album will be released on September 23.
Grune Maar – Within the Abyss (2022; Bandcamp)
Within the Abyss is something of a monolith, in that it is largely based on shifting arrangments of smooth drones that take a slightly dark path. But the album remains compelling throughout despite its uniformity – there is nothing wrong with having a lot of a good thing. Grune Maar is Romanian artist Laurentiu Danu, who has self-released a series of albums this year. In spirit at least, this one is reminiscent of Steve Roach’s more spacious ambient recordings. The addition of a few voice-like pads and some crackling here and there do little to change this focus. Danu is in no hurry as his progressions move along at a tectonic pace, making the album well suited for meditative pursuits.
Concussed – Electromagnetic Dust (2022; SomewhereCold Records)
Concussed is a project of Texan Jim Branstetter, and serves as an exploration into cinematic dark ambient with gritty drones, dramatic percussion, light static, and ominous bass tones. There is quite a lot going on throughout this release, with Branstetter using his palette to generate a dense and busy mix of sounds. Some of these are odd and textural, incorporating acousmatic influences. Bits and pieces of acoustic instrumentation and spoken word pop in as well. Starting on the second track, Branstetter introduces snippets of awkwardly-timed percussion to counterpoint lilting voice-like abstractions. Processed voices, rubbing and scraping, and bassy drones are the main features of The Rectal Exorcism of Vladimir Putin, a track that gets my vote for song title of the year.