AMN Reviews: New Dark Ambient for Fall – Altus, Argyre Planitia, and Fionnlagh

With colder weather and shorter days, Fall represents nature’s inevitable dormancy and death. Reaching its nadir in a few weeks, this cycle is necessary for the rebirth of Spring. In the mean time, dark ambient artists have recently given us plenty of material suitable for the current season.

Altus – Hidden Realms and Vacant Spaces (2022; Altus Music)

Altus (Mike Carss) continues the general approach from last year’s Hypoxia – slowly rolling chords of gloomy synth. Occasionally, rhythmic patterns break through for short periods while long-held notes resemble guitar feedback. Like oceanic waves, these structures ebb and flow. The overall mood is foreboding and melancholy – especially with the deeper tones – though not excessively so. All said, Hidden Realms and Vacant Spaces is another great place to explore this prolific artist’s discography. Carss’ approach is more reminiscent of that of the Berlin School (minus sequencers) than more recent electroacoustic / ambient efforts. Nonetheless, he manages to take the best aspects of classic ambiance and make them sound modern and fresh.

Argyre Planitia – The Great Dark Spot (2022; Winter-Light)

The Great Dark Spot begins with a repeating bass note combined with roiled electronics. This album of space-themed drones and gritty textures is the eighth from Argyre Planitia (Stefan Voß). While also giving a nod to the Berlin School, Voß heads in a slightly more experimental direction. This involves windswept constructs, sculpted static, and crackling elements. A reasonably representative track is Cthulhu Macula, which beings with deep, cosmic tones and bassy rumbling. Fluttering and rattling noises move in and out of the foreground over slowly oscillating synth chords and the occasional bell. The piece is suffocating in its tension and density, a high point on an album full of high points.

Fionnlagh – What Came After (2022; Ambientologist)

What Came After is a set of remixes from Fionnlagh’s 2021 release, What Came Before. Featuring contributions from artists Warmth, Powlos, Hilyard, Anwalter, Logic Moon, and Seabuckthorn, the previous album’s cinematic nature is largely maintained while being taken in different directions. There are ample low-frequency pulses and resonations throughout, accompanied by higher-end drones and crackling. But overall, What Came After is quiet and introspective, sparse yet exhibiting a greater degree of structure (e.g., in the form of patterns and loops) than other examples of this genre.

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