AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Various Artists – CYCLES II (2022; Cyclic Law)

The Cyclic Law label, based in France, has been producing some of the most compelling dark, experimental, and electroacoustic ambient music for two decades. This label sampler, running almost two hours, is a collection of new and unreleased tracks from the label’s artists, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Contributors include Ajna, Ascending Divers, Ashtoreth, Beckahesten, Curse All Kings, Desiderii Marginis, Funerary Call, Kammarheit, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Neraterræ & Dødsmaskin, New Risen Throne & Corona Barathri, Nordvargr, Øjerum, Shedir, Shrine, Sophia, Sutekh Hexen, Taphephobia, Visions, and Vortex. While all twenty tracks are varied and quite excellent, a few highlights are covered below.

Ajna’s Elemental Manifestation and Ascending Divers’ Charybdis Drain are both prime-grade darkness with ominous drones. The former features metallic cracking and hissing while the latter includes thunder-like rumbling and long-held synth chords.

Ashtoreth heads in another direction on Emic, with distorted chords, plucked notes, harmonics, and percussive lines from multitracked guitars. These are coupled with whispered vocalizations. The guitar-driven material continues on Beckahesten’s Heder, with grinding chords, martial drums, and chanted vocals.

Cerements Of The Moon from Funerary Call is one of the more experimental tracks, comprised of sculpted abstractions, electroacoustic noises, and haunting voices. Another vocal piece is a surprise – Leila Abdul-Rauf’s cover of Moving On its Own by Lee Rather is neither ambient nor electroacoustic but quite psychologically dark.

In contrast, the track from New Risen Throne (featuring Corona Barathri) is squarely experimental ambient, including shimmering tones combined with layers of forbidding vocals and chants. Shrine’s Dream Axis features a catch synth melody along with bursts of echoing noises and an oscillating pattern floating in the background.

Sutekh Hexen’s The Sky Below is a static-laden affair incorporating a subtle repeating melody buried within white noise and disassociated growls. Vortex finishes off the set with Cosmic Rim II, a piece with a pulsating bass line, sweeping waves, bells, and fortepiano dynamics.