To counter the summer heat currently being experienced here in the northern hemisphere, spending time with dark ambient recordings can bring a chill to one’s bones. The reviews below cover a new release and also catch up with two others that have come out in the last couple of years.
Kammarheit – Thronal (2020; Cyclic Law)
Released 18 months ago, Thronal is one of those albums that slipped under the radar. And it is good that it popped up in the queue because Kammarheit (Pär Boström) produces quintessential dark ambient. Quiet and slow-moving, these drones and layers of synth are haunting journeys through ancient forests, caverns, and abandoned villages. Deep tones rumble and echo in a nearly-hypnogogic fashion. As the album progresses, the drones take on a rougher, grittier nature. A standout track is The Two Houses, which combines all of these features into discordant yet subtle pulses of noise.
Leila Abdul-Rauf – Phantasiai (2021; Cyclic Law)
Still in catch-up mode, Phantasiai is an unusual mid-2021 effort from multi-instrumentalist Leila Abdul-Rauf. Employing just processed trumpet, glockenspiel, and voice, Abdul-Rauf offers two 20-minute, multi-movement suites entitled Distortions in Phantasy and The I Emerges. The trumpet provides background tones that form layered drones or short motifs, while she sounds out ominous melodies on the glockenspiel. She sings or vocalizes on several tracks in a non-Western fashion that accentuates the sparse yet foreboding character of these pieces.
Dronny Darko & G M Slater – Dissolving into Solitary Landscapes (2022; Cryo Chamber)
Dronny Darko (Oleg Puzan) has been a favorite in these parts for some time – all of his recordings are worth owning. Here, he teams with G M Slater for a set of tracks that explore a futuristic dystopia in which Earth’s remaining humans are forced to live underground due to a climate crisis. The synth patterns are more subtle than usual, quiet but often looping in mechanical patterns. A large degree of the activity on the album is in the objects and field recordings used in the foreground – footsteps, water, crackling, voice-like sounds, and environmental noises. These elements paint a dark and apprehensive picture of the hopelessness of a future that is all too likely given our current trajectory.