[Reviewed by vitriol]
Dronny Darko is Ukrainian artist Oleg Puzan, who has been active since 2012, mostly with Norwegian netlabel Petroglyph Music. He is relatively unknown to the ‘wider’ dark ambient audience – assuming, of course, that there is such a thing as a wide dark ambient audience to begin with. Needless to say that when I first came across this release, the project’s name brought out the skeptic in me. I mean, I like the film as much as the next person, but to name your project Dronny Darko just seems a bit too much. But Cryo Chamber has excellent taste in music, and has a reputation for discovering promising new artists. Even awkwardly named ones. Besides, getting stuck in the same listening pattern or playing it safe is not what underground music is about. So I gave this an unbiased listen, and didn’t regret doing so at all.
“Outer Tehom” contains four 13-minute long tracks. ‘Tehom’ means ‘Hell’ in Hebrew and the tracks are loosely titled around occult meanings, so I assume that the artist meant to give an interpretation of some infernal landscape, be that symbolic or literal, internal or external. The nature of the music here is subversive, insidious. It’s not the obvious, suggestive kind of terror one would get from excessive use of sampling and heavy layering. Instead the musician uses his sounds sparingly, painting a minimalistic, isolationist landscape the most prominent feature of which is the total absence of light. Even on the cover you don’t see a monster, a deformed human figure of some post-apocalyptic wasteland, just the statue of a Madonna with her hands extended in a timeless embrace – welcoming you to her own special Hell.
If you had any doubt about where you are, “Black Arts” makes quick business of dissolving it. With just a deep, processed male voice and some subtle drones that fade and re-emerge, the first part of the track seems like the beginning of a hypnotic session. Like a Tibetan chant experienced in slow motion. Silence plays a significant part in the track, not so much building suspense as sinking the listener deeper into this dreamless, numbing sleep. Timed by the slightest touch of organic chimes, its waves of gradual unconsciousness flow upon the listener’s mind in a simulation of death.
Whatever hint of menace was in the air is realized in “Mortal Skin”, a track dominated by sweeping, abstractly melodic drones in various tones and gradations, that remind me a lot of early Kammarheit. A mind that is darkly dreaming, left undisturbed to create in the realm of its nightmare. The creatures that live in this domain quickly manifest themselves, in heavily processed voices that seem as if coming from goblins or lesser demons. Or perhaps some of the entities in Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge? They become angrier and more menacing by the minute, and I can’t help but think that this is how the voices of trapped humans would sound to us, coming from the other side of the mirror.
It seems that, in terms of intensity at least, the album’s highlight is behind us, and so in “Snake Hole” the album’s tone becomes atmospheric and darkly meditative. Chimes, faint static in the background, some heavy drones by way of percussion. The chimes sound like the dripping of water, creating an intricate and, dare I say it, beautiful pattern around the image of the prostrated acolyte about to receive the divine poison. Or that of the god Loki eternally corroded by the serpent’s venom.
The rite of self-extinction completed, the initiate is now ready to enter the “Arcane Shrine”. Cold, howling winds and the sound of footsteps muffled by deep drones. A voice in recitation, echoed on stone and empty space. Chants. Whispers. The gradual admission of light. The creaking of a wooden door pulled by an antique mechanism. The track is surprisingly mundane given its title, and as I ponder upon the fact a suspicion dawns on me: could it be that the newly composed individual is thrown back into… the real world? Forever captive in the circle of the Outer Tehom…
The structure of the album refers me to a vinyl or cassette release, as the first two tracks seem to constitute one unit, and the last two another one. The two units are related to the general concept however, and as the musician is more than capable of handling his atmospheres and creating a mind-enveloping sound, “Outer Tehom” actually makes for a great meditative journey – if you’re not too afraid of goblins and demons and creepy cult priests, that is. This needs to be listened to in headphones with the lights out, more than the average ambient album does, as its frequencies are hypnotic in the literal sense of the word. But like any attempt at hypnotism, it will only work if you let it.