[Reviewed by stark]
In quite a short time Apocryphos has fought its way to the dark ambient high chambers. He released his first album in the beginning of 2015 and now for every self-respecting fan of the genre this moniker at least rings a bell. After all, the artist had gained some attention with his previous output, that is Psychomanteum and its “Oneironaut” release, a very decent album being kind of dark ambient history in a nutshell. Robert, along with Jacob Detelic, were taking classic influences by the handful, CMI or early Cyclic Law, but they were doing it with class and exquisite taste. Eventually they split up and Robert Kozletsky is now taking a journey on his own.
‘The Prisoners Cinema’ was really good. ‘Onyx’ even better, though we have to remember that it was a three project collaboration recorded with Atrium Carceri and Kammarheit. That all leaves me with the conclusion that it is ‘Stone Speak’ which is his opus magnum up to date. This is a refined work in each and every aspect. Take a look at the cover. Very dark ambient in nature, but also rather original. Not exactly because of what the image shows – the wasteland, the dead trees, strange constructions and symbols, all very representative to the genre – but rather in terms of execution. Because it somehow reminds me of the sci-fi/horror posters from the 70s and 80s. I know, the monument straight out of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey is one thing, but look at all the rest, the colours, the font. Make the paper texture look old and you have a poster to a forgotten sci-fi gem known only from drive-in cinemas.
Of course it would all be worthless if the music was poor. It’s not radio pop music where with good and professional production and the whole hype you can cover the weakness of what should be the core. Of course the production is top notch here as well, after all it’s Cryo Chamber, a label of technical fetishists (it’s not a spiteful remark, just an innocent joke), so you can hear each layer, each tiny detail he implemented into the music and it is obvious that he spent a lot of time crafting and polishing all these aural constructions. Drones, field recordings, solemn melodies, darkness and melancholy. I could use all these cliché keywords in various configurations and it would all be one hundred percent relevant, as “Stone Speak” is the quintessence of dark ambient. It’s not experimental, Robert doesn’t try to merge his and our beloved genre with other forms. And since I’m always open to exploring new territories, even having something familiar as a starting point, I feel that in this case it would be inappropriate.
As in Psychomanteum’s case, I think Robert is still highly influenced by those who were shaping the genre in the late 90s and early to mid 2000s. I notice the echoes of Desiderii Marginis and Kammarheit, maybe a little bit of Foundation Hope, but that might be my impression only. It is still very oneiric, devoid of any form of aggression. A calming darkness, one you want to drown in, to be comforted by. Just like Kammarheit, wouldn’t you agree? All the compositions have the same foundation, yet each of them possesses its own unique character. I admire their self-control; Robert is always very restrained, resisting to needless ornamentation of the tracks, to the addition of redundant elements that would enrich the compositions only superficially. Pure essence only.
It would be difficult to pick a favourite track, but if I had to, I think it would be “Simulacrum of Stone” – the guitar sounds that bring some delicacy and at some moments reminding me of… Anathema from the “Pentecost III” era. “Simulacrum of Stone” and to a lesser degree ‘”Sepulcher” with its subtle field recordings.
A few words about the concept, or rather my doubts about it. According to the musician it “is relating to the quintessential question… what lies beyond the borders of mortality?” Actually my point is not just about Apocryphos, but about dark ambient concepts in general. I often wonder, are they really drowning in their ideas while composing their music? Or are these but catchy phrases that are supposed to add depth to the whole thing, as if the music isn’t deep enough? Because I don’t believe that they’re forging a drone thinking: “now I see a white light, the border between dimensions and realities”, but rather “fuck, this drone sounds awesome, this is the atmosphere I want to catch!”. Or most likely something in the middle. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s the idiosyncrasy of the genre, but I’ll be honest with you. I hardly pay attention to the concept – I prefer to build one of my own if the music or my imagination allows me to. Or to just enjoy the sounds, letting my mind drift astray and leaving concrete thoughts somewhere deep in the mist. Yet I liked for example what False Mirror did on the “Derelict World” album, namely the short story in the booklet. Maybe it wasn’t particularly well written, but at least it gave me a well-considered signpost about how I should experience the music. Whether I follow it or not is up to me, but at least I can see that there is some story behind the music, and that the artist had a clear, constant vision in mind during the creative process. Of course in most cases it doesn’t disturb my reception of this or that album, but personally I prefer it when the concept is more expanded. Or even better, when there isn’t one at all, leaving the whole interpretation to the listener.
These are just some general thoughts not relating solely to “Stone Speak”. I guess that his visits to old cemeteries and burial grounds where he did some field recordings may have some impact on the musician. The album is really great, probably one of the best that came out in the last couple of months, at least when we consider pure dark ambient releases only. Robert knows what it’s all about and makes the best use of it. Some fragments may seem a bit predictable, but in this particular case it’s not that important, because you notice that only during the first listen. Later the album becomes a separate, unique entity and it should be treated like one. I truly appreciate “Stone Speak” – if you feel like listening to some classic dark ambient, but don’t want to play, say, “The Starwheel” for a 1000th time, give this one a try. You won’t regret it.