[Reviewed by stark]
The fifth settlement of the mind-droning series once again proves that the ambient spirit is alive in very different longitudes, latitudes and cultural determinants. Sure, the series focuses mostly on European artists, as their concentration and density is the most intense in the Old Continent, not to mention that on this relatively small piece of Earth (plus Russia) the differences in culture or lifestyle can be quite huge. This may affect the music, although in the ambient genre the question of origin is less important, and often after listening to the music, you can’t even say where this or that artist comes from. As if the ambient scene is a kind of small yet global village, where good musicians speak their own language, that is understandable to the other soul- or soundmates, no matter where they live.
First, we’re going to New Zealand, many a traveller’s wet dream; the land of sea, mountains and breathtaking landscapes, with which Peter Jackson fell in love while searching for The Lord Of The Rings series locations. Though Abby Helasdottir, the mastermind of the Gydja project, is not very interested in glorifying these particular landscapes. The name of the project and the name of the musician disclose their North European origin and the fascination with Old Norse culture, and the nine-minute long track called “Gjallarbru” indeed has a spirit similar to the Scandinavian projects. It’s cold like a December evening in the snow desert somewhere in the Arctic Pole. Gydja often refers to esoteric and magickal practices, but this is not the case here. It’s not glacial ambient though, but rather more like cold dark ambient, if you can see the difference – with bass drones, reverbed metallic clangs and the atmosphere of solitude and desolation.
Clade is the only project which has the opportunity to present two tracks. They come from Glasgow, Scotland and they approach ambient with a very subtle industrial attitude. The first one, “Furnace” has quite an apt title as it reminds one of embers as the memory of a great fire. Crawling drones are becoming more and more dense with every second, and the quiet crackling is like the last sparkles in that furnace. The other piece, “The Last Summer” brings some more air and space with its guitar-like drones and distant pulsations (possibly field recordings, but I’m not sure).
Essential dark ambient, this is how I would describe Monocube’s music. Andrzej comes from Ukraine and offers a truly intense amalgam of deep drones, clangs, angelic choir parts and hazy textures, all drowning in a sea of reverb. There’s also a bonus track, “Alessandro”, which you’ll get as a free download with a purchase of the compilation and, you guessed it right, is not a Lady Gaga cover (yes, I’m aware of the difference in the title). This is a mournful piece, still filled with delays and reverbs, but of a somehow clearer structure – or maybe it’s just my impression – ornamented with the sounds of a guitar. I’ll tell you this, Monocube has a bright future in this dark genre.
Monocube shares the B-side of the vinyl with Yrsel, a duo from France. The guys offer a composition of a peculiar title: “Krstnhmnbrtncrt” (the cat stepped on the keyboard, or what)? It’s interesting, because they use snare drums and violin in the structure of their composition, monotonous and trancelike, but somehow addicting and overwhelming in its massiveness.
The label admits that their goal is to show “the various sides of today’s experimental drone-music, especially focusing on newcomers and less well known acts from the world wide scene”. And so far they’re achieving it, creating a reliable compendium of the contemporary dark or experimental soundscapes scene one step at a time. Silver vinyl, 400 copies, and a trippy cover painting again by Pete Greening.