[Reviewed by stark]
Imagine a deep void, devoid of light, black to its very core, soundless, airless, empty and infinite. There’s no beginning or end, no past or future. The terms of time and space are so irrelevant here. A void that sucks you like a vacuum, and you can’t tell if that body of yours is still solid, or if you’re broken into atoms and only your consciousness remains as something that can still be described with actual words. Or perhaps even this doesn’t exist anymore.
What a cliché, huh. How many times have we dealt with such visions in the dark ambient genre. Mr Lustmord, Sir, you made a mess in many (well, ok, not so many) people’s minds and now your sons, and sons of their sons, generation after generation, paint these same visions. Very slightly changed over the years, sometimes more concrete, more cinematic, sometimes more abstract. In one occasion the music may be more melodic, while in another it may take a more droney direction. Noises, harmonies, ritual, oriental, glacial moods, it may all vary but the foundation is more or less always the same. The dark ambient community doesn’t mind being fed with more of the same though. At least I don’t. I don’t look for innovations anymore, I don’t need anything groundbreaking – that expectation ended about ten years ago. Now I just look for an atmosphere that will speak to me. For a mixture where all the ingredients are served in perfect proportions.
The reason why I write all this, is because Andrzej Gładuszewski of the Ukrainian project Monocube managed to reach a perfect balance, at least to my taste. The album doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes I wonder if there are any dark ambient artists who still believe that they can create something truly “new”, something that in a few years from now will be considered a milestone. Guess not so many. This concerns most musical genres anyway. Only for dark ambient musicians things are even harder, because, contrary to pop, rock, or even neofolk if we consider the subject on a more underground level, the dark ambent genre from its definition is devoid of so-called “catchiness”. Of course I’m speaking in generalisations, because sometimes you may stumble upon a catchy ambient tune or theme. Yet even if that is the case, only us, the fans of the genre, may consider it so. For the majority of the listeners it’s still music that’s difficult to digest. By all means, I don’t mean to say that Andrzej is not an ambitious guy. I guess that his efforts are focused on something else: on capturing that very core that not many have managed to capture before. I feel like this core becomes smaller and smaller with every passing year, but he managed to reach it. Hit it like a world champion in archery or something.
It’s all because of the sound, which is of the highest quality, the feeling that Andrzej obviously has in his heart, his understanding of the genre and the potential receivers of this music. He knows exactly how to avoid boredom or irritation. The tracks differ from one another, each tells its own story and it doesn’t take much time for the listener to distinguish between them. You want some delicate darkness based on guitar sounds of a distant post-rock provenance? You got it in “Visiones III”. Deep and anxious bass drones, but still without bursting with horror? “Downwards” (composed with Apocryphos). While in “Totem Incantation” you’re dealing with strange noises, whistles and murmurs. Its chaotic, ritual character makes me think of the Aural Hypnox label, especially since my ears tell me that it was composed using solely physical objects, including the human voice. “Through Our Blood” introduces acoustic guitar and the exceptionaly eerie “Father Fenris” brings forth a crawling dread straight from the centre of the Earth. The main dish we find at the very end however. “Initiation” was made in collaboration with Asmorod, and Nicolas’ presence is very significant here. These solemn synth melodies are so specific they can’t be mistaken for anything else. After all, Asmorod is responsible for “Hysope”, one of my favourite ambient albums ever and… well, possibly the last “milestone” I was discussing above.
This mélange doesn’t seem as if made solely to put all the artist’s ideas and dark ambient influences into one recording. It forms a story, where each track is another chapter. Or it’s like different views of the same idea. Andrzej captured the essence of the genre and was able to carve in it in a very creative way, so a big applause from me for that. And “The Rituals” is a big step forward when compared to the previous “Blue Dusk /// Red Dawn”. At the moment it’s one of the best dark ambient albums of 2017.