K-X-P – IV

Ambient music is tricky. Get it right and you can create some of the most mind-blowing, expansive, forward-thinking art imaginable. Get it wrong and you’re left looking like a pretentious mess. It’s very difficult to ride the line of pretension and come out on the right side when making anything that forsakes a conventional song structure, but by album six, you’d think K-X-P would be pretty adept, right? Continue reading

Svarta Stugan- Islands/Öar

When we think of island land masses, amongst many things, there are a couple of notable thoughts and ideals which spring to mind. First is the idea of separation and seclusion, with the idea of remote, undiscovered or unknown locales, untouched by outsiders. Second is the diversity and uniqueness that they provide from both one another and from other land masses; different climates, cultures, unique creatures and flora. Continue reading

Jarboe – Cut Of The Warrior

Jarboe, or Jarboe La Salle Devereaux as she is known to her accountant, is also the other founding member of the legendary Swans. So, no pressure there, then. She’s also shockingly busy, with a looooong discography, and a new ambient/experimental rock album, Cut Of The Warrior (Translation Loss Records) out this month. But is it her swan song, or will it break this reviewer’s arm? Continue reading

Jo Quail – Exsolve

One of the strange facts about Metal is how limited the formula can be, at times. The guitar, drums, bass and warbler model stands firm for a surprising range of genres, from Black Metal to Death, to Thrash, to the NWOBHM… So, give cellist Jo Quail a round of applause for trying something new with her new album, Exsolve (self-released). Continue reading

Infera Bruo – Cerement

Black metal with a clean, crisp production and actual melody isn’t going to work for everyone. To some, it’s just not “cult” enough if it doesn’t sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, but Infera Bruo are three records into their career now and they’re still able to sound vibrant and full of ethereal evil. The emphasis, as ever with Infera Bruo, is on the balance of dark ambience with hints of malice scattered throughout. However, while Cerement (Prosthetic) is more to-the-point than previous releases, it lacks the memorable flair of both of its predecessors. Continue reading

Insect Ark – Marrow Hymns

The thing that everyone always forgets about “Post-Rock” is that it was never intended to be a defined style of music. Essentially journalistic shorthand for “I don’t really know what this is, but they use guitars”, it was a useful semi-label for the otherwise unlabelable until someone decided that it was a genre defined by stroke-inducing levels of boredom and its use in a review became the Touch Of Death for all right-thinking people.  Continue reading

Cryo Chamber: Miles To Midnight & Ur Djupan Da

It’s starting to feel like I’m repeating myself here, but “Cinematic Dark Ambient” specialists Cryo Chamber remain one of the most consistently engaging and accomplished in any genre, and one of their more interesting qualities is their themed collaborations between artists. For a Metal label these would likely be little more than indulgent acts of vanity, but Cryo Chamber’s collaborations are always among the most distinctive and evocative of their releases, the artists combining their disparate approaches to create a shared atmosphere, often based around a narrative or themed. Continue reading

Cognitive Dissonance – Revolting Roundup #1

In the first of an irregular feature for people with irregular music tastes, Ghost Cult plunges into the chaotic cyclone of abstract, dissonant and frankly horrible sub-underground Metal, Noise and Ambient. Continue reading

Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestite

Wolves in The Throne Room new album cover - Copy

 

My first experience with WITTR was when a friend gave me a copy of Two Hunters and described it as “American hippies who think they’re Burzum”. Not an entirely fair description, perhaps, but one that stuck in my head to such an extent that my first thought upon listening to Celestite (Southern Lord/Artemisia) was “they’ve finally reached the prison albums”.

No strangers to developing and refining their sound, the brothers Weaver here celebrate the end of a self-described trilogy of albums by jettisoning the one musical element that remained constant throughout them. Despite the guitar rumbling in the background of some tracks, Celestite is very deliberately not a Metal album at all, fully embracing the Dark-Ambient/Soundscaping territories that several of their contemporaries have already experimented with. Within their new field, WITTR’s sound is rather broad. Swathes of moody electronics recall Ulver’s Lycantropen Themes, rumbling valleys of feedback suggest Earth or Sunn O))), dramatic synths recall Goblin and – yes – the odd plinky-plonky piano does indeed call Varg’s porridge-period to mind.

Metal fans sometimes dismiss this sort of thing as easy, but it can be extremely challenging to build a sense of drama without recognisable riffs or song-structures (even the abstract forms of them used in WITTR’s style of black metal) if you’re used to writing with those things. The worst dark ambient sounds thoughtless, the best very deliberate and driven by clear intent. For the work of a group coming late to this music, Celestite falls mostly on the right side of that spectrum, with only the middle track ‘Bridge Of Leaves’ collapsing into unstructured ambience and costing the album some of its momentum. By nature this is background music, Metal listeners may find it withdrawn or even boring, but approached with the right expectations it reveals more going on than you may initially think.

Switching from black metal to ambient electronica is nothing new, of course –Ulver having blazed that particular trail over a decade ago – but WITTR have released a confident, purposeful foray into the style, and an indicator of future greatness if they remain in this style.

WITTR Band shot - Copy

 

7/10

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RICHIE HR