Seetyca - Trances
Rngmnn – Arctic Interference
Kloob - Unpredictable Signs
Atomine Elektrine - The Antikythera Mechanism
Winter-Light is a Dutch label specialized in ambient, experimental and drone soundscapes. During the year 2019 the label released a number of high quality productions like Rapoon, Sysselmann, NIMH and Abbildung. We took with pleasure the time to listen further and deeper in their beautiful catalogue of 2019.
Seetyca - Trances
drone / dark ambient
Trances is the sequel to the album Zwischenwelten of the German drone artist Seetyca. The album was conceived and recorded during several summers. No warm seasonal tunes appeared, on the contrary, deep and dark signals of winter spheres are introduced on this mysterious album. The drones and soundscapes shiver like sharp ice rain slicing away the last pieces of the so hopeful winter light. Trances is a hypnotic piece of work with a lot of hidden layers like piano sounds, distorted humming and floating soundscapes, proving that Seetyca is a sound wizard like no other. We were very pleased with the mental climate change this album induced. Trances is a detailed beauty on ice.
Rngmnn – Arctic Interference
With chiming bells on a bed of dark drones presented on the first track, Rngmnn introduces his new work. RNGMNN aka Ronny Engmann from Germany, previously released albums on Noctivagant and Reverse Alignment, as well as a collaborative release on Cryo Chamber with Dronny Darko. Arctic Interference contains eight tracks with polar ambiance ranging from drifting pieces to tight, rhythmic and dark pulsating soundscapes. The industrial moods lurk behind the corner of this sharp edged electronic release. The tracks were recorded in the month of December, over a period of five years. RNGMNN uses field recordings, elements of percussion, samples and darkened electronic paths creating a desolated world where the only orientation point is the silence behind the ocean of sound structures RNGMNN produced. An awesome album for the darker parts of life.
Kloob - Unpredictable Signs
The music of Kloob beholds profundity. Barcelona based Dani Kloob focuses his creativity in deep ambient music since 2010. Unpredictable Signs is a fascinating descent into a maze of cryptic caves. The ambient soundscapes howl like eroding winds against the damp walls. Kloob uses all kinds of manipulated voices and field recordings to detail his compositions. Perplexing sound structures amplify the feeling of never coming back to the surface. This recording feels like entering a bottomless chasm without beginning or end. Kloob created an irresistible mesmerizing world filled with soft drones and refined electronic tunes. We are obligated to say that this ravishing album is very addictive.
Atomine Elektrine - The Antikythera Mechanism
ambient / experimental
Atomine Elektrine is a project of Peter Andersson, the artist behind the Swedish dark ambient project raison d’être. Inspired by the discovery of a mysterious analogue computer, Peter Andersson bundles his experiences as a sound creator in a new project. The enormous variety in approach and experiment with electronic based sounds makes this album not that easy to absorb. The Antikythera Mechanism sounds like cosmic clock, not only questioning time with creative squeaking and ticking of sprockets, but also using soundscapes, exploratory accents, glitch and sequencing. The result is a unique multidimensional melting of enigmatic sounds with a slight dark and edgy punk attitude. The Antikythera Mechanism is also available on vinyl and CD.
dark jazz / free jazz
I have an odd relationship with jazz. Since I discovered the darker version of the genre, with bands like Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore or Dale Cooper Quartet and the Dictaphones, I'm gradually growing into it. Today, I have a rather large folder with jazz releases on my hard disc, many of which often rush through my speakers.
However, there is a very thin line between adoration and distaste. When the jazz roams too free, it makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I'm definitely not a fan of extreme experimental solos, that's for sure. So when I select a jazz album to review I constantly worry about that thin line.
And then this album came in. According to the biography Der Finger create a blend between avantrock-noise, free/dark jazz and psychedelic improvisation. "Auwtch," I thought, "this is going to be a tough one. Luckily for me, Russian trio Der Finger deals more into the dark than into the free jazz. How dark? Well, the five tracks are based on the "Illuminati Calendar", appearing in Robert Anton Wilson novels and represent the eternal cycles of development to chaos and rebirth. And there is plenty of chaos to be found here, but highly enjoyable chaos.
While listening to these tracks, an eclectic parade of artists rushed through my head. Of course, there is the old fashioned jazz of Davis or Coltrane but also the earlier mentioned dark jazz acts. Then there is the often repetitive groove of Deutsch Nepal and the in-your-face heaviness of Dead Neanderthals. The list goes on an on, even Melvins come mind here and there. But eventually, all of that tumbles down into chaotic black holes of free jazz, while that thin edge between adoration and distaste slowly fades away.
In all, this is an adventurous and experimental jazz album, one that challenges the listener. I don't really know who to recommend it too. Jazz fans, obviously, but perhaps also people who are into sludge metal and noise rock. Anyhow, it's probably best to play it loud and let these five seasons overwhelm you. Try it out, you might discover a brand new favorite.
dark jazz / experimental
Radare is back!!! And how!!! The four shy Germans deliver the next stunning phase in their continuous musical evolution. What began with heavy riffing and post metal elements, back in 2010, steadily grew into an enigmatic four piece which co-defined the dark jazz genre. 'Im Argren', released in 2015, placed Radare on a high shelf, along with Bohren and Dale Cooper. Their somewhat hesitant but beautiful and intimate gig at Dunk! Festival convinced many of their capabilities and 'Der Endless Dream' nails the next landmark in one of the most enigmatic genres in the history of music. Radare is back!!! The world is a better place now.
The album opens with 'Loup De Mer', a mid tempo tune that carefully opens the door to the new and improved Radare. The restraint modesty of the band has made place for a firm belief in their own musicianship, resulting in highly narrative and varied music. In a way, Radare has become the post rock band in the dark jazz scene, which in my opinion is a pretty neat thing. These are not merely Twin Peaks inspired tunes. These are pieces of music that Ennio Morricone himself would purchase in a record store. Yes, jazz, western music, post rock, krautrock, it's all here and it's pretty damn fascinating.
I am incredibly impressed by this album. I discovered them back at Incubate several years ago. They were youngsters with a vision and with enjoyable music. Now they have grown up, they have listened to Godspeed! You Black Emperor and set their own standard to that very level. And would you believe it, they quite often reach that standard. 'Eternal Love' is a mind boggling piece of music and the short title track brings tears to my eyes. If it's possible to fall in love with a record... You get the idea.
'Der Endless Dream' is the result of years of meticulous songwriting but also one where Radare dares to experiment, cross borders and explore niches. 'Room' is indeed the jazz version of a glacial post rock track, slowly meandering and evolving. I never thought I was going to say this, but this album is even better than 'Im Argren'. Radare, I hope you are ready to say goodbye to the forest stage and hello to the mainstream media. This album is award winning material, brought to you by one of the most talented and hardworking bands on the planet.
dark jazz / post rock / doom
I don't really know how to start this review. I want to write about the short appearance of A-Sun Amissa in my book, 'Cecilia's World' (---->) but I also want to write about that breathtaking concert at Trix that inspired that particular passage. I want to write about how I immediately became a huge A-Sun Amissa fan and about how they expanded the entire dark jazz scene.
But I think the safest way to do this is to dig deep into this brand new album and see how this project by Richard Knox (Shield Patterns, Glissando, founder of Gizeh Records) has evolved in the past few years.
'Ceremony in the Stillness', to be released September 14th, contains six tracks, all slow and compelling. On this follow-up to the highly acclaimed 'The Gatherer' A-Sun Amissa seems to dig deeper that ever before. The jazz elements faded to the background, making place for post rock and doom metal. On several of these tracks, including the immersive opener 'The Black Path', Knox twists the distortion knob a bit more.
Now, I can say a lot of things about this album, but there is one thing in my mind throughout the entire duration: a front seat at the forest stage of Dunk! festival. Now more than ever I see this band being a massive highlight on this Flemish post rock event, and all other related festivals around the world. With emotional rollercoasters like 'To The Ashes' or closer 'Remembrancer' , A-Sun Amissa will undoubtedly enchant audiences far and wide.
I guess it's not a surprise that bands like Mono, Stars Of The Lid and A Swarm Of The Sun come to mind more often than the Bohren or Dale Coopers of this world, which was the case on 'The Gatherer'. Lingering guitars and steady drum rhythms now make up most of the music, but the gloomy, intrinsic atmosphere remains a constant. Just listen to the fascinating anthem 'The Skulk' which does beautiful things with ambient, noise and avant garde classical music, often with the help of Jo Quail and other guests.
'No Perception Of Light' makes me realize that this project didn't really chance. It just continued its evolution towards ever more intriguing slow and murky music. Back then, I thought 'The Gatherer' was a highlight in the so-called "slowism" scene but this new work surpassed that, even though the much beloved jazz elements are now backgrounded. 'Ceremony in the Stillness' is a perfectly balanced album, one I would like to recommend to all fans of slow and dark.
An Evening With Knives - Serrated
post-metal / doom / alternative rock
Autger - God Kissing Carrion
dark jazz / ambient / experimental / trip hop
Lamirāl - This EP Has No Name And It's Alright
Gray Dog - The Deal
Paulie Jan - Yukio (A Brief Sonic Evocation)
dark ambient / noise
Lachrymose - The Unseen
doom / occult metal
Disowning - Battle of Neverness
Gravecoven - Coughing Blood
black metal / doom / death metal
Vandal Moon - Wild Insane
post punk / synth pop
Sense Fracture - In My Escape I look For A Weapon
breakcore / industrial
Richard James Simpson - Sweet Birds Of Youth
alternative rock / blues
style of Tool and quite a bit of grunge - vocals that remind of Cobain included. So go buy this one if you appreciate something that refuses to fit into one box.
Nhung Nguyen – Oblivion
ambient / experimental
I have just returned from another exquisite edition of Dunk! festival. It was a magical three days, loaded with post rock, doom metal and everything related. It was also quite exhausting, so for the time being I'm not going to get into heavy, fast and pummeling albums.
Instead, I'll delve into the blissful sounds of dark jazz, courtesy of Ukrainian band The Orchestra Of Mirrored Reflections. Regular Merchants Of Air readers will probably know that this is one of our most followed acts, having appeared here several times in the past few years.
And of course, there is a real good reason for that. These guys are awesome. From day one their dark jazz has enchanted and inspired me. Their music was a constant in my writing sessions for Cecilia's World and it's basically the imaginary soundtrack to my new novel. That novel will be a gritty, harsh and dark thriller, one that can best be read while listening to these gritty and dark jazz sounds. To be a bit more specific, the title track of this album, 'Narrow Escape', has been playing while I wrote the key-scene and if they ever turn this book into a film, I want that song to be the theme song.
However, this album also contains the one Orchestra Of Mirrored Reflections track that I'm not that fond of. In my mind, there seems to be something wrong with opener 'Dissociative Fugue'. I think it's the mixing as the sax feels too loud. Yet, apart from that, I will undoubtedly recommend this album to all fans of Bohren, Dale Cooper, Radare, The Thing With Five Eyes and so on. This is pure dark jazz galore. Besides, the Orchestra easily makes up for that one mixing-misstep. 'Marvelous Journey' is exactly what the title predicts and already one of my favorite dark jazz tunes of the moment.
'Le Printemps arrive dans l'Hémisphère Nord' could as well be a part of Miles Davis' 'Ascenseur pour l'échafaud' soundtrack. It's a short tune but such a nice and atmosphere one. 'Stay Low' allows ambient sounds to take over the jazz atmosphere, making it another brilliant piece of slow and immersive music. Finally, 'Fire Burns Brighter In The Dark' delivers a classic and perfect ambient-jazz hybrid, adding a ritual element to the minimal but effective music. At the end, there is also a neat bonus track, a short jazz jam so it seems.
So yes, apart from that loud sax in the opening tune, this album is a fantastic example of dark jazz. I don't think that there is any more to write about this full-length. If any of the aforementioned bands appear in your day-to-day playlist, you definitely should give this one a shot, and while you're at it, get their previous work too. The Orchestra Of Mirrored Reflections is one of the most interesting dark jazz act on this planet. It's time the planet knows that...
Ihä - Estructuras De Aire, Colonias De Soplo
ambient / drone
Spankraght - Spankraght EP
industrial / metal / drum & bass
August Rosenbaum - Rasa
Show Aniki - The Deep Blue Sessions
The Human Race Is Filth - Liberate
grindcore / crust
Misantronics vs Mint Narcosis - EPI
ambient / techno
The Room in the Wood - Magical Thinking
new wave / alternative rock
Twilight - Trident Death Rattle
Corpsehammer - Perversión
Grim - Requiem
classical / post rock / jazz
Mhönos - LXXXVII
Zero Theorem - Ataraxis
hard rock / metal
Vampillia - Happiness Brought By Endless Sorrow
black metal / noise
The Orchestra Of Mirrored Reflections - Narrow Escape
doom / experimental
Any doom fan knows that Italy is one of the places to be for dark, obscure and occult doom metal. There must something in the water over there because that country keeps on barking brilliant doom albums. So I guess it's no surprise that a band like Messa roams in the same deep waters and comes out with something unique and epic.
The band has been making a name for themselves since their inception in 2014. Their classical and occult doom metal puts them on the same cards as bands like Jex Thoth, Pentagram and Windhand but Messa likes to take things a bit further, right into the regions of jazz, shoegaze and noise. Is that good? Dûh.
The album opens with the usual intro, a two minutes lasting track that drones and noises before 'Snakeskin Drape' breaks loose, first gentle yet impending, then fully embracing the vintage doom metal feel. Personally, I'm already convinced but we're not done yet. Messa still has a lot of goodness to show. 'Leah' for example, which shows you how an antique jazz club would sound if it had today's distortion pedals. I love the jazz escapades on this track and I love how Sara's versatile and soulful voice fits in perfectly. Somehow she belongs on jazz stages, in shoegaze bands and hanging out with dark doomers. I'm happy she picked this band to showcase her talent.
Now, when I mentioned "vintage doom", I obviously also included the psychedelic aspect of that genre. Many of the passages and solos on this album feel like immense and immersive jam sessions, thriving on ancient riff worshiping and the freedom of improvisation. 'The Seer' is a beautiful example of that. But then again, so are pretty much all the other tracks. I'm not going into a track-by-track description here, especially not since you should already get the hint: this is a fantastic album and a perfectly succeeded experiment. There is not a dull moment to be found. This will be a constant in my day-to-day playlist from now on and if you're a fan of high quality and unique music, you might want to get your hands on this.
drone / dark jazz
In the last ten years or so, dark minded people have been infiltrating the jazz scene, much like they have been running wild through the dance, rock and metal scenes in the decades before. Since I'm one of those dark minded people, I can only applaud that evolution. In fact, it's acts like Bohren, Dale Cooper and Radare that got me into jazz in the first place.
These days, dark jazz or ambient jazz acts seem to pop-up everywhere, reserving another heap of space in my already overloaded CD-racks. But these things are too good to be ignored, and here is another beauty to add to your drone jazz collection.
I don't know much about Inabile Caos, and I'm not planning to do any more research on the project. I mean, music like this can best maintain a touch of mystery. I suspect it is an Italian one-man act and I know that James Plotkin mastered the album, but the rest remains an enigma. This album, which I assume is a debut since the title is '1.0' is loaded with calm but grungy music, balancing on the edges between dark ambient, guitar drones, doom and jazz.
I think I can best compare this album to Sunn O))) side project Ensemble Pearl, or with Earth performing in an underground jazz club. It's slow, constantly fading in and out, loaded with delay, reverb and feedback, and otherworldly and gloomy set of instrumentals. My favorite track is '3' but again, that's not an easy choice to make, mostly since I love listening to this work for hours on end. I mean, '4' even brings Black Sabbath to mind, something that doesn't often happen in the jazz regions.
I guess there is little else to say about this album, which leaves me with the task of finding a target audience for it. That's an easy one. Doomers, droners and dark jazzists of all ages should check this one out. As I wrote in the beginning of this review: this is another beauty to add to your collection, a massively recommended one too.
doom / dark jazz / sludge metal
Goddammit, I hate it when people steal my ideas. First there was Alice Cooper who stole some of my vocal lines for 'Poison', then Tina Turner did something similar and now Soldat Hans is stealing my ideas for a new live project. I got to find a lawyer or something, and sue the hell out of these people.
I'm kidding, I'm not going to sue anybody but the rest of the previous paragraph is true. As a young boy I wrote songs, only to hear other people perform then a year later or so. I also want to form a doom jazz band in the near future. I'd like to perform again.
In a way, Soldat Hans beat me to that. This Swiss band does something interesting with dark jazz, doom metal, sludge metal, ambient and post rock. The music is slow, obviously, but immersive, like a mix of A Silver Mount Zion, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Amenra and Sigur Ros. That results in two long tracks, with 'Schoner Zerbirst' divided into two parts. Opener 'Story Of The Flood' is a twenty six minutes lasting doom jazz sloth combining all of the aforementioned elements. Of course, that brings a lot of variation to the whole thing, something I can only applaud, especially in dark, slow and atmospheric music.
Once, Soldat Hans was an experimental noise acts, improvising their way through gigs. You can still hear that in the music on this album. Instruments alternate often, from the usual post rock equipment to violins, sax and trumpets. The only sound I'm not so fond of is the sludge metal vocals, but that's just me. Everything else on this album is nothing less than inspiring. I am damn sure that I will listen to these tracks quite a lot from now on. I suggest you do the same. If you are a fan of slow and atmospheric you definitely not want to miss out on this one.