Today I had the privilege of listening to the Humming Tapes by Cities Last Broadcast, another of the great artists from Cryo Chamber (seriously there has not been one album I haven’t loved from this label yet). Like so the other albums I have and the pleasure of reviewing from Cryo Chamber, the Humming Tapes tells a compelling, eerie, and strangely creepy story. I am constantly amazed at the dark ambient albums I have listened to since I started reviewing. The stories that they are able to tell, with just soundscapes, field recordings, and off tuned instruments is nothing short of incredible. The Humming Tapes came to me a perfect time, I recently watched the Conjuring 2 (not bad but not great but that’s not the point here) so supernatural horror, séances, and the feeling of spiritual oppression have been pretty strong in my mind recently.
From the very first track, the rains and the drone kicked in, setting up the stage. From the very first sound, I got the feeling that this was a world in which nothing is really okay, everyone smiles and waves at you when you cross the street but behind those smiles are something strange, malevolent, something hungry to break loose upon the waking world. We see the monsters in our dreams.
The music tugs at our minds, but not in a nostalgic way. It pulls at you like something just out of the corner of your eyes, something just beyond your range of hearing, a smell of decay that barely registers for it. There is something off about this world, this world where spirits want to communicate, want to use us, want to terrify us. The Humming Tapes perfectly captures, through the brilliantly unpleasant use of off tune pianos, the feeling of impending doom. This is a world, a rainy and smog chocked world that seems so normal, so harmless, yet underneath the surface something is squirming to escape and, unlike the movies, this thing will not be driven away by daylight. It can wait and hide and return whenever it wants.
The quality of this album was deceptive. You are meant to notice the tape scratches, the off tuning, the strange timing, it is supposed to sound like it’s a tape that recently been discovered after being buried for half a century, it’s meant to sound as though it we are listening in on the sounds of a century past. I think it sets up the atmosphere brilliantly.
The Humming Tapes was a haunting experience that I find myself eager to have again and again. One listen on this album is not enough. Just like reading that very special book, you find new things with each listen, you get a better sense of the emotions going through the creator’s mind. You can feel their melancholy, their unease, their tension. Par has proven himself an expert storyteller, adding layer upon layer of sound and music, each laced with their own stories and their own perspectives. He gives each of these stories their due, not letting a single moment pass without a rich layer of history. I highly recommend this album, preferably during a nice rain storm at night with a beer in hand.
Listen and support!