I may be a bit late to the ballgame with dark ambient, I’ve been a fan for about 2 years but in those two years I’ve heard some music that truly reshapes and questions what music can really be. It has been an incredible exploratory journey and has been amazing every step of the way. One of the larger dark ambient labels, Cyclic Law, has been creating and distributing some of the most mind bending and diverse pieces for some time now. One of their latest release from the project Shrine, Ordeal 26.04.86, is a prime example of how they are helping turn music into something new.
The title references to the infamous Chernobyl disaster over thirty years ago now. And like many of the post-apocalyptic ambient that I’ve absorbed, the power of the album comes from the emotions and the memories rather than on specific images. I’ve heard melancholic music in the past and while I’ve always understood it, I never quite felt it the way I did listening to this album. The beginning of the album is the musical equivalent to watching your hopes and dreams fail. The music starts out peacefully, at one with nature with some beautifully evocative field recordings and then it turns dark, as if the sun had been ripped from the sky. Poetics aside, this album tells an amazing and personal story about what happened all those years ago. I don’t know if Shrine had any personal connection to the event but even if they did not, the emotions and the feelings that they evoked with the music and the soundscape was utterly devastating. The music is subtle and complex and though the album nearly reaches an hour long the time I spent listening felt like nothing at all, as if barely any time had passed. The music, in capturing a horrific moment in time, has allowed time to slow to give the listener the time to reflect and ponder. Each listener, I think, will found something different in this work, it is not solely dominated by the will of the artists.
Tragedy breeds art that transcends the normal, physical boundaries that we are faced with every day. The tragedy of Chernobyl is a special example of this, there are poignant works commemorating the loss and look towards hope in the future, then there are pieces that simply allow the listener to grieve, despite have no discernable connection to what happened. That is the beauty of Shrine’s work on Ordeal 26.04.86, it gives those of us without emotional or physical connection something to look at and something to understand. It’s a beautiful piece of dark ambient glory that I cannot help but recommend.
Listen and support!