Dark ambient is so unique, so distinct from any other form of music. It’s why I love it. It’s strange and unsettlingly different but at the same time it’s amazingly complex, original, and awe inspiring. The best dark ambient that I’ve heard in my time has been the kind that coaxes the mind to go on a journey, sometimes through space, sometimes through time, and once on that journey the mind’s eye is truly opened and the world can never be seen the same way again. I have a sort of pet theory that each dark ambient album is in fact the soundtrack to an alternate universe, often one that runs so nearly parallel to ours that we find it comforting. Others are strange, haunting, or bizarre yet they can bring about images in the mind that make them feel real (and even more terrifying at times). Ouroboros is the latest album of Valanx, due out for the huddled masses on December 9th.
Ouroboros brings to mind the great serpents of mythology, the ones so large and frightening that they haunt our dreams to this day. The serpent that comes to my mind the easiest is Jormungandr, the great Midgard serpent who encircles the world, devouring its own tail (much like the image of Ouroboros). From that single mental image, the entire album began to have a sort of nautical or aquatic feel to it. With no conventional instruments that I could hear, Valanx uses natural sounds, drones, and distortions to offer us a vision of the sea as it once was. I could feel the fog cling to me as I listened to the album the first time, the waters below distorted by distance. I could almost feel time slow down as I heard the water, the lapping tides grew distorted and moaned as they touched the boat. Hollow sounds, like drums or gongs bellow like primordial beings in the grey light.
All of my senses were heightened, listening to this album, each with the expectancy that something was in the fog and something was about to burst from the sound. Yet that burst never came. I’m not saying that in a disappoint way either, I quite liked the feeling of expectation but no pay off. After listening again and again, I felt a sort of calming presence in the soundscape. There was no stillness, not with the sounds of water distorted and slowed almost to ghastly bubbling bogs, yet there is calm. Like Ouroboros, this album sort of goes on and on yet not for a moment did I grow tired of it, each sound, each drone, each crunch and bubble, has a depth to it, produced and mixed carefully so that, as the album goes on, the experience of the listener is never dull.
I don’t talk very often about the production of dark ambient albums, usually preferring to focus on the emotions and story of the album, but in this case I think it would a great disservice to the album not to talk about the production. It’s clear yet raw enough to give the listener a feeling of unease (as one should always have when listening to a dark ambient album). To paint an image, it’s like smoky glass. It’s clear enough to see through but not clear enough to see everything. The listener trusts the artist to show them things and guide them through the world that’s been opened up.
This is a great album for those foggy days when you can’t quite see everything in front of you and the cold has begun to creep into your bones. I highly recommend this album; it will stay with you long after the album is over. It’s a hauntingly beautiful ballad to the sea and to the continuing, eternal march of time.
Listen and support!