Visions of Darkness is Resounding Footsteps first attempt at reviewing and analyzing a compilation. After listening to the entire thing at least a dozen times, I can say we picked a hell of a compilation to start on. Visions of Darkness is a compilation of Iranian dark ambient artists, some I had heard of and loved and many that I had never heard of before but have come to thoroughly enjoy. The country of origin for these artists is really only one of the things that draws the entire compilation together. The styles range from ritual ambient to horror ambient to space ambient, but they all have links that tie their separate songs together: the ancient mythology that links our spirituality and search for meaning together, the search for wisdom, meaning, and power, and the glorification of myth to recreate new thoughts and ideas.
The compilation itself begins by talking about the simurgh, a polymorphic creature that represents knowledge and the pursuit of wisdom. With that in mind, let’s take a deep, hard look at the compilation to see exactly how each of these artists search for wisdom.
First up is Saint Abdullah. This is the first time I’ve heard anything by this artist but I’m impressed with how he’s able to blend drone in with daily life. The sound is a blend of urban ritualization and modernized tribal music. It kicks off the compilation with a damn good blend of chaos and ethnic rhythm. It sets the tone damn well.
Second is Xerxes the Dark, the man that actually brought the compilation to my attention. I’ve listened to a lot of his work before and I’m already a fan. His track, Longing to Return, is quiet yet intense, a stark change from the previous track. It helps ground the listener in this new world by showing them all the different parts and how different this search for wisdom and meaning will be for each of the artist. Each artist will find their own truth in their tracks, just as each listener will find something unique and personal in each track.
Up next is S.S.M.P., with the track, Blue Chasm. I listened to this track over and over before the images really sank into my head. Each sound was so dense with meaning it was hard to decipher exactly what I was seeing. In the end, I felt like this is the sound that should have been on the soundtrack to the Abyss and all those other deep sea films where we find some sort of alien or ancient technology. It was familiar yet alien at the same time. It’s music like this that makes me feel there might be something to all those conspiracy theories about ancient aliens.
Alphaxone is up next. Alphaxone is one of the projects that I’ve been familiar with for a very long time, well about a year but that’s how long I’ve really started listening to dark ambient seriously. Alphaxone was one of the first things I listened and one first things that therefore helped shape my understanding and opinion on dark ambient. As far as space ambient goes, you can never go wrong with Alphaxone, each one of his full length albums is a trip and the track he relays to Visions of Darkness is no exception. His track, a dystopia, is brimming with painful memories, memories of a society and civilization that continues to move and grow but is dead inside and has lost all meaning. Tragically realistic.
Limen gives his offering next. I have to say Limen is probably my favorite new artist on this entire compilation. Wherefore the Worm Universe is completely entrancing, I could listen to that track for hours and hours without losing interest. After listening to it, I feel the need to search out a full length album by him to satisfy my craving. This track has both a claustrophobic feel and a trance inducing one, I felt like I was floating though space or something beyond what we know about space. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Ali Phi was next, offering a track called condition.III. Of all the tracks on the compilation, it’s the most unique. It’s more electronic than any of others but it’s not too over top. I would have to say it’s the first electronica dark ambient track I really enjoy. condition.III was not at all what I expected it to be but it still defied expectations.
Reza Solatipour’s Surviving Darkness is the next track and what a gem! I’m familiar with Reza’s previous ritual/drone ambient work so I knew what kind of work I was in for. I like Reza a lot, he has a lot of spirit and that spirit shines through in his utterly depressing and bleak soundscape. This track is on par with Xerxes the Dark’s track, acting almost as a sequel to it, the continuation of the longing as it evolves into the need to survive.
Nojan’s Revolution is a hidden gem jam packed with meanings to decipher and analyze. The track title alone, mixed with the all that we already know about the compilation is worthy of an essay itself but since we don’t have time for that here, I will say this: pay very close attention to it, this is a track that mixes ethnic and spiritual influences with a space industrial sound for something truly unique and awe inspiring. If you only listen to one track on this album, listen to this one.
Hossien RangChi does a good job following up Nojan’s track with a very down to earth piano that plays backup to some very cacophonous droning. It’s going to be hard to follow Revolution but Mute does its best to make itself distinct and original. There’s a lot of “It Follows” kind of theremin inspired drones here that will through you for a loop if you are not prepared for it. Being a fan of that soundtrack, I enjoyed this track.
Up next we have Narcissa Kasraï and Articulation. This track felt very much like a field study on the Doppler effect with sounds growing in volume and frequency until they fade out completely. It’s a jarring and industrial experience but at the same time it feels less grimy and nasty than a lot of industrial music out today.
After that we come to Rhonchus. Graph is full of irritating yet sonically distinct guitar based drones that remind me a lot of Apocryphos, my favorite guitar drone project. The sound is theatrical with lots of emotions roiling below the surface. It’s a refreshing take on the guitar drone subgenre.
DSM’s Nowruz brings to mind the grand swells of orchestral music we hear in all the good sci-fi movie soundtracks. It’s inspiring in its darkness. This was a surprise track to me, it felt as if I was floating through space yet I could feel everything around me as I flew past. If I closed my eyes I could literally feel myself drift.
After that we are given idft, the first really horror oriented ambient track we have on the album. I was surprised it took this long to get to a track on this compilation. This track was exhilarated in the terror that it induced. The adrenaline was flowing freely as ethnic and native sounds mixed with sounds that were all too realistic and modern.
Nyctallz is a project I’ve been aware of for quite some time but haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Daeva might be my second favorite track on the entire album. It mixes the horror of the ancient Zoroastrian demon with the feeling of helplessness. Yet there’s a strange sense of peace as the track moves along, it builds and builds as the track closes out. Each sound on this song is grounded and has a mythological counterpoint. This is another song thick with meaning, one of the cornerstones in the narrative of the compilation.
Burried Alive (spelled as it is on the album) by PooYar feels like it uses a lot of found sounds. What do I mean by that? Simply that all the sounds in this album seem to be compiled from different sources, different field recording exercises and sculpted together to create a very claustrophobic and unsettling track. What does it have to offer the narrative? Sometimes we look in the wrong places for wisdom and truth.
Anunnaki signal gives me the track, Father, that I’ve been waiting for since the compilation began. I knew at some point the album would look into the past and see the “ancient alien” theories written all over the scrolls and stones of ancient history. The track is spacy yet highly focused, as if it’s an alien ship headed directly for Earth. The song itself made me feel like I was trapped in the gravity well of a black hole. I could feel myself getting pulled apart and transformed into something else altogether by the end of the track.
Soheil Soheil’s Labrotary (again spelled as it is on the album) follows up the spacy thrill with a soft drone track that has a lot of meaning, but that meaning is highly subjective. The music itself is relaxing, if you find drone relaxing of course. Labrotary blends the drone with hints here and there of a modernized version of ethnic music that helps it stand out.
XSIX is up next with Lost, a track that feels as though it’s the entire history of a Lemurian-esque society from its rise to its fall in the span of just seven minutes. This is a track that needs to be expanded and expounded. There is so much potential here that leaving it at just this track would be an injustice to the project.
Crows in the Rain offer a short track that could almost be over looked, kind of like a car in the middle of a bunch of eighteen wheeler trucks. It’s short and crammed in between a seven-minute opus and a thirteen-minute mammoth. … (For a film) is intimate and tragic. It needs to stand out better because it has potential to be a lot better.
Downtown of HongKong’s Downtown Valley keeps the listener off balance with a mix of drones that range from piercingly shrill to barely audible thumping. It’s a good track that helps the listener feel as though they are slowly descending into madness from sensory overload,
Medhi Behbudi & Vahide Sistaani round out the compilation with a track similar to the beginning, wrapping ritualistic sounding voices with rural and urban sounds set against a low drone. The track makes the listener feel as though search for wisdom and knowledge is either circular and never ending or a pointless pursuit that will only lead to madness.
Visions of Darkness is one hell of a compilation and I’m glad I was able to listen to it and analyze. The search for knowledge is really never ending, through world ending disaster, through madness, and through an infinite amounts of realities. I never knew there was such a rich dark ambient community in Iran, but there are some amazing artists out there and this compilation highlights some of the best of them. Check this compilation out!
Highlights: Wherefore the Worm Universe, Daeva, Father
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