Mythology has a way of implanting itself into our DNA. Everywhere we look, we can find some link to our mythological and legendary past. Nowhere is this feeling more present than in the literature we fill our days with. And, of course, by literature I mean anything with a story. Music has narrative and therefore mythology has found its way into all forms of music. While we have amazing pagan, folk, and Viking metal bands that make this rather obvious, we tend to ignore mythological connections in dark ambient music, mostly though that stems from dark ambient being unfortunately overlooked by just about everyone (except you awesome bastards). Dark ambient music is rich with mythological and folkloric connection, but you have to know where to look. Unlike metal and rock, the connections are not going to be obvious, with Thor’s Hammer staring you in the face or a Hellenistic mask on the cover. Dark ambient is a much more involved genre of music, it’s subtle and quiet (narratively speaking) and as such any connections that can be made to any number of mythologies are not going to be easy to find. Case in point: Bleach for the Stars. Bleach for the Stars the newest addition to the growing Cromlech Records. With their album, The Time for Silver Flowers, I began to notice a trend (well maybe not a trend, more the start of a pattern) with Cromlech albums. Following the amazing success of Valanx’s Radiant Orbs of Abzu, we are given The Time for Silver Flowers. Where’s the mythological connection you ask. Simple. Where in mythology, any mythology might we find a reference to silver flowers? Asphodel. The flowers of the underworld.
Now, I might be going off on my own perspective that completely differs from what the artists intended here. That’s fine. That happens more often than you might think. Being that asphodels are often associated with the underworld, I saw this album as a decent into the underworld. Perhaps the unnamed protagonist has died and we are accompanying him on his journey until he reaches the Styx. If so, this four track album is a beautiful piece of poetry that would make Homer proud. I had high hopes from this album to begin with, knowing how much I’ve enjoyed each of Cromlech Records releases this year. The album did not disappoint with self-described experimental drone poetry.
With Greek mythology on my mind, I dove into the album. I was unsure what I would find, but I was excited about what I could discover. Greek mythology has been heavily tied to psychology in the last century and while most mythologies have been, Greek mythology holds some rarified air. Ashen Light kicks things off wonderfully with a quiet but intense drone. The track groans and thrums, moving at a slow but methodical pace. Ashen Light felt as though it represented the earth itself on the trip to the underworld. It was beautiful and had an artistry all its own but at the same time it felt treacherous and dangerous, like a beast about to awaken from slumber. The thrum that echoed from what felt like an eternity is like the heart of the earth itself, beating and moving to a rhythm no human or god could hope to understand. Yet that never stops us from attempting to. As the track goes on the sounds become more and more alien. We move away from the light we know to encounter a new kind of light, a new kind of sound. The light and sound of the underworld, where grows the fabled asphodel. The ashen light, though, what does it represent? From a poetic stand point the possibilities are endless and fascinating.
Each song feels that way; each song feels as though it’s a separate poem or section of an epic poem detail the descent and discovery of the underworld. Each song drips with symbolism. I won’t go into the symbolism I found in each song here (I’ll save that for a chapter in a book) but each song vividly describes some action, place, or thing along the way to the underworld, each song become more and more inhuman as the time goes on. Even though the album is only four tracks long, thankfully each of those tracks are over ten minutes in length. To me, this is the perfect length. They didn’t end the album with me feeling as though I needed more to finish out the narrative and the album didn’t drag on incessantly. I neither felt like the ending was rushed or it was too thin. I was perfectly satisfied with my journey through the valley of asphodel. Tell me what you thought of the album. Was I off with my mythological analysis? What did you find? What were the silver flowers to you?
Highlights: Ashen Light, Husk Marant
For Fans of: Valanx, Dronny Darko, ProtoU
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- Ashen Light
- The Wild Vine
- Eight Eleven
- Husk Marant