Somewhere between the end points of ambient and minimalist music, Desiderii Marginis has experimented with his territory ever since the early days. The boundary walls of dark ambient may be still rigid in structure, but somehow Johan Levin has always been able to tamper with their anatomy. Working a host of unconventional elements into the composite, his albums have experienced mixed success, and his intentions and themes have been elusive at times. Levin has a slightly different worldview not only of dark ambient as a genre, but of the very concept of darkness itself. He has no shame in translating his perspective in an entirely subjective way, albeit at the occasional expense of true understanding from his listeners. DM’s work is extremely personal to him, never following the genre course from dot to dot, and once again Procession, Levin’s first album for five years, sees him releasing a somewhat beguiling rendering of atmospheres and conceits.
Levin’s watchword here is not just simplicity but repetition, the latter of which forms the underlay for this album’s melodic themes. DM has always been sure to include a large amount of melody in his works, which is unconventional for dark ambient in itself, but this time round each track on the album has its own specialised melodic line which repeats several times over – and this processive repetition may well be an echoing of the album’s title, each track being a trancelike tramp with a patch-grey feel. And grey it very much is: Procession is not a particularly dark piece of work, the melodies certainly see to that, since most of the time they’re the kind that invoke dreamlike, hazy film noir overtones rather than anything black, noisy or gritty. Levin wants us to feel as if we’re in some kind of grey miasmic reverie here rather than a bleak, blackened nightmare. His intention is not to scare or unsettle us, purely to make us think.
If anything, Procession relies on the power of association for its success. “Come Ruin And Rapture” has the exquisite feel of rusted, empty metalworks with its melodies drifting in from either some unseen music box, or the sharded screech of flaking metal parts splintering against each other in the breeze. “Land of Strangers” features an almost Middle-Eastern feel to it, whereas “Adrift” and “Procession” are probably the most successful tracks on the album, the former carrying a feel of being left alone on a dark, wide oceanic expanse while the latter sees us join a slow funeral march. When the album succeeds it works very well, but unfortunately a lot of its mid-sections revolve around nebulous themes and gestures, the track titles barely helping us with whatever associations we’re supposed to derive from the music.
“Come Ruin and Rapture” sets the tone for an idea which Levin could have really run with – if each track on the album focused on a natural environment creating its own melody rather than the same coming from the intrusion of human instruments, then he could be on to something very special indeed. Unfortunately a lot of Procession doesn’t quite adhere to this mindset and gets lost in experimentation and needless reiteration. I’m sure that Levin himself is all too sure of the associations behind each track, but often their meanings become muddied in the passage from artist to listener, meaning things tend to get boring quite regularly.
The five years since Seven Sorrows have clearly seen Levin undergo a lot of personal change and development, but whereas Seven Sorrows was a highly focused and successful work of dark ambient, Procession seems overworked and overseasoned. As has been the case in a lot of DM’s older albums, there’s just too much going on, too many courses in one meal, and it’s not long before we feel disinterested as listeners. Dark ambient is really a genre which enjoys success through the power of simplicity and straightforward execution, and there’s not quite enough of either here. Procession may have some good concepts in places, but there are just too many swirling around in its subconscious to transmit them all effectively.
01. Come Ruin And Rapture
02. Land Of Strangers
03. Her Name Is Poverty
04. Silent Messenger
05. In Brightness
06. Here’s To The Future (And The Harsh Frontier)