Both Unto Grey and Noctivagant are projects currently in their infancy that are destined to parallel one another through both of their respective journeys — this because both are helmed by one Phil Brito of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unto Grey is the embodiment of Brito’s depressive frustrations with general life whereas Noctivagant gives him the ability to express these frustrations to the underground post-industrial world that his label’s projects are inevitably a part of. That said, there is little to no literary or intellectual depth to the music of Unto Grey — rather, it is quite removed from intuitive thought and instead strictly resides within the gloomy world of despair, hopelessness, melancholy, and virtually any other emotional label that you would apply to such a personal affliction. This release specifically, “The Harrowing Stages of Despair”, highlights what the artist views as the eight stages of grief or, as he notes, despair. The stages themselves and how many there actually are will vary depending on who is talking about them, but for Unto Grey, it equates to something more personal and certainly more abstract than what you’ll find in psychology textbooks.
While the idea behind Unto Grey is easy to describe, the music behind it is not. Unto Grey’s style endlessly floats between the worlds of noise and dark ambient, featuring both the chaotic and distorted abrasiveness of the former genre while other tracks attempt to develope a foreboding atmosphere with varying degrees of success. The opening track, “Shroud” is quite effective with its feedback-driven static veil, a heavy texture that fully gives the impression of confusion and an inability to focus. The following couple of tracks are less effective, however, depending on an inferior if not obsolete synth effect to drive the music which unfortunately comes off sounding similar to Halloween music soundtracks. “Of Self” picks up the positive end of the spectrum again, however, and flows as a work inspired by the surreal — those moments when one gives up on life to the point of leaving behind those close to you in favor of expediting your own controlled descent into oblivion. “Taken” and “Drown” are Gruntsplatter-like works of distorted drone whereas “No More” is a simple sample with applied delayed effects.
With projects like Caulbearer and Glowhouse in the area, Albuquerque has a definitive scene forming quickly in the dark ambient realm. This doesn’t even begin to address the fantastic projects out of the mind of Raven Chacon in Postcommodity, KILT, Mesa Ritual and others. Unto Grey, however, has a lot of work to do to begin to be considered with the other artists in their scene — specifically an upgrade in equipment might do a great deal to help as the noted cliche synth sounds definitely distract from the better moments of the album. As a concept album however, it remains strong with an interesting idea behind the music that doesn’t simply stop at a track list. Included in the release is a long poem on the inner cover expressing the sentiments behind the music as well as a full-page essay that involves a track-by-track breakdown of the actual journey through despair. That said, every bit of this album was thought out and the performance itself was well done. It simply suffered due to a breakdown in the compositional side of the release. Perhaps the highest point of the release, however, is the artwork itself which features a Tor Lundvall-like painting that, unlike Lundvall, is completely devoid of life and instead represents a kind of desolate, natural, grey purgatory. The back features a flipped ocean scene with the sky at the bottom and the sea at the top, adding a fair bit to the sparse segments of the album that can be considered surreal.
It should also be noted that Noctivagant is doing an admirable job supporting other artists through releases with Emme Ya, Night-at Noon, Selo Vatra, and more, all of which will be featured here at Heathen Harvest shortly. Hopefully we’ll see some support of their local scene in the future, as the Albuquerque underground has a lot to offer.
02) Solitude / Isolation
04) Of Self
07) No More