Freed from the contractual clutches and the problems buzzing round the dwindling embers of Cold Meat Industry, Simon Heath has taken matters into his own hands and started up a family of his own. Those of you who know a bit about the dark ambient realms will already be somewhat familiar with his Cryochamber netlabel which features all the old albums from the Atrium Carceri back catalogue and the new releases from his already prolific project Sabled Sun. This particular vehicle has only just nudged its way off the starting blocks as far as age is concerned, but already Sabled Sun has three albums under its belt in less than a year with the third, Signals I, coming out just a few days ago. It seems that Simon Heath has had to get a lot off his chest recently with Cryochamber being a veritable spring of dark ambient quality. There’s nothing ground-breaking on this label, nothing edging its way into experimental territory, but that’s hardly Heath’s home ground, more than anything the intention is to create and distribute quality dark ambient works in the traditional vein, something that Heath is more than capable of doing. It’s also no surprise that the talented Agratha Mirrait of Halgrath, whose personal dark ambient assembly line has been spinning into overdrive for as long as I can remember, also shares some space on the label.
Sabled Sun is Heath’s new voice in dark ambient but it’s one which is more pronounced and focused than Atrium Carceri has been of late. More than just being a musical project it’s also a story, telling the tale of an unnamed protagonist who wakes up after deep freeze hibernation to find the world in ruins. It seems that Cryochamber is both a figurative and literal concept for Heath, both a mindset and a vision which is petrified in musical form. Sabled Sun’s debut, 2145, was little else than an introduction, an overture to the idea, but with the follow-up 2146 things feel a lot more stable: we can tell that Heath has crystallised the story, format and production that he originally set out to do. Two years after waking up from deep sleep and wandering lonesomely round the desolate post nuclear winter landscape, our protagonist finds himself discovering ruined, dark cities with their few robotic inhabitants occupied with “pointless tasks void of meaning”. Dystopian wastelands and Fallout 3-esque atmospheres are hardly new concepts in this area but Heath has managed to marry the worlds of the surreal and the real by drawing comparisons with our own modern-day working lives and the ethos of the Cryochamber. If anything, 2146 feels like a prediction and not a fantasy.
Whether you choose to pay attention to the story or not will be matter of personal choice, it’s certainly not crucial to enjoying the album which can be done in either a wide or narrow-scope sense. I don’t normally like to have my vision dictated to me by the artist since exploration of dark ambient should be a very personal expedition but 2146 doesn’t feel like we’re having the creativity of our imagination invaded. In spite of the fact that Heath gives us strong hints to the ideas behind each track such as “Scanning for Life Forms” or “Graveyard of Broken Machines”, he is all too aware of the importance of isolation to the listener, and there’s still enough ambiguity and expression within each track for us to draw our own conclusions as to exactly who, what and where these sounds belong. Such is the beauty of a genre which can conjure worlds for us to visualise in personal ways that appeal to us and us only.
2146 is expertly produced with an impressive amount of sounds, fears, feelings and associations to compel us. From the dismal and deep drones of “Scanning for Life Forms” and “Power Cell” to the subtle mechanics of “Exo Suit”, “My New Best Friend” and the beautiful entrancing piano of “End Me”, the array of sounds on offer are sometimes beautiful and sometimes chilling, but always picturesque. The digital artwork which is only available on purchase is highly relevant to the album’s feel, depicting black, cold cities, buildings with darkened windows and only the occasional glimmer of amber light shining out through the perpetual nighttime. The robotic inhabitants which grace the album’s artwork could well be inspired by Carpenter’s Antarctic horror The Thing: indeed the whole album has a feel of winter in both its subzero coldness and the widespread presence of death. 2146 and its legacy suggests that the world will never recover from its self-inflicted apocalypse.
If anything, 2146 has both a story to relate and a warning to impart to the human future. If we are to immerse ourselves in the rusted wasteland that Sabled Sun has created, there’s no reason not to believe that the unnamed protagonist wandering these lands is our very selves. In this way the sonic cautions woven here become even more relevant to each of us, advising us to break out of the mundanities of our selfish lives lest we experience these winters for ourselves. In spite of its morals, 2146 is an extremely successful and beautiful work of dark ambient which refuses to get bogged down in sermonising, existing chiefly as a highly atmospheric and effective ambient album. It crafts a darkly stunning and layered world which we are forced to interpret psychologically, and which we may end up exploring physically before too long.
01. Through The Gates
02. Inner Sanctum
03. Scanning For Life Forms
04. Power Cell
05. Exo Suit
06. Graveyard Of Broken Machines
07. My New Best Friend
09. Deep Within
10. My Dying Robot
11. End Me