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Celebrating Cyclic Law Part I: "Cycles" Full Compilation Album Stream and Review

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Canada-based label Cyclic Law turned ten years old last year. As part of our service to the ambient underground, Heathen Harvest presents a two-part diptych honouring the work and achievements of this fantastic institution. In this first part we review their ten year compilation album and present it in full for our readers to stream.

As far as dark ambient labels go, Montreal’s Cyclic Law surely must be one of the greatest. Releasing its first album on 1st January 2002, Frederic Arbour’s label has long been regarded as home to some of the very finest work that the genre can produce. The bands that make up their roster seem to have to conform not only to extremely high levels of creativity and vision, but also have to be able to create deep, lush and varied sounds that both push the genre forward as well as cohere to the long-established traditions of the scene.

Technically dark ambient has no ‘scene’ though. It’s one of the most obscure genres with next to no commercial potential whatsoever, and its fanbase wouldn’t have it any other way. Ever since the first album nudged its way onto Cyclic’s Law’s roster, which was the Instinct/Bustum collaboration from 2002, the label has only refined its ability to deliver high-class quality music to the masses – or at least the dark ambient masses – whatever that counts as. It’s because of Cyclic Law that we have come into contact with artists such as Kammarheit and Gustaf Hildebrand, as well as a host of more recent new names such as Mulm and Triangular Ascension.

All of the above named artists make their way onto this album, a celebration of ten years’ worth of Cyclic Law releases made up of new tracks and previously unreleased material. When amalgamating a compilation album such as this one it’s always slightly tricky choosing a track order at the expense of the right kind of sound or at artist opinion, so Cyclic Law have opted for the most diplomatic route by having the track order dictated by the artists’ names alphabetically. This works rather well since all the artists on the Cyclic Law roster have a similar feel and quality to their sound, nothing really appears out of place or that it should have followed or preceded something else, so the overall feel of the album remains consistent.

One of the best things about compilations such as this, apart from the fact that as a fan of the genre you get to hear new or previously unheard material, is that there’s a high chance you’ll be introduced to artists you hadn’t previously encountered. Unless you’re some kind of connoisseur of the labels’ artist base, there’ll definitely be something here to awaken a new interest. Shamefully enough I wasn’t aware that the German project All Sides had an alias of Allseits, but there it is forming the very first track of the album which bears an unsurprisingly stark resemblance to the excellent 2006 collaboration album “Shutûn” with Troum. Gustaf Hildebrand continues his idiosyncratic style of sampled space ambient noise with the excellent “Bassalt Massif”, which is another one of the strongest tracks on the album, another great thing about a compilation like this being its ability to confirm how consistent your most respected artists are.

Other highlights here are the ice cold Parhelion’s “First Frost and the Approaching Winter”, an artist who I often feel gets overlooked in dark ambient but whose obsession with the cold and bleakness of Winter at least puts him in the same sphere as Thomas Koner or Sleep Research Facility. The Floating World’s “Between the Sky and the Sea” is an extremely haunting affair, conjuring the essences of dying souls whirling around in spectred harmony as a lone bell chimes, tolling the dead ready for interment. But by far the biggest shock of the album is Karjalan Sissit’s “Fuck Work” which growls into our ears a third of the way through the album with its noise-like shrieks and snarls. If the way most of us feel about daytime work could be put into aural form, this would definitely be it.

“Cycles”, the short title for this erstwhile compilation, forms the 50th Cycle of the Cyclic Law catalogue and over two and a half hours of music. Due to the immense depth and quality of all the work on offer here, the compilation stands on its own not only as an admirable showcase of the Cyclic Law artist table but also as an astounding reminder of what this label has achieved over the last ten years. It is, for these reasons, one of the most important dark ambient albums you’re likely to experience.

Rating: 4.5/5
Written by Lysander
Cyclic Law / 50th Cycle
Dark ambient

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As part of our commitment to promoting the very best in the post-industrial underground we invite you to experience the entirety of this work for yourself by listening to the full stream of the album below and celebrating with us ten years of  CL.

Look out for part two of our Celebrating Cyclic Law diptych in the next few days for an exclusive interview with the label. 

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