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Svartsinn – Of Darkness and Re-Creation

Journalist Name: Unaesthetic
Artist: Svartsinn (NOR)
Title: Of Darkness and Re-Creation
Label: Cyclic Law (CAN)
Genre: Dark Ambient

01 As A Black Stone Monument
02 Entrance To Emptiness
03 Mind Dust
04 Towards The Dark And Cold
05 The Oblivious Faces
06 Of Darkness And Re-Creation
07 Wasteland Corridors
08 Tremors Within The Void

Dark Ambient music is an interesting genre, albeit one that sometimes feels over-stuffed with ponderous, pretentious releases, poorly considered music that isn’t so much dark as it is boring. The trick is always to evoke deep emotional sensation – sorrow, loneliness, desolation, heartbreak, depression – with a sound palette that’s built around soft touches, crepuscular drones, creeping dread evoked by half-heard noises, and perhaps a sense of place – the abandoned factory, the star-lit winter forest, the deepest cave populated with slithering, nameless horrors that brush against your face in the darkness. Oftentimes artists fall short of this, mistaking the lack of obvious drive and motion in this music for an excuse to not really put in the effort, to parade some haunted-house clichés and try to pass it off as Dark Ambient.

Norwegian project Svartsinn is as far from this kind of chicanery as one could imagine. His compositions – really suited for headphone-wearing deep listening – float through interstellar space like a vast, Lovecraftian vessel hewn from obsidian by ancient hands. No hurry is taken in building these tracks up; they drift right through you and the sensation is deposited softly into your brain.

“Of Darkness and Re-Creation” is Jan Roger Pettersen’s second album as Svartsinn and was his first release for Cyclic Law back in 2003. It’s been remastered and has been re-released in a limited edition of 500 in new packaging. In Pettersen’s words, this album is, “a collection of stories based on heavy mind struggles, emotional complicity or elegies which either leads to emptiness or dark places for a re-creation of the self image”. The eight tracks on “Of Darkness…” tell these stories in just under 50 minutes.

It’s almost futile, in my opinion, to discuss the album track-by-track; it’s much better taken in as a whole, letting each progressive piece roll through you and the overall ambience envelop you. There are no rhythms to focus on, yet the interweaving drones, the lonely metallic clattering, the breathy, whispering winds that blow through these pieces are all hypnotic enough. The structure of each piece is loose, but each has a contained feeling, a definite sense of coherence, and a progression of mood. Cold, sharp sounds give way to warmer, but more ominous, glacially paced melodies in bassy strings, which all but fade away into the wind, or shuddering, rushing drones like distant furnaces. All of these textures are brought to play with a very light touch, a restrained minimalism, which allows you to hear right into the cracks, discern every little creak, clatter and shimmer underneath and over the top of the drones. The feeling is generally reflective or pensive rather than spooky or frightening; the minimalistic composition of sound, the slow pace, the subdued atmospheres give the sensation of an inner journey or some kind of personal torment. Certain, fleeting moments in the more melodic sections remind me of Angelo Badalamenti’s more loneliness-tinged moments.

This is the most free-form and stripped-down I’ve heard Svartsinn, regardless this makes for a fine Dark Ambient record. It’s not long, but would be impossible to feel rushed through. I also feel I should mention again that this is really something to be listened to, probably on headphones, to experience at its fullest. Thoroughly enjoyable deep listening.

Rating: 4/5