Last year, I became acquainted with German ambient musician Mario Grönnert via his split release with Mondfish from Japan. A few weeks ago, a CD-R arrived in my mailbox out of the blue; it was obviously from Grönnert, and it contained his brand new release on Austria’s usually digital-only Audiokult imprint. It’s another combined effort, this time as a proper collaborative album. The other half of Nightmares and Dreamscapes: Silhouettes of Urbia is American Mason Metcalf under his CommonSen5e moniker.
Just like everything else I’ve heard from Grönnert, here you’ll be welcomed by a solid dose of his melancholic and cinematic piano-driven approach to ambient. Despite being a work of dark ambient and thus containing the subdued qualities that are inherent to the genre, Grönnert’s part has found a prominent placement in the mix. Its hazy tones and slow disintegration is nested in long and thick layers of reverb and melodic pads. Honestly, I’ve found myself getting tired of this cookie-cutter style of building tension for ambient pieces, but I can’t deny the fact that the composer here once again manages to achieve surprisingly emotional and moody ambiance.
It seems that what CommonSen5e brought to the table is a noisier approach. They elaborate on Grönnert’s gentle style with distorted and massive sound walls, effectively placing the melodic elements of the music in a different context. It’s an interesting contrast. Clearly this approach is nothing new to any style of post-industrial music, but as with any tried-and-true method, it works nicely. What doesn’t work for this release, however, is CommonSen5e’s slightly purged bass layers. It’s just not very rich range-wise, which might cause unpleasant rumbles and be quite tiring for the eager ears of each artist’s audience.
In general, production quality is where this record could have done better. Besides the glaring issues I have with the lowest frequencies, I sense some mid-frequency resonance here and there which are, of course, the classic torturous, monotonous range for most ambient music. It’s an element that any gifted composer would have cleaned up prior to release. What’s more important is that the ultimately different approaches of Grönnert and Metcalf are not blended convincingly enough. They co-exist in the same time-frame of the pieces, yet there still seems to be an incredible distance between them that I’d like to see populated with sounds born from a new collaboration. Give this a spin; it won’t change your life, but it surely carries a nice dark vibe.
01) Breathing in the Ash
02) Sky Full of Crows
03) Station 17
04) Journeys Calling
05) Through Midnight Fallen Lands
06) A Radiance
07) The World Rewinded