Catching up on everything that Cryo Chamber has released in recent years is on the verge of being impossible. Not only is the imprint incredibly prolific, being over eighty releases in since its inception in 2012, but its releases are almost universally very demanding of the listener. Label founder Simon Heath makes no compromises with his choice of artists and basically knows how he likes his dark ambient after thirteen years with his own project Atrium Carceri, meaning anything he throws his support behind is bound to be long, heavy, and polished to the bone. However, knowing protoU from her 2015 Earth Songs split with Dronny Darko, I was quite curious to hear a solo release, so I spun the record as soon as I could.
Lost Here does bring back a lot of memories from what I heard in my experience with the very deep and minimalist Earth Songs. From the opening moments, Lost Here nests its audience comfortably in its sound through massive, low rumbling bass. It moves majestically, and at its forefront are expanding airy ambient textures. Feeling almost as pleasant as warm tape hiss, Sasha Cats gives her music—usually perceived as cold and isolated—a very intimate touch for a change.
All of the pieces on Lost Here exceed five minutes in duration, so as one might expect, you’re in for a long journey in a slowly evolving sonic world. ProtoU’s soundscapes are vast and monumental; the tracks are tightly connected and explore their worlds at a pace that can only function if consumed in its entirety. Lost Here morphs without hesitation from subtly growing bass drones into quietly escalating mellow pads, and in between movements and textures, the careful listener will find distant field recordings of oceans and other atmospheric organic landscapes, as well as the slightest hint of a non-obtrusive human presence.
It is perhaps that final characteristic that is what I love most about this album, because Lost Here is certainly not going to be celebrated for reinventing the genre or pushing the envelope of experimental music. Rather, what Cats has managed to do with this debut full-length is craft a personal universe that is not plagued by darkness nor separated from reality, despite its concept dealing with dream worlds and visions beyond our most primal sensory experiences. The dark ambient genre is usually all about explaining or imagining the most abstract forms. That, however, can easily become too figurative to be sufficiently challenging for your imagination. Here, the music leaves a lot of space for its audience to breathe while managing to beautifully portray what it was meant to. Lost Here is not just the endless night sky that has absorbed so many dream-filled gazes over the millennia, but the soft ground that concretely supports the dreamer.
01) Lost Here
02) Static Memories
03) The Map
04) Unreal Symbols
05) The Sea