Cinema has long been augmented by soundtrack work. In Amadeus, Mozart’s funeral is elevated to heartrending, tear-jerking heights when backlit by his Requiem Mass in D Minor. The monster Great White from Jaws becomes a truly terrifying menace with the simple addition of a repeated cello riff and some French horns. Film is rife with similar examples wherein sound plays as much a part in the experience as sight.
The latest release from Phragments begs to be such a soundtrack.
My film pick for this would be something from the Hellraiser franchise or, better yet, a live-action rendition of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, for this truly is infernal music. Vast, looming tones stretch off into the black, serving as the backdrop for the rumblings of huge machines that spew forth scalding steam and rust. Barbarous horns and clanking chains lurk somewhere in the gloomy distance. There’s a sense of gradual decay and neglect here as well as the sounds seem to crawl along, almost unable to support the massive weight bearing down on them.
This is most certainly “dark ambient” music, but it’s a far cry from the run-of-the-mill, minimalist drone that far too often is the face of the genre. Each of these six tracks is a landscape in and of itself, much like Alighieri’s layers of Hell; each piece possesses its own bleak topology. In some cases, this consists of heavily treated field recordings coupled with icy synth washes and effects. In others, more traditional instruments are used, but these too are manipulated, scarred, and reformed into sinister versions of themselves. The dark twists everything here, coating every sound with thick soot.
This apocalyptic feel is augmented by mastering from John Stillings, the evil genius behind Steel Hook Prostheses. When dealing with a full spectrum of sounds that a record such as this has to offer, there’s always a danger that the results will be muddy or jumbled together. However, SHP’s deft touch keeps things crystal clear, making the release all the more hypnotic and engaging. This is a trip down through the dark. What lies beyond is anybody’s guess.
“Behold Dis, and behold the place where thou with fortitude must arm thyself.” —Inferno: Canto XXXIV
01) All Towers Must Fall
02) The Iron Well
03) The Fire Still Burns
06) Into Nothing