by Michael Zolotov
On the morning of June 30, 1908, at 7:17am, a terrible explosion shook the Stony Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate, Siberia, Russia. The blast over the sparsely populated Eastern Siberian Taiga flattened 770 square miles of forest, causing a huge amount of damage to the surrounding area, due to the pressure waves and fires that broke out in the wake of the initial explosion. There were no documented human casualties, since this hostile and remote part of the world is so uninhabited, but its power could have leveled a city the size of London. Some experts claim that the burst was 1,000 times more powerful than “Little Boy” – the atomic-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. And yet, to this day, no one is certain what caused the explosion.
There are many theories as to what might have happened. The most popular is that an asteroid or a meteor collided with the Earth, but many reject this since no impact crater has been ever found. Some scientists have posited that the object might have burst in the earth’s atmosphere, above the ground. Another possible explanation comes from astrophysicist Wolfgang Kundt, who says that gas from the Earth’s crust, ten million tons of it, could have somehow leaked to the surface and ignited via lightning or a meteor crash.
Among less scientific, but nonetheless popular theories, some say it was a ‘micro black hole’ or a ‘geomagnetic storm’, while others claims it was the work of aliens, either crashing on the earth’s surface or attacking us, or, in fact, it was “The Government” (always a popular idea) testing new kinds of weapons… Or was it Nikola Tesla with his famous Tesla tower? A time traveler with an ‘A bomb’? The lizard-people?? (All actual theories on this matter).
The thing is, no one knows for sure, and the magnitude of what transpired and mystery that last to this day, continues to astonish and amaze us.
This phenomenon came to be known as the ‘Tunguska event’.
More than 100 years after the explosion, Zoharum Records from Poland released Tunguska Event, a collaboration between Jarl (aka Erik Jarl, known for his involvement in one of my favorite acts in the dark ambient genre, Skin Area, and also for his work with IRM) and Envenomist (aka David Reed, aka Luasa Raelon). The two have joined forces for this project in order document their vision of the truth in audio form. The results are truly spectacular, as would be expected from these two masters of dark sound.
Divided into five parts, Tunguska Event is a truly beautiful, well crafted, and ultra eerie dark ambient piece. It consists of waves of drones, echoing frequencies and ringing pulses, which give a sensation of both drama and mystery, mixed with a sense of awe, the kind usually reserved observing the majesty of nature in its raw glory.
This is precisely what this album is all about.
There is one major element that the album is missing: the blast.
Everybody knows the rhetorical question “when a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise?” What about 60 million trees? The explosion is estimated to have been as loud as 300-315 dB, the most intense noise for a single event in the recorded history of the human race. It seems like Jarl and Reed chose to start their exploration of Tunguska after ‘the big bang’, perhaps right after it happened, or years later, when the first scientists visited the site.
The way I see it (or hear it), we are in fact listening to the shock-waves, long faded shadows of the past. Distant sounds, moving through the air, resonating, feeding each other layers and layers of echoes.
From the beginning of “Part I” onward, everything vibrates in this album; the sounds are repetitive, lingering and slowly merging into one another. Many times, it sounds as if multiple alarm sirens are buzzing at different locations, far away. But the amazing thing about these sounds, which are so intense and dramatic and frankly somewhat disturbing, is that once you dismantle them and isolate the sources, it seems like almost all of them are quite pleasant to listen to. It is the alchemy of putting them together, as they are, that creates the effect of unease and alertness, that constant sense of being on edge.
A pulse moves through the wavey atmosphere, dictating the rhythm of your heartbeats.
This is apparent in “Part II”, and even more so on “Part III”, where the clicking-sounds really dig into your chest. It is the throbbing of the scarred earth, wounded, bleeding from countless fresh tree stumps. The darkness continues into “Part V”, where bells collide and spread on top of a low, tinkling loop. In the background you can barely discern what might be human voices, but perhaps it’s just the wind? One way or another, it’s hypnotic.
Towards the final moments of the track, roughly 9 minutes in, the repetitive toll stops and only the ringing continues, gradually fading as well, until there is just silence.
And, just like the terrain around the the Stony Tunguska River before the “event”, quiet has returned.