Germany’s Alexander L and his project Skadi keep something of a low profile, even by the standards of dark ambient. With only one label-based release in the past decade-plus, Alexander obviously prefers to stick to low-key self-releases, but that hasn’t stopped his work from gaining acclaim from dark ambient die-hards, and his new LP Isolation should fit that bill on both counts. The record’s title points both to Skadi’s overt thematically but also the richness of sound design the project works with. The worlds conjured in Alexander’s soundscapes are certainly solitary and perhaps even forlorn, but there’s something comforting about the degree to which the broad and deep pads swaddle the listener. The simple two-note refrain which is breathed by distant winds over and over in “Inmost Flame” feels bereft of hope, perhaps, but the tranquility of the textures, drones, and occasional metallic clang which surround it is perversely comforting. The simple, stark piano melody of “Within The Depths Of A Shattered Soul” similarly is both in keeping with that title yet also oddly familiar in a melancholic way. The apparent paradox of music as seemingly bleak as dark ambient bringing succour to its adheredents is nothing new, but with Isolation Skadi brings that tension to the fore in such a clear way even the most uninitiated of listeners will be able to perceive it.
Frost Vol. III
Basic Unit Productions
When the first volume of Basic Unit Productions’ Frost compilation arrived back in 2013 it was the vanguard of techno and industrial crossover sounds, placing equal emphasis on rough textures and DJ mixability. The newly released third volume is no different in that regard, and even with the sounds it deals in having undergone a widespread boom in recent years, the producers represented still sound avant garde and in some cases, dangerous. Label mainstay Divider foregoes accessibility with an acid-dosed run of degraded sequences that radiates unease, while Blac Kolor takes some of his recent atmospheric production ideas and runs them through a shredder, spitting out a banger that twists itself into knots as it pounds out the speaker. Los Angeles based acts Fractured Transmission and Hex Wolves contribution bridge their own sensibilities via clever mixing of textural elements and purposeful effects processing that allows the wide array of percussion sounds to fill out the body of the track. Label bosses Haujobb in their respective guises as Rendered (Myer) and DSX (Samardzic) come through just as hard with body music flavoured offerings that highlight the degree to which EBM can be dressed up or down in instrumental context, using shared stylistic language in wholly different ways. Even years after the prophecy that Basic Unit foretold has come to pass, the artist run label is still illuminating unexplored nooks, and dark paths forward.