Over the past few years, much of Mehdi Saleh’s work as Alphaxone has drifted further away from the dark element of dark ambient, instead pursuing a spacey, cosmic brand of ambient which doesn’t seem interested on communicating darkness, heaviness, or much of anything that would speak to human experience, for that matter. But as Saleh’s abstracted his themes he’s also refined his records. New LP Chronosphere makes the most of a minimalist palette.
The cosmic theme of 2018’s Edge Of Solitude is somewhat carried on here, though while that record connoted the patterns and movements of stellar bodies, Chronosphere‘s title and sounds seem to point towards movement in time, rather than space. While the pads and textures of pieces like “Distance Experience” and “Ancient Pillars” breathe and shift over their runtimes, the core sounds remain steady, suggesting slow weathering or natural cycling without changing the essences of the things or realities these tracks depict.
Far less showy than Edge Of Solitude (or at least what counts as showy by dark ambient standards), there’s very little which interrupts the overarching flow of Chronosphere‘s pads, save for harmonic voices, both human and synthetic, which add tonal loft to “Into The Void”, and a series of quiet chirps and glimmers on “Parallel Destiny” and “Particle Storm”. Given the record’s interest with time as a theme, it’s almost tempting to think of the latter as the tick-tock of some alien clock, or at least some means of actually measuring the passage of time amidst the seemingly eternal and unchanging aether Chronosphere inhabits.
Even by Alphaxone’s standards, this is a deeply calm and relaxing listen. What it perhaps lacks in dynamics it makes up for in sustained atmosphere. And when the long, meditative drones of the record finally give way at the end, with the almost post-rock shimmering of “Floating Spheres”, it becomes apparent just how skilled Saleh has been at maintaining attention and mood for nearly a full hour before breaking from his somber and steadfast mode. Chronosphere can perhaps be thought of as a meta-commentary on the development of Alphaxone itself: in becoming more stoic, more unyielding, it becomes more itself.