The tracks on Finnish act Cardinal Noire’s new EP Nightmare Worms were almost all composed over the course of April and May 2020, presumably prompted by the Covid-19 global shutdown and ensuing self-isolation. The music on the EP is appropriate then, leaning heavily into the “Vancouver School” band’s more psychedelic and splattery sounds. With the exception of the solid electro-industrial stomp of “Paroxysm” – not coincidentally the sole track recorded outside the shutdown period – the tracks have an organic, jam-like quality. In the case of “Nightmare Worms Behind My Eyelids” hyperspeed edits and glitches bump up against deep drones and waves of reverbed feedback, distant percussion suggesting rhythm but never coalescing entirely. “Death is Stronger than Justice” works a similar set of sounds but uses vocals and some rusty pads to create a power electronics-esque atmosphere. Opener “Biodiversity Crisis” and closer “Fields of Salt” are the most interesting moments here however; while maintaining the looseness and fluidity of the more experimental songs, they invoke clanging industrial drums and tightly programmed bass, stretching their scope and depth to encompass both thick slimy atmosphere and graspable structure. Not quite a collection of braps but with a pleasing degree of experimentation and movement, it’s a document of the spaces Cardinal Noire has started to explore in their chosen musical milieu.
Seeking a sense of meditative calm or stoic reflection via dark ambient music is a noble enough pursuit (one which I’ve enjoyed countless times), but one which can run the risk of becoming staid or even conservative. That’s not at all a worry in the case of the second LP from Pär Boström as Bonini Bulga, with his sister Åsa officially joining the project as a full member after previous collabs. After an impressive debut a couple of years back which showcased tintinnabulistic drones, the duo return with a follow-up that prioritizes engrossing sound design. Blood Name puts the timbre and texture of just plain weird and engrossing sounds up front and keeps them there. There’s the deep, deep space warbling echoes of “Night Swallowed The Day”, and the dusty and constantly detuning sine wave of “Remember The Bones” which seems doomed to find equilibrium only to immediately lose it in a fit of Sisyphean futility. Factor in the haunted organ of the title track, which works through its etudes long after the last parishioners have left for the night, with only a lonely wolf or crow keening out in the mist as accompaniment, and you have a full slate of engaging sonic presence across the LP. Blood Name‘s compositions aren’t especially ornate or complex, but by dark ambient standards the tracks are almost brief, with each delivering its own form of the Boströms’ moody palette.