Arizona producer Caldon Glover’s work stuck out to us when we first encountered it a couple of years back for at least two reasons. There was Glover’s canny integration of field recording and acoustics into ambient/experimental composition, and also their thematics, which often explored issues rarely touched upon in music of this sort: the politics of poverty, the quotidian day-to-day of life, and the odd and improvised ways in which many of us try to grasp meaning or profundity as we shuffle through the world. After citing last year’s Death Mycelium as a shift towards the “subterranean” in their work, Glover’s now doubled down on a shift away from harmonics and melodies and into deep realms of pure, abyssal dark ambient with Labyrintia.
In many ways, I’m somewhat surprised by how easily elements of Labyrintia slide into the established ethos of Cyclic Law, where the record is finding release. That’s not a slight on the label (certainly one of the most respected entities in dark ambient and the more experimental ends of industrial), nor on the turn in Glover’s work. Instead, it’s that the rougher, dustier, and more “difficult” aspects of Glover’s work hadn’t prepared me for just how capably Labyrintia builds and modulates deep, even swathes of drone and reverb. Make no mistake: for all of its grim and foreboding aesthetic trappings, dark ambient is a genre which places a premium on production and technique, and there’s plenty of that on display in the singing bowl-styled tones of “The Door In The Unnamed Tower” or the misty phasing of drones and grunts on “The World At Large Is A Shrine”.
But none of this is to suggest that what first drew us to Glover’s work has been lost in this transition over to more stygian-styled work. As alluded to above, Glover’s continued use of field recordings and sampling is perhaps the most immediate quality which distinguishes Labyrintia from the rest of the high-def dark ambient pack. The decidedly rough, acoustic timbre of these sounds in comparison to the sweeping digital pads would be enough to draw attention to them, but the seemingly chaotic manner in which they enter and depart the tracks drives the listener to try to suss out their origins. Is that one sound wood crackling in a campfire or a cane being snapped on a basement wall? Is that other a can of spray paint being shook or bones being rattled against one another? Acoustic strings and drums similarly add ritual flavor, while breaths, gasps and moans are smoothly woven into the programming, often in a strikingly percussive manner as on “A Cyclopean Plexus”.
As you might have intuited from the titling, this is a record deeply indebted to Lovecraftian imagery, and as something of an HPL scholar I appreciate that Labyrintia takes up the more contemplative and gnostic dimensions of his work, rather than going right for the jugular of cosmic terror. That being said, is that the “Ritual for summoning Yog-Sothoth and opening the Gate” from the Al Azif Necronomicon being incanted in hushed tones on “Summoning The Cartographer”. Sure is. Moments and tics like that are indicative of Glover maintaining their own flair and personality even while painting with a broader brush, and in darker shades. Recommended.