The Hissing Silence
It can be difficult for those unaccustomed to the genre to recognize distinctions between sub-styles of dark ambient, given its abstract, somewhat impassive moods and tendency to take composition to such minimal extremes that the very idea thereof begins to deteriorate. But for the initiated, records which deviate from the genre’s common themes and moods stand out. The latest LP from Baltimore producer Blakmoth is that rarer and more unassuming dark ambient record, one which directly addresses quotidian senses of depression or self-alienation, without any pretenses at cosmic grandeur or ancient theology.
Blakmoth’s talent for pure sound design at a technical level was what first drew me into his discography, but the specific moods or worlds each of his (many) releases are able to communicate even while holding to the core tenets of dark ambient is what’s made each of his releases appointment listening. The Hissing Silence in particular eschews many of the overly-researched or lore-heavy tropes of the style, speaking to daily futility, weariness, and depression without any elaborate conceit (Caldon Glover’s The Mundane is one of the very few records I know to explore similar terrain).
At the compositional end, The Hissing Silence is predominantly made up of pieces which establish counterpoint between the sort of sweeping sonics one might expect, and lightly rhythmic programming which sits somewhere between serialism and the most abstract of instrumental hip-hop. Note the soft piano progressions which play themselves out beneath the overcast pads of “Hope Gives Way To Sorrow” or the pentatonic hammered strings which weave through the wheezing drones of opening piece “Whispered The Ether”. On album highlight “Collapsing Inward”, it’s the mournful and sustained pads which drive the piece forward harmonically atop clockwork glitch.
A dark ambient record being closed by a track titled “A Catastrophic End” isn’t so unusual; a dark ambient record in which that titular end is heralded by emergency vehicles’ sirens (suggesting that the catastrophe in question might be a car wreck, a heart attack, or a police shooting) is something else entirely, keeping the listener grounded in the here and now. In The Hissing Silence, transcendence is just another word for escapism, and that’s not something in which Blakmoth trades.