Saturday, May 30, 2020
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Artist: Unearthly Red (@)
Title: Purgatory
Format: CD
Label: Camerata (@)
Rated: *****
Unearthly Red is a collaborative project between Dustin Terry (Void of Axis) and Tim Risher (Paragaté) working together in the dark ambient soundscape vein here on 'Purgatory'. Terry's Void of Axis is in the dark electro synthpop genre (influences being Assemblage 23, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode) with melodic vocals, and Risher's Paragaté (also with Tom DePlonty) is more in the ambient/dark ambient mode, at times reminiscent of early Robert Rich, among others. The music on 'Purgatory' is soundtrack fragments for an imaginary film, set in the village of Quiet Springs, beginning with innocence and sliding into the hidden terror that dwells there. Sounds a little Lovecraftian...anyone know if I can catch a bus to Arkham from here?

Things don't exactly sound innocent on 'Purgatory'. It does begin quietly, but there is a strong undercurrent of the ominous right from the beginning. Murky dark ambience and a little minimal rhythm, then - UPHEAVAL! - with industrial noise indicating something has broken the tranquility of this place. Murky really is the key word here, as the subdued ambience is the unifying factor nearly throughout. A feeling of foreboding and dread permeates most of 'Purgatory' with its rumbling often rattling my overworked subwoofer. There are a variety of sonic elements - electronics, dark chimes, disquieting pianos, industrial loops, and other audial strangeness that emerges now and then, but it is mostly understated. Sometimes, as on "Rhythm of the Mind" (track 8) a weird processed electronic rhythm emerges but for the most part, it's low-key atmospherics. That's not to dismiss this at all, in fact, low-key dark ambient is my absolute favorite kind of soundscape. Even when there is some breaking of the calm, these occurrences don't degenerate into harsh noise. The atmospheric tempering here is spooky, creepy, and never throws the horror directly in your face. There is a good amount of variety too that serves to break up the dreariness often encountered in bleak, minimal dark soundscapes. Not that any of that "variety" could be construed as anything happy, because there is no happiness in purgatory. The last track, "Remorse", is the only thing close to anything musically conventional, with chordal string pads and minimal electronics in a repeating pattern over a minimal drum track, and that may be the dullest thing on 'Purgatory', but still makes for a nice outro.

Overall, 'Purgatory' is a worthy effort from Dustin Terry and Tim Risher, one that should get repeated plays from this reviewer, and I can't say that about nearly everything I review, even that which I've liked. It may want to make you check out Void of Axis and Paragaté, which you probably should. Available in both digital download and CD format. Nice!