Friday, 30 May 2014

DARK SECRETS


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Dark Secrets
Format: A professional CDr release on the Kadaath Records label (Russia), cat ref Kadaath 24, from 2012. This is a split release with Russian project Nebula VII.  The picture disc CDr comes sandwiched between two colour paper inserts in a clear plastic sleeve.
Edition: 30 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. The Secret Of The Rings  50:44
Nebula VII
02. Synthesis Of The Dark Matter  27:30

Contemplate, if you will, the vastness of space.  If you were to stand next to me on the ramparts of Castle Nazgul and look out into a starry night sky, we would see thousands or maybe even millions of tiny dots, some shining brightly and others so pale we're unsure whether we are really seeing them or not. Some of these dots are not in actual fact single stars, but galaxies made up of hundreds of billions of stars. Some galaxies are so far away that the light emitted by them takes billions of years to reach us, and the image we see of them is therefore similarly billions of years old.  Space is, to be sure, pretty fucking big.

Filling an infinitesimally small part of that void is a peculiar brand of music commonly labelled space ambient or experimental drone.  In this genre, not a lot happens over quite a long period of time.  Many bands inhabit this sometimes doubtful musical spectrum, and a myriad of recordings have been released with many and various bursts of clicking, static, noise, humming and plain cold empty nothingness.  There's a fine line between musical inventiveness and creativity in producing such ambient textures with minimal beats, and releasing utter shite.  Some bands happily cross this line between (and even within) releases, so it can be a bit of a minefield to get a handle on.

Enter Nebula VII,  an experimental drone band from Russia with - Nazgul is assured by those who should know better than he - elements of black metal and neo-classical themes often being added to their violent and powerful mixes. An online review of one of their many releases suggested the listener "be prepared for a long, painful journey into the Maw of Madness when experiencing this first-hand.  A band with a sound ethereal and deep, a sound mysterious with a texture focused toward darkness in a vacuum, cold and desolate. A captivating sound but in turn introspective, an atmosphere created by the music of space ambient with dark ambient with touches of drone, developing a strong structure, giving absolute power to the adjacent programming."

Which takes us to their side of this release, 'Synthesis Of The Dark Matter'.  As far as Nazgul can make out, this is an edited version of a longer track which featured in their "Cold" box-set of a few years ago.  Based on the content of this piece (I hesitate to call it a 'song' per se) there certainly is an cold and desolate atmosphere being created: an oppressive one full of static and noise.  Imagine listening to an N.Strahl.N. track on full volume whilst sticking your head out of a car window at 70mph and you'll get the general impression.  It's frankly not an easy listen, and if you're prone to headaches I'd give repeat listening a miss, but it certainly makes an impression.  Then again, getting hit over the head with a baseball bat would also make an impression, and not a terribly favourable one at that.  One for experienced interstellar drone travellers only I think...

The Uruk Hai track is something akin to an ambient drone epic too, in as far as it is of prodigious length with long periods of relative inactivity in its inner workings.  The song is not new to this release, but comes from the Fallen Angels Productions released 6CD box-set ""...And In The Darkness Bind Them" that was also released in 2012.  This reminds Nazgul that he has singularly failed to review that particular release yet, so there's another treat in store for you all at some point in the future!  Anyway, back to "The Secret Of The Rings" and the first thing that will strike you is that it wafts around at over 50 minutes in length, a considerable amount of time to hold anyone's interest even if it happened to be the best composed piece of music ever.  

Being typically hard to describe or categorise, let's just say from the outset that unlike Nebula VII's creation there is a definite song here, with instruments, melodies and other established Hugin touches and flourishes. Parts of the song are very pretty, other parts more continuity or filler linking the more memorable segments.  Like many of Hugin's more epic compositions it floats around you and gradually seeps into your consciousness as you're happily engaged on other matters.

Imagine the length of this song to be the duration of a journey on a train, through whose windows you can see avenues of tall, green trees.  Now, Nazgul likes trees very much, particularly when the wind whips through their branches and creates that wonderful 'swishing' sound of leaves all aflutter.  So as our near hour-long train journey progresses the trees zip past the window, one after another, a line of green and brown, very pleasant, very restful.  And yet, after a while, one tree begins to look like any other tree, and the line becomes less captivating and more 'ho-hum' in nature.  As much as Nazgul likes trees, there's a limit to how long you can sit and look at them you know!   On which clunky metaphor we come back to 'The Secret Of The Rings', a perfectly reasonable composition that would have benefitted from a little self-editing and tighter focus.  To be sure, there's the odd magnificent oak to capture your attention amongst the many other trees, but by and large the song could be thirty minutes long and not be any worse for it.  

Let us finish on the wider subject of dark secrets, the title of this album, and with Nazgul sharing with you something strangely appropriate.  It is a little known fact that our hero Hugin is something of a fan of the television crime series Midsomer Murders, some of which has been filmed at Nazgul's daytime lair.  Moreover, Episode 2 of Season 14 of this series was entitled 'Dark Secrets'.  14 divided by 2 is, of course, 7, or VII in Roman numerals.  VII as in Nebula VII?  Some weird synchronicity going on here, methinks...?!

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