Title: Nightmares And Dreamscapes
Label: Uncoiled Loops
Keywords: Ambient, Electronic, Dark Ambient, Horror, Soundtrack
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Every day is Halloween — even February 28th! I’m dressed as your mummy and my plan is to wrap you up in this album of Nightmares And Dreamscapes. It’s all part of a 1000-year curse, probably. Actually, now that I think of it, isn’t Nightmares And Dreamscapes a Stephen King title?… wait, don’t answer that, I’m on the internet and… yes, a quick google-search gave me an affirmative answer. I think I used to own a copy of it, but I can’t really remember most of the stories within. ‘Dedication’, ‘The Ten O’Clock People’, ‘Suffer The Little Children’, ‘My Pretty Pony’, ‘Dolan’s Cadillac, and ‘Rainy Season’ are the only ones I can recall.
So, this compilation begins with a track titled ‘The Throne Of The Madman’ by Forbidden Star. I hear a low horn and dark string chords, like a creeping ominous mood. There’s a sense of impending dread in the dark ambient textures. A low note is struck on a piano as mist surrounds us. It feels very foggy. It reminds me of this strange time… oh, yes, I feel a story coming on… my dad had this habit of moving into places for awhile that were always right next to kind of creepy things. One of the places he lived had a small, very old graveyard close by that I would take people to every once in awhile. Most of the grave stones were barely there anymore, were almost like place marking stones that had weathered away. The few that still possessed legible script dated to the late 1800s. The ground was very unlevel, too, like the graves had been dug shallow by inexperienced hands, so there was always cringe-inducing sense like you were walking right over dead bodies. Anyway, I used to do a lot of walking in that area late at night, would go on cigarette runs to the nearest gas stations (there were two, but each were roughly one or two miles away. There was a strange night on which I had been returning to my dad’s place from elsewhere on foot and had noticed a large covering of fog specifically in the site of the graveyard. I walked past, not really thinking about it much, but as I went on I felt the peculiar sensation of eyes at my back, so I glanced behind me and saw that the fog had spread. I walked and walked down the familiar streets and every time I glanced backward I saw the fog, as though it were following me, but never getting too close. It was surreal. I eventually made it to the cul-de-sac on which my dad lived, but I had gotten locked outside and forgot my key to be able to enter. So, having no other option, I sat outside the front door… and then saw the fog rolling slowly down our hilly street. I sat, smoking a cigarette, and watched it in awe as it continued down the street. Then, reaching the bottom of the hill, I saw it stop moving completely and merely rest in one big cloud… then, it began retreating backward, returning in the direction it had come. Really weird! I still wonder occasionally what natural phenomenon caused this to happen, because I don’t actually believe in ghosts. Wind, maybe? Anyway, just as it feels like the mood of this music is doomed to remain as dark as midnight, a deep synthetic bass comes in and there is a burst of light! That soon dissipates, however, and we are plunged back into the nightmarish recesses of the artist’s imagination. The mood gets melancholic with the reintroduction of piano. I feel as though I am sitting in a shadow, penning a letter in blood… and that it’s the 17th century… and that I’m maybe a penitent vampire.
Kneedless presents us with the second track, ‘Hereditary Heretic’, which begins with the sounds of rattling junk and some steam (or maybe the whispers of a distant bandsaw?). After a moment I begin to hear very faint vocal pads as well as some other strange acoustic dissonance. Then the sounds coalesce into something rhythmic, shaped. Clicking, vaporous electronic bass enters, as do metallic percussive noise tones. The music feels like a very high-definition voyeuristic industrial rhythmscape, like stark graphical design; precise and detail-oriented. At times the bpm seems amorphous. The slimy tempo kind of oozes uneasily up and down, giving the music a warped, sickly feel. Try not to lose your lunch!
‘Whitechapel Jack’ is by Ambient Mechanics, beginning with textured string, horn, noise pads. It’s the sort of soundtrack you would expect during that scene where you and I, shaken by our newfound conviction that we must rid the town of the vampires, descend a flight of stairs into the dark and dusty crypt, clutching wooden stakes, torches to light our way, maybe a flask apiece of holy water, some garlic bread (helps to fortify our stomachs!)… then this deep, blood-red bassline pulse comes on as Nosferatu itself rises from a coffin and points at us with his long, bony white finger. It sounds like something from a John Carpenter film… oh, and there’s a shrieking violin played with a rusty bow as Nosferatu leaps at us! We may be amateur vampire slayers, but we’ve got Van Helsing with us, and he’s like, “Fuck this shit!” and starts throwing garlic bread at the vampire. This keeps the undead aberration at bay momentarily and also ends up making the whole crypt smell like delicious, oven fresh bread coated in butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese, so that’s really awesome. Anyway, I’m pretty sure we make it out alive somehow, because we come to the next track…
… which is called ‘Dirichlet Convolution’ and is by Secant Prime. It kind of feels like a puffy cloud of fog, in which it’s hard to make out anything around us. The ghosts of small children run around us, attempting to disorient our senses with their sing-song voices and games. I don’t know why… but there’s a creaking chair loop happening. Then… some guitar feedback. I really don’t know what to think, visually, about the scene this creates in my mind. Like… maybe the ghost of some old man just whittled himself an electric guitar and an amp on his creaky old porch and decided to shred? Is this what you’re doing in your retirement? The afterlife must be pretty rad, dude. Sounds like another sleepy afternoon in the town of Silent Hill. Of course, there’s also this low bass rumble happening, I don’t know how that fits into everything yet. Maybe the town’s become infested with Tremors?
Sincock’s ‘Serpents Of Dawn’ starts up with some queasy synth strings and adds some scaly chords of doom, some low dirges, Amazonian atmospheres. I hope I am wrong, but we might be getting sacrificed to appease King Kong. Oh, if only Godzilla were here to save us. Or Gamera… wait, is that… ahhhhhHHHH!!! Gigan!!!
… ok, we’re safe now, I found its zipper.
Next is ‘Void #4’, by milehighscientist. It sounds at first like a silent void, but soon I hear imitation jet engine synth noise zooming into focus. It’s soon channeled into stereo, and I begin to hear cricket-like frequencies, a subtle rhythmic thing in my left ear. Later, after losing our sense of place and time, some really lovely strings can be heard, coming in below the surface of cold radio white-noise, a noise that begins to feel more and more like a ceaseless wind on a dark night below the full moon on a New England coast, looking over the rocks.
‘End Of War’, by The Delphian Formula, feels like sitting in a morgue on zombie apocalypse night. Or, imagine looking out from under the door of a toilet stall watching the heavy, thudding feet of a cadaver as they shuffle toward you. No, never mind… some really beautiful pads, caught in the cold steam, evoke the mood of a love-making montage in the middle of a horror film. Not one in which the couple, whoever they are, are immediately slaughtered, but one that involve a newly-minted vampire or werewolf and his still-living girlfriend, or one that’s more squicky, like in Cronenberg’s vision of The Fly when Geena Davis touches the gross little fly hair growing out of Jeff Goldblum’s back. Ew! So far, this is my favourite track on the compilation. Sensual, and macabre.
SKYCORE is the next artist featured, with the track ‘The Gate’, which reminds me of the film of the same name. I imagine a bunch of little ghoulies running around chattering in some kind of bizarre demonic language comprised of synthesized fx. Now they’re doing a slow, ritualistic dance in a bathtub. Now I’m thinking about that part in the film Puppet Master, particularly that sequence featuring a dream within a dream within a dream, which was really just ridiculous. This feels dreamlike, insomnial, with the reverse-noises and hollow, eerie drones, occasional throbs. I’d feel like I was in the boiler room with Freddy Krueger if there were any conspicuous nail-on-a-chalkboard noises in the mix anyplace. This is a lot creepier without them, though. It’s the sort of thing you’d imagine hearing for a scene set in a dirty bathroom while the protagonist stares into the tiny mirror and/or watches tiny drops of blood begin to pool in the sink.
Then, it’s Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg with ‘Atmospheric Toxicity’. Speaking of, while we’re on the subject, I just had a sudden recollection of a film or short television piece on acid rain that I saw years and years ago. It seems like one of those things that people sensationalized for a period, like the killer bee menace, or spontaneous combustion. Strings play in a large room. The mood is one of dark passion and restraint; the leitmotif of a perfectionist serial killer, possibly. Toms and timpani, pitched very low, kind of slam in, and horns swell in places. There’s a section with harpsichord and pizzicato strings… are we in vampire world again? Maybe Lestat is in the foyer, reading an article in a scientific journal about environmental pollution and deciding that being a vampire with eternal life is really going to “suck” during the next century and on. I mean, if you think about it… even if you were a vampire, with all the traits typically ascribed to those with the condition, widespread environmental destruction would have a lot of adverse effects for you, too. As a younger vampire you’d probably have a lot of worries, aside from just where you’re gonna get your next meal. Global warming and the death of the ozone layer would make it harder for the atmosphere to filter out radiation from the sun, which could become a leading cause of vampire deaths, even in sheltered areas. Species death could destroy the food chain, dwindling the vampire food supply. Despite not needing oxygen in most cases, I assume things could get pretty messed up in a number of ways. And you couldn’t expect any help from the more ancient vampire community, a lot of them are likely a few centuries behind on the sciences, are in a state of torpor or are totally fine with letting things get that bad as a sort of indirect way of committing their species to suicide, an atonement for their damnation or something… shit… maybe vampires are real, and that’s the secret reason for why we’re not doing what needs to be done about environmental destruction!
‘Into The Abyss’ is the next track, and it’s by Professurreal. It’s oh-so quiet, with a slight detectable hum and some shuffling noises, like windchime sounds, some footsteps maybe, rusty gates. The noises become louder, then we hear the beat of a tell-tale heart. It feels like the drones are losing power, like a flashlight just when you needed it most, and it’s gonna give away our location. The strings lighten, lift us to face the grim truth. I don’t know where all this light came from, it’s like someone shot a patronus up in here. It wavers, though, at the end, and we fall back into the abyss that we came from.
There’s a bit of sizzling static and strange noises happening on ‘She Became One Of Them’, by Misleading Structures. It kind of sounds like waking up in a torture chamber, not somewhere anyone really wants to be. Or maybe it’s just a simple dungeon… I can hear the wolfman out there somewhere growling. I feel as though I’m staring up at dark clouds, and to my amusement, it then begins to rain! (in the mix, that is). So, I’m figuratively standing here wondering what kind of crap luck I have getting stuck out here in the rain, and then I hear chains and approaching monsters, so I figure I might as well invent a hiding spot in this imaginative world, hopefully whatever Lovecraftian menace was shambling by won’t spot me. Ah, yes, a bush. That will provide plenty of cover. Very clever, very inventive. Oh well, whatever was out there, it seems to be gone now, but I think I just heard a very large door close… maybe belonging to an old castle or something. It was very bassy.
‘Fear Infects Faster’ is the last track, and it’s by Nyul. I kept reading the title and getting it wrong, thinking it said ‘Fear Insects Faster’, which puzzled me for a moment. Like, are you afraid that insects are getting faster, or are you telling us we must be hastier with our fear of insects? Well, I’m glad I no longer have to ponder that inscrutable message. The music feels as subtle as the majority of the work on this album at first, with faint noises… and then I hear low chords, and something kind of like a simple chip waveform synth sequence playing something. Then there is a sawtooth bass, noises… a couple of which sound like someone blowing into a cop whistle. I don’t know how I feel about this particular piece. I don’t dislike it at all, but after an entire album of dark, ambient horror soundtracks of a particular sound and production feel, coming to this is kind of feels like we’ve been sitting here eating cake at a birthday party blindfolded and then someone was like, “Here, try this!” and poured us a shot of vodka. Kind of like that. It’s not bad, just not what I expected I guess is what I’m trying to say, even though the mood is… nearly ominous.
Anyway, this was a pretty cool album, I think you should check it out if you’re in the mood…
… and then he looked, and there, attached to the bottom of the page was… A BLOODY HOOK!!! Or, a bloody link… that’s still kind of creepy, right?