Kammarheit – Asleep And Well Hidden

Cyclic Law (3rd Cycle), 2003

The music of Kammarheit occupies a space between genres.  It contains the ominous exploration of dark ambient and the delicate introspection of ambient, often within the same track.  Par Bostrom produces expressive atmospheres that can soothe and cause unease in equal measures.  There’s always something not quite right in Kammarheit’s world, and it is up to the listener to discern what it is, and why.

Asleep And Well Hidden is a portrait of quiet complexity.   The structure of the music is straightforward; a Kammarheit track typically uses a single synth line as its base, and repeats it while adding subtle layers of detail.  Bostrom is a master of the subtle, never letting his slices of melancholia venture beyond the boundaries he has created.  Like the best ambient, he gives us a partially defined starting point and allows us to flesh out the full meaning.  “Hiding” has a gentle two-chord key sequence that Bostrom surrounds with gentle passes, flutters, and tones; we could be at the shore of an ink-dark sea or somewhere beneath the earth.  What exactly is hiding and why is never revealed, except in our minds (and perhaps not even there).  It’s not frightening – not exactly – but a stirring experience that shows us a glimpse of something that has been sealed away for good reason.

Bostrom uses this theme of duality throughout the album.  Through its repeated drone and low reversed bells, “The Ruins and the Serene” reflects the awe and mystery of something lost with the calm that can be found in isolation.  “For The Innermost” draws things out even further, with its carefully evolving drone and deftly layered keys punctuated by occasional feedback.  At first listen, the level of detail might not be fully apparent.  Even in a track this minimal, Bostrom folds in quite a lot of content, but in a careful and gradual manner; the keenest and most attentive ears will find much during deep listening sessions.

At just under five minutes, “The Poignant” is the album’s shortest track, featuring a repeated sequence that sounds like the coos and stirs of some lonely nightbird, which sends its forlorn call into the surrounding murk.  It’s simultaneously haunting and relaxing, and Bostrom keeps it perfectly balanced.  “Epitome” is similar, with its stark spaces and quiet shifts containing oddly organic sounds that may have come from some unseen animal; not a monstrous thing, mind you, but certainly a strange one with strange emotion.  Perhaps we are given a glimpse into this animal’s restless slumbers with “Dreamhours,” where we are led through a hazy and uncertain landscape with furtive movements just out of sight.

Kammarheit draws the listener inwards, to places of silent regret and isolation.  The music carries none of the bombast found so often in ambient, dark or otherwise.  Its versatility produces a different experience for the imaginative listener, or an inspiring journey through night-soaked landscapes for those seeking something a bit more passive.  Bostrom’s palette is too edgy and nervous to be completely soothing, but never plunges fully into the depths of despair.  It’s remarkable that such an apparently minimal album never drags or bogs down under its own weight, and that its surprising complexity adheres so strongly to a theme while avoiding the too-common trap of sounding like a demo of the artist’s technical skills.  At just over forty-two minutes, Asleep And Well Hidden is not a lengthy album, but it features a level of consistency, artistry, and conjured experience most longer albums never achieve.

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