Ambiguous – Stone Cross

Aliens Production (AP 22), 2010

Igor Seligna loves old-school dark ambient.  It’s more than evident on Stone Cross, the first major release from his Ambiguous project.  Containing more structure than most albums in the genre, Stone Cross is satisfying to a certain extent, bringing back trends and formulas that were first heard twenty years ago.  However, it doesn’t do quite enough to separate itself from its inspirations, and falls into the trap of following a lead a little too closely.

Stone Cross is heavily cinematic, using basic keyboard chord patterns as its foundation with occasional electronic passes.  With titles like “Cathedral Ruin” and “Ashes,” it’s not difficult to grasp the theme and concept Senigla is conjuring.  The delicate melody of “Red Moon” is offset by high-pitched whistles, distorted passes, and drum echoes – effective enough, yes, but projects like Desiderii Marginis and raison d’etre have done the same, and much better.  Like many albums on Slovak label Aliens Production, piano plays a major role in the music, and Senigla uses slow-paced minimal melodies alongside the dramatic atmospherics to give Stone Cross character and progression.  It works particularly well on “Ashes” and  the titular “Stone Cross,” giving the music an introspective and somber feel, but these tracks aren’t quite versatile enough to step beyond the mold that was cast by the previous efforts of more pioneering artists.  “Death Bell”, with its series of hauntingly pitched bell tones, unfortunately comes off as more than a little cheesy.

Stone Cross’ best track is “The Hopeless Life,” an electronic hymn that’s also old-school, but in post-industrial fashion.  With its classic bass synth chords and orchestral keyboard melodies, it’s the most effective and inspired tribute  to the dark ambient days of yore, but like the rest of the album, it’s all been done already.

There’s old-school as homage, and there’s old-school to a fault.  Stone Cross sounds like it came out in 1990, not 2010 – again, this isn’t a bad thing, but you’d hope that an artist would want to put his own stamp on his work rather than simply mimicking the past.  I want to like this album more than I do; Senigla appears to have a strong sense of his equipment, and he clearly knows what works, but he seems unwilling to step out of the shadow of those who came before.  Perhaps he’ll find his way on subsequent releases.  Despite its best intentions, Stone Cross doesn’t do quite enough to remain engaging.

 

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