Malignant Records (TUMORCD63), 2013
It’s curious why some dark ambient themes keep recurring time and again. While the mystery and majesty of the interstellar depths proves a fine starting point for the genre, I’ve heard so many similar albums, I’m starting to feel like I know my way through the nebulae and planetary systems already. If I were a new artist, too, I’d think that I’d want to separate myself from the wide selection of similarly themed discs already available, at the risk of having my efforts compared at best, or dismissed at worst.
Abandoned Asylum apparently disagrees. The musical outlet of the composer and digital artist Polish artist Lukasz “Dani” Czajka, AA’s debut album, Derelicts of Distant Hope, firmly plants itself among its myriad fellows immediately, and never deviates. All the familiar elements are here: deep drones, sweeping tones, crackling static-drowned voices, Gregorian chants, pitch shifts, slow evolution, distant metallic rattling, and so on. It’s well-conceived and well-executed enough, but as a long-time follower of the genre, I’ve heard it all before – and I’m sorry to say, I’ve heard it done better.
Czajka is obviously a fan, and has studied it closely, but in order to give his project distinction, he’s got to take his tapestries in new directions and experiment. “Drifting in Constant Eclipse” has a very promising beginning, with a visceral bass hum soon enhanced by tones that sound and feel very much like some empty spacecraft crossing the line from solar brilliance to deep cosmic shadow, but the tired Gregorian chanting that emerges halfway through shatters the mood. Projects such as Delerium and raison d’etre have had this trick down for years already; there’s really no need to revisit what’s become a dark ambient cliche.
That said, there are moments that show potential. The atmosphere of desolation on “Echoes of Forgotten Origin” is quite well done; it’s easy to imagine the crew of a starcraft tentatively approaching the burned-out husk of a floating derelict space station and wondering at the mysteries within, but the sudden appearance of the pinging of sonar brings us jarringly back to familiarity. Such an element breaks the spell in disappointing fashion because it’s unnecessary; it breaks the nicely crafted momentum far too abruptly.
As with many new projects, it’s clear that Abandoned Asylum has promise. It’s a difficult thing indeed to break free from one’s influences and find one’s own unique creative voice, but Czajka shows enough on Derelicts of Distant Hope to keep me interested in future projects. I, for one, hope that he finds inspiration from within himself, rather than from what has come before. This isn’t a poorly done album by any means, but with so many similar options available, it’s hard to imagine choosing this over something with a bit more creativity and originality. Derelicts is for die-hard deep-space dark ambient fans only.