Bluedark – Explorations Far Below

Mirakelmusik (mir010), 2005

A four-chapter dark ambient novella, Explorations Far Below is a brief yet tantalizing creation penned by Bluedark. Clocking in at just under thirty minutes, Erik Glans’ debut EP shows a firm grasp of the mechanics of dark ambient while providing a quality listening experience.

Bluedark may be new at the genre, but has studied it well. Explorations Far Below doesn’t surprise or innovate, using genre staples such as dreary chords, reverse bells and chimes, and whispered speech samples to generate an atmosphere of shadow-haunted mystery. Neither does the concept break new ground; subterranean thrills have been a popular genre since Lustmord first took his equipment deep into the caves of Heresy. With track titles such as “The Old Ship Under the Ground” and “Hidden Words,” Bluedark follows this well-trodden path with an assured hand, easily conveying the feel of empty caverns, claustrophobic corridors, and constant anxiety of discovery that’s marked so many similar releases.

Why, then, is Explorations Far Below worth one’s time? Glans is able to capture the aesthetics of the genre as well as the technical aspect, which not all releases – especially debuts – are able to achieve. Even more impressive is how he is able to do this despite a noticeable sparsity of content; his placement of his limited array of samples is natural without sounding too thin. There came a point for me, halfway though the first track, “Fragments of Things Beyond the Waking World,” where I realized I was no longer actively seeking missteps or breaks in the flow. Bluedark had me fully in its grasp, and I was borne along through its passageways and chambers, fully absorbed in the familiar yet alien world it had conjured. The odd creaks and distant whistles of the strangely named “Tree Propeller” only increased my enticement – what exactly is a tree propeller, anyway? “Hidden Words” is true to its name, with snippets of unintelligible sampled speech thrusting into the web of drones, loops, and weird distant popping sounds. Admittedly, genre veterans won’t find anything here they haven’t heard before, but with such a clear and impressive understanding of the potential of ambient sound, Bluedark is certainly a project to keep on one’s radar.

While I can’t say that Explorations Far Below will replace The Nacrasti or Dismal Radiance in my personal dark ambient list of favorites, it occupied a prime playing slot for far longer than I initially expected. Many were the occasions that I immediately began it anew upon reaching its always premature ending; even after multiple listens, I always wanted more. Without question, Bluedark is a project to pay attention to.

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