GV Sound (GV-517), 2016
The ruin of civilization is familiar broken ground for dark ambient. 2066 examines near-future global ruin through the eyes of Maxim Maksymenko, a multi-talented artist from Belarus who records dark ambient experimental soundscapes under the name Kreazot-Maks. If his prediction is any indication, the world fifty years hence is not going to be an altogether pleasant place, and no city will escape the effects of the disintegration of society as we currently know it.
Right off the top, there are two details that make 2066 attractive from a conceptual standpoint. The first is that each of the twelve tracks is titled for a different global capital city: “Paris 2066,” “Cairo 2066,” and so on. The second enticing detail is that the tour of the world’s fall is over two hours in length. Nearly half of this is contained in two tracks, however, as stops in a shattered Washington D.C. and a smoke-choked Beijing each last close to half an hour, with a seventeen-minute layover in the burnt-out shell of Moscow not far behind.
Musically, Kreazot-Maks doesn’t deviate from the established tropes of dark ambient noise, but it’s the way in which the elements are arranged that make this album a superb example of the genre. 2066 doesn’t feature much, if any, keyboard chords or sequenced melody; it’s an album born purely from field recordings, samples, and processed noise. It’s beautifully ominous, and overflowing with creative audio production. The looped noise sample at the foreground of “Cairo 2066,” equal parts molded static and pitched distortion, is an example of the familiar-yet-alien sonic palette that the album is sheathed in. Amid the muffled thumps, crackling feedback, deep hums, and odd warbles are the remnants of human voices, drifting and fading through the electronic detritus that’s settled upon the destroyed husks of the world’s greatest cities. There’s a lot of dark ambient that favors mood over memorable sound, but the snatches of noise that haunt 2066 will stay with you. The warped mechanical howl that closes “Seoul 2066” is both chilling and mysterious, and I’m at a loss to identify its true source.
While a triumph in sound design, the album is also a genre success. Perhaps the strongest example of Maksymenko’s grasp of flow is “Washington 2066,” a longform drone piece that seems shorter than its twenty-five-minute running time; a surefire sign of high-level ambient. The embedded drone is wreathed in pitched feedback and phantom noise that curls around it like digital smoke. The track’s subtlety is a fine opposite to the slow thudding drums of “Tehran 2066” and the scraping industrial noise of “Lisbon 2066.” There’s plenty of variety from track to track, and the album moves from city to city without losing momentum, displaying the universal catastrophe without making it monotonous.
While Kreazot-Maks has crafted a post-apocalyptic vision that rivals Cities Last Broadcast and Brian Lustmord and Robert Rich’s trailblazing album Stalker, there’s one detail – or rather, lack of detail – that would have launched it over the top. There’s no real distinction between the identities of the wasted cities. Rome could have been Mexico City, and vice versa. With a concept that’s so globally based, some content marking the individual natures of each city would have been perfect. A couple of obvious examples would be lost vocal samples in a city’s native tongue or snatches of a national anthem, or more understated ones, like field recordings taken directly from a city or two themselves, would have strengthened the concept even more. As it stands, while 2066 is overflowing with dark ambient excellence, the lack of such elements seems like a missed opportunity.
Taken for what it is, however, 2066 remains an enduring testimony to the sounds of a collapsed civilization. Kreazot-Maks takes everything that makes dark ambient such an interesting genre – engaging synthetic atmosphere, gradually evolving tracks, adherence to concept – and generates a world that is equally effective technically and aesthetically. Brimming with creative and memorable passages, and rewarding repeat listens despite its length, 2066 is easily one of the most awe-inspiring dark ambient listening experiences I’ve had this year.