Alphaxone: Absence of Motion
Cryo Chamber

Cryo Chamber certainly lives up to the ‘Cinematic Dark Ambient Label' text adorning its Bandcamp page, but Absence of Motion serves as a reminder that the Oregon-based imprint's products are also distinguished by an attention to detail and sound design that is so meticulous it verges on surgical. The forty-nine-minute recording is the third album on Cryo Chamber by Mehdi Saleh under the Alphaxone name, a dark ambient project the Iran-based producer initiated in 2009. The blurb accompanying the release states that “Alphaxone sets a new bar for himself when it comes to production quality,” and in this case such words aren't hyperbole: Absence of Motion truly is a recording designed to satisfy even the most discerning audiophile.

It's titled and indexed as nine distinct tracks but is more experienced as a multi-scenic travelogue. From start to finish, Saleh merges synthetic sounds and field recordings of birds, footsteps, and other natural phenomena with immense sensitivity, resulting in productions of remarkable textural detail. The balance doesn't tip in favour of melodic or ambient elements; instead, each setting emphasizes both, resulting in a recording that satisfies equally on both musical and atmospheric levels. Moods vary also, such that a sequence of relative calm (“Appearance”) is followed by one that's brooding and unsettling by comparison (“Long Eternity”). Elsewhere, “Space Continuum” transports us to the remotest reaches of deep space where even the tiniest of ethereal sounds swells to epic size, and “Inner Horizon” resurrects vivid memories overloaded with seaside vistas and sunstroke-induced mirages. When Saleh drapes his material in thick swaths of synthesizers as sometimes happens, the tracks assume an almost Badalamenti-esque character with all of the attendant gloom that comes with it.

Though Absence of Motion sounds fine on a standard stereo system, it's best experienced on headphones so that its multi-dimensionality and detail can be savoured. If ever a recording was designed for a surround sound presentation, it's this veritable master class in ambient scene-painting.

October 2015