Atrium Carceri: Archives I-II
Cryo Chamber

Simon Heath's latest Atrium Carceri release is admittedly something of a mongrel, but he's so experienced a hand at this stage (he issued seven full-lengths on Cold Meat Industry before founding Cryo Chamber and releasing the Sacrosanct collaboration with Eldar in 2012 and the Atrium Carceri release The Untold a year later) that he's able to take even the least promising tidbit and turn in into something compelling. As its title indicates, the two-part, eighty-three-minute work was created from archived audio files spanning the years 2005 and 2015; ripe for plunder, forgotten tapes, B-sides, and material that for whatever reason never made it onto earlier Atrium Carceri releases have been edited and assembled by Heath into two long-form soundscapes.

Field recordings from Scandinavia and the US merge with synthesizers, sound effects, piano, and other instrument sounds on these travelogues, which Heath brought into being at the Cryo Chamber Studio in Oregon. Describing it as industrial ambient is understandable, as there are certainly passages (in both parts) emblematic of that style; the more accurate label for Heath's material, however, is simply dark ambient or even cinematic dark ambient, given how powerfully its sound design evokes rain-drenched cityscapes and dark, decaying settings.

No fool he, Heath shifts gears repeatedly while at the same time ensuring that the transitions from one scene to another occur smoothly. In the first part, nightmarish ambient episodes give way to reverb-smothered pulsations, and Heath demonstrates a good sense of timing in weaving piano chords and slow rhythm structures into the composition at the nineteen-minute mark, the move showing awareness on his part that change-ups are needed to hold the listener's attention when a track's forty minutes long. Woozy episodes punctuated with choral breaths follow, after which part two serves up its own poisonous parade of garbled stalker voices, crackled-smeared nightscapes, morning-after-the-meltdown serenades, and dark, quasi-IDM beat episodes. Alternately gloomy and gothic, the recording is, predictably, immersive in the extreme and suggests that for maximum effect should be played at wall-shaking volume on a high-quality surround sound system in a darkened listening room (or crypt, if you've got one).

May 2016