Atrium Carceri & Cities Last Broadcast: Black Corner Den
Cryo Chamber

This latest cryptic addition to Cryo Chamber's dark ambient catalogue is an especially potent lesson in the Black Arts. The seductive spawn of collaborators Pär Boström (Cities Last Broadcast) and label overseer Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri), the seven-track release is an attempt by the “bearded Swedes” to replicate in sonic form what a visit to an opium den at the end of the nineteenth century might have been like.

Calling the slow-burning material atmospheric hardly does it justice when each setting is shrouded in mist and gloom oozes from every pore. Time slows to a crawl for the visitor to the smoke-filled shelter, where denizens huddle in candlelit booths, their sensibilities and thoughts clouded by their pipes' vapours. At times a soft piano melody extricates itself from the fog, though as the figure repeats one begins to suspect that its incessant looping might simply be a reflection of one's altered state and have no basis in reality. Over the course of her visit, our deeply opiated patron experiences moods of different kinds, from tranquil (the mesmeric “A Deeper Dream”) and gloomy (the organ- and horn-drenched “End of the Century”) to turbulent and oppressive (“Wind-Up Orchestra”). Not for the first time, she wonders whether the grinding rhythms punctuating the haze are real or just the throbbing product of her imagination.

For those of us who've never visited an opium lair, Black Corner Den convincingly replicates what one presumes the mind-altering experience would be like. Speaking of time, one of the best things about the recording has nothing to do with sound design but rather duration: at thirty-seven minutes, the set is modest in length, yet such concision works wonderfully in its favour. As presented, the release feels complete, and little would have been gained had Heath and Boström supplemented its seven soundscapes with additional material. How refreshing to see music producers embracing brevity as a working principle.

September 2017