Carst: Cosmic Irracionalism
Black Mara Records

I recall years ago hearing a story about Piet Mondrian, and even if it is apocryphal, it nevertheless sounds consistent with my impression of the Dutch artist's personality. The story goes that someone happened to witness Mondrian as he was painting, and he appeared to be applying layer upon layer of black paint to an already-black strip. When asked why he was doing something so seemingly unnecessary, he replied, “Because it's not black enough!”

I was reminded of the story while listening to Carst's Cosmic Irracionalism, which is about as dark and ambient as one imagines dark ambient could possibly be. Created over a three-year period, the release appears on the Novosibirsk, Russia-based Black Mara Records, a natural home for Carst's coal-black collages; the label has pulled out all the stops as far as editions are concerned: among those available (all shown at Black Mara's bandcamp page) are the CD (housed in an envelope along with a pendant and original paintings), the cassette (which comes in a plastic box with a booklet inside), and a special limited-edition box set.

Imagine fifty-four minutes of deep, gloomy dronescaping and you're on the right track. Par for the dark ambient course, field recordings help amplify the material's macabre potential, and Carst typically opts for long-form settings that allow space for multiple episodes of contrasting design and dynamics to co-exist. Electronics and synth elements also emerge as part of his sound palette, and echo-drenched clanks and sheet-metal textures are plentiful.

In the opening “Signal,” brittle, metallic noise works itself up to a screeching wail before retreating to the level of an atmospheric howl and becoming a grinding industrial slab; less harrowing by comparison is the album-closing “Echolocation of Another Form of Life,” even if it too has its share of unsettling moments. As haunted, combustive, and convulsive are “Acquire Through Awareness” and “Cycle of Dimensional Inflation,” but in truth much the same could be said for all of the album material. Though Carst appears to be comfortably ensconced at Black Mara Records, Cosmic Irracionalism suggests that his material would be be equally at home on Cryo Chamber, too.

April 2016