Cristal: Homegoing

Anyone thinking Miasmah's got sole dibs on dark ambient music-making needs to cast his/her gaze in a westerly direction, to Richmond, Virginia to be precise, because that's where you'll find Jimmy Anthony, Gregg Darden, and Bobby Donne (with a little help from cellist Taylor Burton) operating under the name Cristal and issuing stellar collections like Homegoing. The trio's latest full-length is available on its own or as part of a package that includes a seven-inch single pressed on clear vinyl (500 copies produced) and containing two non-album tracks (“Swedish Child,” “Trial”) plus a download code for the forty-minute album.

One's attention is immediately caught when Burton's cello groans against smoke trails of blurry bluster in “Yoke.” The trio practices the art of brevity in “Streaming Wisdom,” whose deep rumbles and epic swathes of sound check in at two minutes, but also stretches out in the album-closing “Dead Bird” for eleven ethereal minutes of sweeping cloud formations and clangorous industrial machinations. The seething dronescape “Mirror” suggests an immense storm passing overhead, its expanse so great it occupies the entire visual field. While an undercurrent of threat also runs through “Herrevad”—it could, after all, be the heaving of dungeon doors processed into reverb-heavy exhalations—it also brings the intensity down until it's little more than a whisper, and a similar restraint infuses the haunted, even sorrowful ambient of the titular dreamscape. Together since 2001, the group has refined its approach over the years, and the evidence can be clearly heard in the recording's six mood-pieces. Fans of Deaf Center, Elegi, and Svarte Greiner clearly would do themselves a disservice in not familiarizing themselves with Cristal's work too.

July 2010