Lustmord: Dark Matter

Many an ambient artist attempts to create a convincing simulation of deep space using purely synthetic means. On his latest Lustmord release, Dark Matter, Brian Williams, one of dark ambient's central figures and originators, takes the idea a step further by using sounds derived from “an audio library of cosmological activity collected between 1993 and 2003” and gathered from sources such as NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Arecibo), The National Radio Astronomy Observatory, American educational sites, and private individuals.

Musing about our inability to comprehend the universe in its spatial and temporal breadth, Williams notes that twenty-seven percent of it is unseen dark matter, phenomena whose nature is generally inferred from its effects on visible matter. To simulate the vast emptiness of space, he worked with recordings of electromagnetic vibrations, many within our perceptible audio range but others outside it rendered audible using particular software. Sourced from radio galaxies, charged particle interactions and emissions, radiation, exotic astrophysical objects, and the like, the raw material was then sculpted into the three long-form settings presented on the seventy-minute release.

In truth, the three soundscapes aren't dramatically different from one another but more act cumulatively to strengthen the impact of the material's generally foreboding tone. High-pitched whistlings, cavernous rumblings, wind-like whooshes, and speckles of static and noise collectively convey the immensity, barrenness, and loneliness of space and its enigmatic, indifferent character. If Williams's depiction is accurate, it's a merciless realm, frightening in its expanse yet oddly claustrophobic, too.

Twenty-seven minutes in length, “Subspace” creeps along patiently, with details and layers folded in quietly until the murmuring mass is disrupted by the emergence of a haunting, siren-like figure at the twenty-two-minute mark. It's a sound that also surfaces three-quarters of the way through the intense second piece, “Astronomicom,” whose astronomical turbulence is punctuated by knocking noises and other unearthly sounds, after which “Black Static” closes the circle be reinstating the carefully calibrated tension of the opener. Immersive in the extreme, Dark Matter should, it goes without saying, be played at peak volume on a high-end system for the listener to reap the greatest possible reward.

January 2017