Chantal Acda
The Balustrade Ensemble
Ten Favourite Labels 2015

Chantal Acda
The Balustrade Ensemble
Basic Soul Unit
Bersarin Quartett
Bing & Ruth
Wil Bolton
Ian William Craig
Cryo Chamber Collab.
Dikeman Noble Serries
Paul Ellis
Ensemble Economique
Reiko Füting
Jim Ghedi
Hakobune & Dirk Serries
Mary Halvorson
Chihei Hatakeyama
Iskra String Quartet
Mano Le Tough
Deborah Martin
Lubomyr Melnyk
Multicast Dynamics
James Murray
Mute Forest
New Order
Ø [Phase]
Post Office
Nadia Reid
Max Richter
Will Samson
Time Is a Mountain
Michael Trommer
Tuxedo. / Cult W. No Name
Understated Theory
Zero T

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Sylvain Chauveau
John Foxx & Harold Budd
Mathew Jonson
Le Freak

EPs / Cassettes / DVDs / Mini-Albums / Singles
Mr. Bios
Zero T / LSB / T. Prose / FD

Cryo Chamber Collaboration: Azathoth
Cryo Chamber

Weighing in at two hours and eight minutes in duration, Azathoth is an epic set, but it is so for reasons that go beyond the simple matter of length. What makes it especially epic is that the recording is the product of a year-long collaboration involving twenty Cryo Chamber artists (the label makes a point of emphasizing that Azathoth is a collaboration and not a compilation). It's not the first time the dark ambient label has attempted such a thing: in 2014, a similar plan was implemented to produce the album Cthulhu, a word (like Azathoth) that'll be instantly familiar to fans of H.P. Lovecraft.

Mastered by Simon Heath (aka Atrium Carceri), Azathoth is presented as two hour-long parts, with each of the following involved in the work's creative birth: Alphaxone, Alt3r3d Stat3, Apocryphos, Aseptic Void, Atrium Carceri, Randal Collier-Ford, Cryobiosis, Dark Matter, Darkrad, Dronny Darko, Foundation Hope, Halgrath, Kammarheit, Mystified, Neizvestija, Sabled Sun, Sjellos, Svartsinn, Taphephobia, Terradaemon, Ugasanie, and Wordclock. The material sounds pretty much like what one would expect: haunted, immersive ambient soundscaping that creeps without interruption through multiple, gloomy locales. Metallic clanks, creaks, and blasts pepper the synthetic washes as they drift through underground corridors packed with decaying crypts, crackling fires, and spectral presences of one kind or another. At various junctures, voices and sounds reverberantly rumble and moan with macabre intent, and winds swell to tornado-like proportions, threatening to obliterate everything in their path. Industrial episodes occasionally seize control, the shift suggestive of a temporary detour into an S&M or torture chamber, before the softly wailing synths continue on their journey. Of the two parts, it's the second that's the more intense, never more so than during its own second half. Those conversant with Lovecraft's world likely would agree that the recording, tonally speaking, presents a convincing analogue to his writing.

With so many individuals contributing, it would be easy to imagine the material growing overloaded. But all of those involved appear to have been on the same page, so to speak, in making sure that the work doesn't collapse under the weight of excess. If one didn't know better, one would more than likely presume Azathoth to be the work of a single dark ambient composer, if an especially ambitious one, rather than the collective spawn of a label's entire roster.

November 2015