Alphaxone/ProtoU – Stardust

What is better than cinematic dark ambient? That’s right: cinematic dark ambient in space! The latest offering from Cryo Chamber is a collaboration between Ukrainian ProtoU and Iranian Alphaxone entitled Stardust, which explores the endless sequence of worlds beyond our solar system.

“Consumed” opens the album with a nine minute piece of traditional dark ambient, not entirely unlike label-mates Kammarheit (who did release an album called The Starwheel, but I digress). The music pulses in extreme slow motion, lazily looming bursts of chords and reverberated rattling aimed at evoking visions of gargantuan spacecraft traversing the leering void, filled to the brim with technical gadgetry and scientists far out on the autism spectrum, ready to boldly abandon all they ever knew to seek knowledge. “Planemo Dreams” is already quite different, and takes us right down to the surface of one or several planetary-mass-objects. Rains fall, and life twitches and unfolds in the waters. The synthesizers are constant, harmonic and played largely in major. By the end, the tide rolls in, bearing unknown organic matter to the shore.

The album proceeds along these lines, alternating or blending a traditional dark ambient sound, with clearer chords and quite distinct, figurative if you will, sound effects, which are most likely field recorded. Generally, the material on Stardust is more articulated than your average dark ambient, which is something we have discussed previously in connection with Paleowolf, also released on Cryo Chamber. The moods and worlds built by Alphaxone and ProtoU draw on science fiction clichés, but in marrying the concept to a thick carpet of the very darkest ambient, they have conjured up something new. In “Versus” we can hear the distant and dreamy beeping of control systems too advanced for us to understand, but these noises are embedded in a rather beautiful web of reverb and harmonic synthesizers.

The tracks differ substantially from each other, enough to make sure that few statements can cover this whole disk. “Sub signal” offers an almost industrial take on dark ambient, with noisy parts and only very subdued melodic parts. “Alignment” could easily be taken from the soundtrack of some 80s Sci-Fi movie, with very distinct keyboard melodies. Each track has a personality of its own, so that Stardust really invites to active listening in a way somewhat unusual to the genre. It’s not perfect throughout, at times the interaction between the different sound types aren’t entirely seamless, but that is a minor and very subjective gripe. In general, this is an impressive album, and yet another smash hit from Cryo Chamber.

And the cover is spectacular.

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