Once upon a time, labels were the main suppliers of music. Bands sent in demos, otherwise heard only by the select few people who knew the band or actively sought them out through obscure underground networks, and labels released the bands’ music to at least a slightly wider audience. Browsing Keosz’ discography on Discogs, I am reminded that in the internet age labels have become curators. Sometimes curating the collections of other curators, in the form of digital-only netlabels. With the exception of a few splits and compilations, this Slovakian project has been releasing all its music online, sometimes on digital labels, sometimes self-released. Enter the Cryo Curator, to fixate the music on proper plastic. Last year, Be Left to Oneself was released, and in a couple of days Ava will drop.
My only previous contact with Keosz was very recent, when they helped Phonothek turn the opening track of Red Moon, “Yellow Forest”, into an amazing dark ambient anthem. It is with some anticipation I finally get to hear how the project stands on its own two feet. Opening with “Acquitted from Illness”, Ava begins like a rather typical dark ambient album. Droning chords, some wind-like sounds and dark echoes create a great atmosphere – nothing more, nothing less. As the album progresses, twists and turns make the picture ever more complex.
The basic structure of vague and elusive synthesizer melodies, drones and reverb effects makes it perfectly clear that Keosz has created something squarely in the ambient fold, more so than aforementioned Phonotek. It is also certainly of the darker variety, even if the bass is less prominent than on many comparable albums, and the melodies do not fear to go into major when the dreamweaving so requires. While “Downfall” and “Behind the Horizon of Preconceptions” could almost be Kammarheit tracks, dreamy tunes like “Consigned to Limbo” and the absolutely beautiful “Resurrection from the Dust” go another route completely, even using guitars to add to the essentially positive, fleeting atmospheres.
Penultimate track, “They Took All I had”, marries the two approaches delineated above. A really bleak mood, built on synthesizer, echo and delay, squares off with surprisingly energetic guitars. The interplay is fascinating, and awakens thoughts of the sea for some reason. Towards the end a bass line of an almost 80’s soundtrack style enters for a moment, and in fact there are vague synthwave vibes hanging over parts of this album, despite the complete absence of rhythmic elements or motorcycle helmets.
The finisher “Farewell To Hollow Space” ties the bag back together by being another straight-up dark ambient track, and a great one at that. It consists of floating drones with a certain choir like quality, mixed with synthesizer strings, obscure whispering and almost-inaudible sounds hidden way back in the massive carpet of smooth but dark sound. It leaves me with a sense of great satisfaction.
One day, Cryo Chamber will slip in their curator shoes and release something sub-par. When that day will be, I know not. I do know it will not be the 18th of April, which is the release date for Ava. As usual, it’s all great digipak and beautiful artwork, and available through Cry Chamber’s Bandcamp page.