Collaborations between Russia and Iran are quite common topics of discussion in today’s Western public discourse, but unfortunately such debates seldom concern one of the most important fields of human endeavor: the production and performance of dark ambient. Well, after having a good listen to a split album between Russia’s DeepDark and Iran’s Xerxes the Dark, we can finally remedy that terrible oversight. Inner Mystery is an eight track journey of traditional, droning and powerful dark ambient – full of genre tropes, but also of more than occasional innovation, and solid song constructions by two projects whose masterminds know what they are doing.
The sound of Siberian DeepDark is founded on nature samples, most probably field recorded, and reverberating, echoing, dark drones. Breaking off this pattern are moments of clearer instrumental lines. The nature of these vary from track to track. in “The Sacred Ash” there are bombastic keyboard notes that would not feel entirely alien in an early Mortiis track, even if they are placed in a very different conceptual and musical context. On the fourth track, “Untitled”, the lead notes are instead synth strings, and this contrasting of pure dark ambient with more conventional musicianship is a welcome addition. The essence of DeepDark is still the dark ambient soundscapes, which are rather diverse in nature. In the opening track “Alone”, the sampled sound sources have a slightly rough edge that by itself could stand as a very subdued HNW/ANW track. The constant droning melodies, and the addition of fleeting Christian choirs, turns the whole thing in another direction. It is one of the strongest compositions of the album, which may be why it made it to the opening spot.
Morego Dimmer, the man behind Xerxes the Dark, opens his half of the compilation with a sweet, Kammarheitesque drone. “Apperceive State” borders on being a dark ambient case study, with its slowly revolving, mid- to long attack time pads. There are also ultra-wet noises, and a peculiar resonance reminiscent of the later part of sustained, very low piano notes. Xerxes The Dark’s side generally relies less on field recordings than DeepDark, but the result is different rather than worse or better. Hidden within the slowly unfolding chords are many little sonic gadgets and delicacies that serve to enrich the overall sound and spice up what otherwise might have been “mere” common dark ambient.
The final contribution of aghaye Dimmer is also the closing track of the album, and it is called “Perpetual Discernment”. Here, the sound seems slightly more physical than on the others, with plucked strings subsiding in a huge cistern of rumbling noises and almost-non-musical bass notes. Tracks like this is yet another reason to be annoyed that Xerxes The Dark has yet to have a proper, full length album of his own published on CD (or, drool, vinyl). This split with DeepDark, an equally impressive act, is a step in the right direction, just as the Tomb of Seers compilation was.
Inner Mystery is a brilliant spark in the dark, incarnating everything that is great about dark ambient music. Keeping the style close to the core of the genre, DeepDark and Xerxes The Dark both add just enough to make it an album of its own, while still summoning that particular combination of relaxation and dread that only dark ambient can provide. The album is released on the 15th of June, on CD in very ambitious special packaging, including a manuscript with poetry, and on digital download from Novosibirisk’s own Black Mara.