Svartsinn – Collected Obscurities

For almost two decades, Svartsinn has produced a pure, recondite take on dark ambient. With four full-length albums and a few splits and compilation appearances, he can hardly be described as the most prolific of artists, but numerous live gigs and a solid concept and image has earned him enough respect in those beautiful circles consisting of people who enjoy muted, murky drones, toned down noises and a gloomy atmosphere. Collected Obscurities, released by dark ambient granddaddies Cyclic Law together with the Ukrainian post industrialists of Old Captain, compiles a number of rare and generally hard to find tracks from the history of Svartsinn, including a number of collaborations.

Svartsinn’s music has always been unassuming, yet effective. This goes for the compositions of this compilation as well, spanning as they do the years 2002-2012. Compared to artier acts like S.A.R.R.A.M. or Phurpha, or to the cinematic ambient varieties of Cryo Chamber’s roster, there’s an almost punk rock or underground black metal feel to Svartsinn’s ambient. The bells and whistles are kept to a minimum, and the music is almost entirely built upon deep, dark pads, drones and synth notes. Exactly what is done with these varies, of course, and the vacuum like coldness of “Form Is Emptiness” is something entirely different from the almost dungeon synth oriented epicness of “Yearning”. A common thread present throughout most of the songs is certain similarities to Lustmord, and especially Heresy. This is of course something which could be said for most dark ambient, but here there is a connection in mood and atmosphere which goes beyond the simple use of drones and low key noises.

None of this is to say that Svartsinn is generic, nor that it is some kind of lesser or side-project type of music. The tracks assembled on Collected Obscurities are monumental pieces of dark ambient craft, spanning the spectrum from borderline psychosis to subtle beauty. The drones are at times highly musical and rather crisp, and at times migraine like rumblings dwelling on the outskirts of consciousness. Noise and additional melodic additions blend smoothly with the rivers of bass and shadow which float at the foundation, and each track is a journey in and of itself.

The collaboration songs deviate somewhat from the solo work, for obvious reasons, but not so much that it breaks the sense of continuity. The only weak point to this reviewer’s ears is the introduction of “Eksistensens Arkitekt”, a collab with Psychomanteum. It features a piece of boy room atheist philosophy sampled from Bad Boy Bubby (1993) that really takes me out of things for a while. Once that part is over with, it becomes obvious that the track as such is really one of the better ones on the comp, sample or no sample. Worth mentioning is also another collaboration, this time snafu-less and with Svartsinn’s mentor and fellow countryman Northaunt. The latter is a giant of the genre, and the result is correspondingly splendid.

Svartsinn’s take on the ambient of darkness is refreshingly purist and focused on the central, orthodox tenets of the genre. At the same time he has a tremendous feeling for how to construct genuine moods and raven black atmospheres even from the simplest droning structures, and is not afraid to pile on the chiming noises and occasional oddities when it is warranted. Collected Obscurities is a truly inspiring collection of sound from an obscure but glorious career. It is suitable for old fans of the genre and newcomers looking to find the dark ambient bottom line alike. It is released on June the 21th, and is available for digital and CD preorder now from Cyclic Law, as well as from Old Captain.

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