I’ve spent many hours listening to renaissance, baroque and classical music, and did get quite a bit out of it. I’ve spent considerably fewer hours listening to modern classical and art music, and got quite a bit less out of it. At the end of the day, if I am to be honest with myself, I am a bit of a subcultural genre nerd (although I despise several genres that most genre nerds would probably enjoy). While I suppose I’m “open minded” in some wretched way, mainly because I get bored easily, at the end of the day nothing beats a pure representation of a style of which I already approve. Needless to say, I approve of dark ambient. As for the pure representation I’m alluding to, there’s hardly a better example than Svartsinn?
This Norwegian fellow’s last release on Cyclic Law was made eight years ago. In a way, this makes Mørkets Variabler (The Variables of Darkness) a sort of come-back, even if there has been other recent releases. To me, Svartsinn has always resided somewhere in between the worlds of black metal side-project style ambient and more “mature” and “proper” dark ambient, in that the themes and tone has always been comparatively direct and youthful, while the sound has been very polished dark ambient. This feeling remains and is strengthened through this album, though only if interpreted in the most positive way possible.
Mørkets Variabler is a well-composed album, easily surpassing most earlier work by Svartsinn (in a technical sense, at the very least) as well as rivaling some of his very finest genre mates in richness and dynamism. Drones, terrifying echoes, melodies both subtly hidden and leading up front, soft pads and far away roars – all stops are pulled out to drown the listener in shadows shifting ever so often between frightening and soothing. The minimalism of most of Svartsinn’s previous work still remains as a sort of mood or idea, but really this is very complex and well-arranged stuff.
Thematically this is also an all out dark ambient fest. The titles cover all sorts of related topics – from the generic epic nightmare landscape conjured by “Echoes of Silent Cries (Among the Sea of Trees)” to the explicitly (very explicitly) Lovecraftian “In the Wake of Azathoth (A Lovecraftian Epilogue)”. There’s even some German philosophy thrown in for good measure, in the ominously resounding “Doubt As Sin (Nietzsche’s Lament)”. Once again, I return to the feeling that Svartsinn represents a form of black metal stripped of the metal and the most juvenile shenanigans – like American post black metal, except the exact opposite and actually good.
There is little reason not to check out and eventually purchase Mørkets Variabler unless you’re some kind of moron, which is probably why Cyclic Law has gone the extra mile on this one. If the hardcover digibook with a 16 page booklet isn’t True enough for you, there is also a double vinyl edition, in gatefold sleeve, limited to 300 copies. Available from Cyclic Law‘s homepage or Bandcamp page for anyone who wants to get to the center of what dark ambient once was and is today.