I will admit that after my initial listens to Morben, the debut CD from Aspectee, I was ready to dismiss it as a straightforward dark ambient piece, a dense assault of drones and rough textures in a big, depressing, amorphous mass. But through repeated listens I came to appreciate it more as a thoughtfully constructed balance of smooth and harsh, a darkness that, while not evenly offset with light, gives way to it in time, the whole thing creating a cohesive thought-line and a richly immersive listening experience. The dark here is quite dark, as oppressively so as in any decent dark ambient I’ve heard lately, packed with sawblade edges and an inherent challenge to the listener. The reason it works lies in the soft warmth of Aspectee’s underlying pads. Taken on their own, they’d make a pretty fine ambient CD. Squared off against the roughened, rasping textures that dominate the disc, the combination comes away stronger for it. “Dianthus” is one of the best examples, crackling with lost-transmission static, laced with dissonant tones and aggressively layered–but hiding beneath is a smooth drone forming a solid sonic bedrock. Hear it again in the title track, where Aspectee goes his furthest in creating grim abstraction–a near crash-dive that he pulls out of courtesy of warbling drones and an effortless tonal shift. Morben ends with the calming washes of “Unwic,” a way to let you come back to yourself after your immersion in the disc. I quite like the way this track starts off a little edgy, with a hint of dissonance and unease, but soon resolves itself into a more soothing pulse and flow.
Morben is by no means an easy disc to listen to, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it took most people two or three tries to get it to settle into their heads. It’s a challenging work that’s not for everyone–it certainly helps if you like your music dark–but it rewards the effort very well and announces the arrival of an artist to keep an ear on.
Available from Black Drone.