Because I am not a fan of brash, hyper-dramatic, thematically drowned dark ambient, Triangular Ascension (Federico Ágreda Álvarez) almost lost me early on in his new release, The Chronos Anomaly. Good thing, then, that my gig here is to hang in there and see what else a disc has to offer. And by “good thing,” I mean good thing for me, because The Chronos Anomaly begins as one type of disc, but evolves to become something better. Álvarez creeps in at the start of the first track,”Time Crystal,” creating a haunted, sparse space dotted with the near-tribal overtones, including a growling didgeridoo, that play a stronger part later in the disc. But then it’s time to bomb the thing with huge symphonic bursts and lay in tortured moans and cries to fill in the background and make me worry that I’ve come across a pretty standard dark ambient disc. And yet, as soon as the disc moves into “Industry of Silence,” things are different. Cave-drip ambient gives itself over to a cool beat cross-bred with industrial clamor and maybe even a slight glimmer of post-rock structure. (He revisits this feel, in even gritter, more hardcore fashion, on the grinding and aggressive “End of Time.”) This is not the bombast I was greeted with; this is almost subtle in execution, more sophisticated in its approach, and suddenly I’m along for the ride. Álvarez wends through a couple different sound zones as he goes, from dark and abstract (“Dream Devourer,” “The Future Code”) to that edge-of-tribal tone (“Carpe Noctem,” “Above the Remnants”). Because of my own musical predilections, this is my favorite stretch of the disc. In “Carpe Noctem” Álvarez lays down an earthy bass drone, adds bird and atmospheric sounds, and drives the pieces forward with percussion, eventually taking the listener into sparse, echoing depths and cold atmospheres. The Chronos Anomaly rises back upward on the thickly packed but lightened pads of “The Cleansing.” The closing track, “Final Movement,” surprises with an almost New Age feel, starting with more of those here-comes-the-dawn pads, which give way to a bit of stormy weather, before unfolding into a melody with tapped percussion and Spanish guitar. (I guess when you’ve made it through the darkness, you flamenco a bit.) A very cool way to end.
The more I have listened to The Chronos Anomaly, the more I’ve found to enjoy. Álvarez is at his best when he keeps away from the bombast and works with stripped-back and densely layered sound. There’s a lot of potent emotion at work in these flows. The darkest stuff is suitably unsettling, leaving you stranded in a churn of near-noise. Admittedly, I skip over the first track when I listen now; I feel it’s the weakest part of the disc because it tries too hard to set the scene. It’s in subtlety that this work finds its strength. The Chronos Anomaly is well worth listening to, particularly for dark ambient fans.
Available from Cyclic Law.