Looking at the artist name and disc title, I braced myself before heading into my first listen to Cryobiosis’ Within Ruins, steadying my nerves for an assault of dense, heavy, depressing dark ambient. And it never quite came. Don’t misunderstand me–there is plenty of darkness here. But it’s a lot more than that. Within Ruins is a work that’s rich in atmosphere and dimension; musician Cristian Voicu slowly paints vivid pictures through sound, taking us into “the depths of abandoned structures, dwindling stairs and the history of civilizations past.” Field recordings, from natural sounds to mechanical noises, get dialed down to background accents that further open the space. Instead of laying heavy on the grimness for the whole ride, Voicu ushers the listener through passages where a sort of calming-breath softness offsets the crunch and grind that are the main voice here. And when a piano appears in “Recollection” to play a melody amid steamy hisses and light industrial clatter after 20 minutes of darker fare, its crisp, grounding clarity is almost cleansing. Through moments like this, Voicu shows a solid hand in terms of working the intensity slider here, keeping Within Ruins from having to rely too heavily on standard dark ambient tropes. Even when he gets into that space, as on “Murkfall,” he tempers it with a touch of beat to give you something to latch onto. It’s an odd sensation, to finding yourself sort of nodding along with something that’s gurgling and rustling and snarling in your ears, or to catch a hint of a drawn-out string melody humming somewhere in the distance, but that’s the draw here. It’s like dark chill. It’s a dark ambient stepping-off point for people who think they don’t like dark ambient. My recommendation is to jump in, headphones on, let the bass tones rumble their way into your soul, open your ears and mind and see where Cryobiosis will take you. This is a superb journey, excellently crafted in every regard, and well worth repeat visits. Give it a solid, focused listen to make the most of the experience.
Available from Cryochamber.