I often wonder what it is about dark ambient, when it is done well, that makes it so affecting. I also wonder what it is that makes me perceive one release in this often same-sounding genre as being more affecting–and effective–than others. Whatever it may be, it is felt in full force on Terra Sancta’s Exile. Yes, there are long stretches of sandstorm-quality noise-walls thrown up in front of the listener. And, yes, it is weighty and oppressive like its peers. But where Terra Sancta (aka Greg Good) begins to distinguish his sounds is in the way he layers in symphonic and melodic elements. They are pulled to an elegant slowness and partly swallowed in the requisite murk, but they are quite palpably there. You’ll hear it more distinctly early on, appropriately enough, with “Empire of Ashes” and “Kingdom of Dust.” Overall, the melodic aspect appears in long, low tones, like sustained pulls on strings. (On these two beginning tracks, it appears to be the same basic tones, with “Kingdom…” adding in some higher harmonies.) As Exile goes thematically deeper, and the electronic windstorm that runs through it intensifies, the melodic elements pull way back. Occasionally the wind dies down briefly and gives us a short glimpse, like seeing a landmark off in a distance that never changes.
I have enjoyed losing my way in the blinding crush of sound that is Exile. There’s just enough going on, dynamically, to keep me from getting bored with it. Plus, in the longer tracks, the constant thick hiss of sound turns into a bit of a brain-salver, a hypnotic side of the equation that accents that sense of having gotten lost.
Available from Malignant Records.