Any time I feel myself connecting with a dark ambient album, I begin to wonder if it’s time for therapy. What is it about some of this stuff that manages to hook into that grim and hidden corner of Who I Am and makes me feel like I’m welcome here? And why? Filth Haven from Kristoffer Oustad is one of those albums. It may be because this is not a crushingly heavy, drone-based bit of darkness that I find an easier entry point into it, but there’s no doubting that the overall tone is weighty and absolutely coated in shadow—and I am oddly at ease here. Okay, not at ease per se, but from the first booming chords of “Elberton 1979,” that resonant force locks in and surrounds me and I’m in a place I don’t think I’ll mind. Oustad takes an odd monument called the Georiga Guidestones as his source of inspiration, and when your inspiration is an “American Stonehenge” that’s over 237,000 pounds of granite in total, your sound is understandably dense and loaded with mystery. Oustad, however, doesn’t just pile on the potency and call it a day. “Anti-Clockwise Rotation” lightens the load somewhat, and takes some energy from a kinetic sequencer line tapping out some Morse Code urgency over vocal pads. “Row Me Over” is grim, but even as we’re presented with the uncomfortable creaking of a weakening boat, there’s a kind of edge-of-lightness tone to the flow. Darkness comes in tracks like “Traveller,” one of my preferred pieces here. Didgeridoo tones snake outward from the beginning. This sound always feels like a dark-spirit calling to me, and it grabs me straight away. Between its from-the-pit drone and high, falling notes, the track works its way into a smooth hypnotic lull with just enough shadow to keep you on edge. Oustad sets that course, then drops out the ridge and sets the listener drifting in a mistier, disconnected place. The switch is perfect. “Liquidator” is aggressive and pulsing, bring the big tones back in concussive waves. The sound gets nicely dense here, pushing right up to the border of truly dark ambient style. As the track progresses, the expectation of when the next pulse comes in actually becomes a bit suspenseful.
Filth Haven speeds by in under an hour, and it loops quite nicely. Trust me on this—I have taken this dark and lovely ride many times over. Oustad controls the emotional content with a sure hand, and never feels the need to bury the listener under a cairn of sound. The atmosphere, the mystery, the sense of unknowing, is what this album is all about. Lights out, headphones on. It’s time to get in touch with your own grim corners. An excellent dark release.
Available from Malignant Records.