CD Review: Dead Space Chamber Music - The Black Hours
- Written by: Claudia Black
Artist: Dead Space Chamber Music
Title: The Black Hours
Genre: Ambient / Neofolk / Avant-Garde / Chamber Music / Goth / Medieval
Release Date: 3rd December 2021
Label: Self Released
DEAD SPACE CHAMBER MUSIC hail from Bristol, England. They’ve been around for a few years now and released their first album way back in 2018. It was called ‘Dead Space Chamber Music’ and in one review at the time of a performance of the album one reviewer likened it to music being played on a Giger / Lynchian type space station inhabited by Djinn, Dervishes, English meadows, and spidery madrigals. Based on that description I must get to listening to it after I’ve finished with ‘The Black Hours’. This is seven songs conjoined by the tolling of a bell at the commencement of each track. Track one and seven were recorded pre and post-lockdown and the whole is based on ‘The Liturgy Of The Hours’ which marks the hours from morning to evening and then through the night. This Liturgy was written between 1460 and 1475. Here it has been adapted to recent events with the pandemic.
My first impression is of a ruttish and bleak soundscape that would not be out of place in a 1970s horror movie. I also feel like a distant observer looking through a dirty window. There’s also the sense that this is like listening to music being played from another time through a time and space portal. ‘Ion I’ is the opening piece. It’s vocal free and just concentrates on atmosphere. Wiry, thin metallic sustained notes, clangs and scrapes create an eerie desolate soundscape. Weirdly I feel like I am listening with cataracts in my ears because there’s also a milky feel to the sound. The bell tolls...
‘Bryd One Brere’ (Bird on a Briar) is mournful plainsong with smooth rolling vocals accompanied by a medieval drum. It lilts from one bar to the next in a satisfactory manner, the drum echoing a regular beat, increasing in pace that facilitates a graceful dip of the torso as I move around the room. ‘Mari Lwyd’ (Grey Mare) is a wassailing tradition where people go from door to door around Christmas time and they have “sing offs” with each other and depending on how good the song is they get let in for food and warmth and other pleasantries. This ancient tradition is performed under the watchful eye of a hooded horse skull. I went on a Wassail last year around Kings X and it got quite feisty at times. Sometimes the singing was darn right awful and at others, it was inspired and boisterous! This version of a wassail is also ghostly and is helped along by fuzzy guitars, a thick muted bass and a ghostly wailing vocal that feels discordant. Shhhhhh!
‘IOn II’ is reptilian and wide-eyed mad! Like DIAMANDA GALAS singing in a cold bathroom. Deathly beautiful. Sometimes guttural, sometimes spectral. I see eyes with no irises staring but I don’t know at what because the lack of irises gives me no clue to direction. The vocal and strings exude a spindly vibe too, woody and earthy like the underside of a coffin! You know that scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula where Lucy Westenra bares her fangs whilst gesticulating from a stone coffin? I’d be mesmerized by the beauty of a looming death! The bell tolls...
‘The Pit Dissolves Ashes’, I’m having a nervous breakdown whilst fending off a swarm of bees, in a well on the night of a full moon. Ash hangs in the air with cough-inducing stubbornness. Shakers and what sounds like claves shimmy around ghostly vocals that aren’t loud but prolonged. Drums come in near the halfway point and change the vibe to a more Doom-ish one, guitar ornamentation embellishes the sound which noodles around in a toying manner. This sounds like MOTHER WITCH AND THE DEAD WATER GHOST crossed with the song of a Siren . It’s as if the sustained vocal is not sustained at all, forever the same but always changing. The voice also has this quality of, I don’t know, erm, sadistic joy. And it has a smokadelic quality, a low to the ground crawling vibe. The bell tolls...
‘Douce Colombe’ is a lute-like lead and baroque in feel accompanied by long drawn out cello passages. Acoustic guitar fills the gaps left for it to fill by the cello. This is like smoke dancing, you can hear it, literally! This is “wander” full! Where the smoke rises I follow. There’s always an air of hopeful respite tapping away in the background in this. You can also hear the spitting of a roaring fire which to me only invigorates my nasal sense memory.
Weird random thought, would ADELE ever record an album like this? This is interesting and intriguing. It reminds me also, to a small extent, of a French band from the 1990s called DEAD SOULS RISING. This is a soundtrack that is both creepy and comforting at the same time, it’s an aural painting abundant with organic texture. It’s melodic, dramatic, horrific, and martial. The tone colours are autumnal morphing into the blacks of winter. Words are minimal, I don’t care too much about the words anyway, there’s more to glean from the instrumentation than can be gleaned from words, in my opinion.
In summary, boredom was never a feeling experienced. This is intriguing!
I. Liement Me Deport
II. Bryd One Brere (Bird on a Briar)
III. Ion I
IV. Mari Lwyd / Morfa’r Frenhines (Grey Mare / Queen’s Marsh)
V. Ion II
VI. The Pit / Dissolved in Ashes
VII. Douce Colombe Jolie
Tom Bush - Guitars, Sampler
Katie Murt - Drums, Percussion
Liz Paxton - Cello
Ellen Southern - Voice, Percussion, Bowed & Plucked Psaltery
Total: 8.5 / 10
Comments powered by CComment