The latest in a clutch of new offerings from purveyors of all things dark and esoteric, Cold Spring, one of the UK’s most prominent and consistent “dark” labels, and whose roster of artists is now as diverse as it is extreme.Sleep Research Facility follow up their Cold Spring debut, “Nostromo” introducing a wider pallette of sound , based on polar co-ordinates, and dripping in chilling atmospherics.
In a genre constantly struggling to define and re-invent itself, often tripping over conceptual hurdles in an attempt at originality, many “dark” ambient artists inhabit familiar territory, trawling out rehashed sonic concepts based upon murderers, deep space phenomena, the occult etc, etc, to the point of becoming a tiresome cliché, and many have become almost laughable caricatures of earlier and more successful predecessors.
Sleep Research Facility have neatly side-stepped some of these conceptual pitfalls in both the theme, and choice of sounds used on Deep Frieze. Drawing inspiration from the bleak and remote Antarctic regions, Deep Frieze slowly unfurls, moving from the sound of a sub-glacial wind storm on 79o S 83oW, gradually evolving and building on subsequent tracks, occasionally perforated by the warm glow of harmonics, as tone clusters break through the icy carapace, carried on rich resonant bass dronescapes. Here and there the relief of hearing a barely audible voice permeates the soundscape, albeit the faintest whisper of humanity, a crackling radio weather report maybe, or a message lost to the frozen tundra.
To classify this album as being entirely dark is something of a misnomer, as much of what appears here is bathed in light and dynamic range, utilising sound from across the frequency spectrum, yet still achieving that sense of sparseness and isolation prevalent in this sinister and extreme polar environment. SRF use these dynamics to great effect, particularly when anything remotely tonal drops away, leaving the listener suspended in an eerie half silence, with little or no notable audible stimuli, there is a sense of feeling lost, the feeling of utter desolation that must confront those brave few who have ventured into this inhospitable territory, a stark, inhuman region that has claimed many lives, broken many men, and whose darkest secrets still remain silent, encapsulated in its icy depths. This is deeply immersive sonic escapism of the very highest order..absolutely essential.