Fanum / Karna
CD (ltd. 100)
A split-album by two brother projects from Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, each of them having a serious discography under the belt: Fanum has released two solo works and several collaboration recordings with such projects as Exit In Grey, Kromeshna, Vazhes, etc., and Karna has eight solo discs and two collaborations with Melek-Tha and Velehentor.
On this album we will hear two long suites in classical industrial dark ambient style. The track by Fanum is an unhurried drift through deserted mechanized spaces, slow loops of soft noises and streams of vibrant drones. It seems like birds singing somewhere? Or is it just a rusty flap creaking in the wind?.. The composition features many field recordings, the origins of which are not so easy to guess. Sound fabric sways like waves, sometimes rolling over with assertive density, then retreating and creating a rarefied atmosphere with sweeps of rare electric flashes and phantom echoes.
Karna presented the final recording of the project here: a monotonous post-apocalyptic soundscape imbued by cold moonlight. Lifeless space, painted with pulsating low frequencies and grainy crackling of the electrified air. The composition is minimalistic at first sight, but it gradually sprouts with various layers and structures: rare metal clangs and machine samples, electronic strokes, a grid of simple rhythm and a quiet synth melody underlining the overall atmosphere of desolation. Like an automated sand mining colony somewhere on the outskirts of the galaxy, long abandoned, semi-ruined, living out its remaining days in vacuum, zero gravity and oblivion…
The other new release by Zhelezobeton is a split CD by a band from Moscow and one from Rostov-on-Don, and both might be one-person projects. Fanum has released two works of his own, and various in collaboration with Exit In Grey, Kromeshna and Vazhes. It might be that this is the first time I hear his music. Like System Morgue this music is both ambient and industrial. Hard to say what went into the machine, but my best guess would be that this is some heavily treated field recording of some kind. Here these recordings are subject to time stretching, delay module, reverb chambers (cathedrals even), granular synthesis, analogue shaping and whatever else the studio has to offer. You no longer recognize any birds or raindrops, but a stale wind over the tundra is what we are left with. That brings us to the music of Karna, who have eight albums to their name and two collaborations with Melek-tha and Velenhentor. The piece is apparently the final recording for Karna. Here too we are subjected to a vast amount of reverb and delay, and who knows what else that transforms sounds. But somehow it seems less industrial than Fanum, and perhaps also fewer monoliths in approach (maybe vice versa? Less monolith, therefore less industrial?). Karna moves and shifts about, from noise ambience to something more quiet and subdued, and even a bit of rhythm is used here and there. Karna seems to have a bit more variation upon his sleeve, while Fanum knows how to keep the same mood going in slightly varied shapes. Each of these has it's own merits.
There is some sort of an aura, boiling below the surface of these two tracks, each composed by one prolific project. Going through these fifty minutes of music over and over again, I can track the changing of the landscape as sounds evolve or shift, but this album, titled “Something Else”, has a certain texture that mark both tracks with the same ominous, yet obscure message that I can only describe as held back, maybe dormant sense of urgency.
“Afterworld” begins with a distant war siren that is slowly being swallowed by a brutal hum that orders a stricter rule in the form of a slowly breathing, dark and dense drone, leaving nothing but scorched remnants of distorted debris behind. This is indeed a form of an afterworld, a post apocalyptic desert where Karna attempts to erect musical monuments who crumble to dust as soon as they fully stand.
If urgency was infused to “Afterworld” by the cry of the siren, on “Final” Fanum begins with a long, mind piercing shriek that pushes the slow, wretched drone forward like a pebble skipping on heavy tar water. Halfway through this track the pebble becomes a heavy rock and Fanum sinks and takes us down so fast that my heart is almost breaking out of the chest. ” Zhelezobeton never fails to deliver unsettling sounds”, I remind myself. How true.
“Something Else” offers a room with a view down an abyss and what a view it is. Stare into it. Take a good long hard stare.
It is frequently believed that no human mind is able to explore the truth of the other world unaided, but on the basis of revelation and faith. But I am sure that there are lots of other ways to reach otherworldly besides being intoxicated with anything connected to faith. Any strong emotional stress or near-death experience can be useful to reach the same effect. Though, there are some ingredients that could possibly help to encompass detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity or absolute dissolution without stepping on the fragile ground of dangerous and unpleasant situations. I firmly believe that music can become this sort of guiding light that connects person with his hidden abilities giving him an opportunity to obtain spiritual maturity or to sink in immensity of other world.
So, today it is the turn of two Russian based dark ambient / drone projects to make an attempt of setting this connection between me and something that lurks in the shadows. Fanum and Karna are quite famous on post-soviet industrial scene with a pack of releases in different formats, but with this specific record they meet together on the playground of one of the most famous Russian labels under a code name Zhelezobeton.
Fanum hails from Moscow and starts this record with his track called "Final" presenting 25 minutes of mechanical manipulations. Opening with a slow hum of some working mechanism, our resident begins to fill it with all sorts of special effects. Whether it is an electronic pulsation or wavy beat, all of them are rooted deeply inside this slow droning composition bringing some diversity into quite monotonous sound. The atmosphere becomes sharper after 8-9 minutes when the background generates rougher scratches, but the stress is relieved very soon falling into more hypnotic, even almost static drift. But don't be fooled by this quiet part, an impression of something cosmic, alien and anxious will not leave you for sure. The composition continues its run, different patterns alternate each other with some transitions in between, until it reaches its end with a darker and gloomier piece of dark ambient music.
Almost half-an-hour of Fanum's sound processing ... and the time comes for Mr. Karna to enter the gate of Afterworld. I will try to play up to this Russian comrade in his attempt to demolish the entire world to gain this access. The track begins with a siren that is usually associated with some kind of cataclysm, whether it is natural or artificial, but something that always brings all sorts of disasters. After such a preface, the track rolls forward very slowly drawing cold and lifeless land shafts. This composition is less active then the first part made by Fanum, concentrating attention on less visible fluctuations of mood, steadily developing cobwebs of drones. A soft melody joins this slender shape on 16 minutes while the hum of working mechanism (or a rocket engine maybe) has now been put on the back burner. The same pace is being kept during the whole 28 minutes run, fading away with deliberation, becoming almost hypnotic before dissolving.
After initial hesitation and dozen cycles of continuous spinning, I imbued enough with the spirit of this material to be able to claim that it is quite professional and well crafted. I am not sure that it is the best stuff that I've ever heard before; there were few certain moments when I lost connection with the music, few parts were definitely overextended without any reason. But in general, the vision that is presented through "Something Else" has enough content to offer receiving my positive assessment.
I was not familiar with these Russian acts, but I have enjoyed the material that Zhelezobeton has put out over the years so I was interested to see this addition to the label. Before you even put the disc in the player, you'll notice a quotation on the disc from Y. Mamleev that states 'We have to know how to suffer without a reason... We have to master pure suffering, have to learn to suffer amidst happiness.' This may give some indication of the feeling that they are trying to evoke here. Thankfully, this was anything but suffering. First up, we have Fanum, with the track 'Final.' This is a nice slab of spacey dark ambient that the label describes as 'an unhurried drift through deserted mechanized spaces, slow loops of soft noises and streams of vibrant drones. It seems like birds singing somewhere? Or is it just a rusty flap creaking in the wind?' It's pulsating and gritty, and at time it evokes the feeling of being in a factory with machinery creaking, whirring, and humming all around you. At other times it shifts to a more spacey feel, with deep, rumbling bass drone. Nicely done. Next up, we have Karna with 'Afterworld,' which the label describes as 'a monotonous post-apocalyptic soundscape imbued by cold moonlight. Lifeless space, painted with pulsating low frequencies and grainy crackling of the electrified air.' The piece kicks off with an air raid siren before diving into noisy, droning ambiance. Over time, it slowly shifts to a more structured feel, with a slow, pounding beat, before dissolving back into diffuse drone. Although they are different in style, they are similar in feel. As such, this hangs together better than one could expect from two different bands. If you have enjoyed the dark ambient music coming out of Russia in recent years, this will be right up your alley. This album weighs in at around 53 minutes.