Tuesday, 3 September 2019
AŁŦUM - Collision
Catalogue no: N/A
1. Frozen Sky
4. The Last March
Altum is a UK act, based in London, and that’s all I know. In fact that’s all I need to know, because if this four-track sophomore album is anything to go by, then whoever the artist is behind this project has already developed a keen ear for creating dark and sinister atmospherics, and I shall be watching for future releases of his with interest. More than that, I think that he deserves a wider audience for his drone, dark ambient essays in dank, icy, and frigid sonic canvases.
‘Frozen Sky’ begins with scratchy, hissy static granulation before bass drones loom in, a sky canopied with heavy black clouds, flitting and scudding rapidly, forever coiling and twisting. The sun has hidden itself away, and whatever light filters through is dim and diffused, planting shadows and misshapen silhouettes across a blighted landscape. It is here where the fearful imagination conjures up visions, threatening and malign, ready to ensnare and devour. In the half-light, indistinct shapes and shadows take on malevolent and perverse lives of their own, baring teeth and claws. This is no place for delicate souls.
The second track, ‘Deliverance’, begs the question deliverance from what? A heartbeat, echoing though some dark subterranean chamber, provides a backdrop for guttural breathiness, and sparse instrumentation, as if we only have one small light to observe whatever it is (if anything at all) that resides beneath the layers of rock and soil above us, and so we get only get an incomplete picture. As the track progresses the malignity increases, as the brain fits together the piecemeal images and the fevered, heightened imagination stitches a perhaps fanciful picture of what’s down here with us.
Hollow drones, with bass threads underlying them, weave a melancholy tale on ‘Lament’, a Stygian elegy of the netherworld, a spiritual dungeon of the lost, wicked, hopeless, and irredeemable. The bass frequencies overshadow all, piling up a stifling and airlessly oppressive blanket of depression and despair, instilling a darkness that is almost total; occasionally a faint glint of light, or of movement, is apparent, but it’s never enough for us to make sense of what it is. Black winds and vapours swirl damply, reeking of death, decay, and degeneracy. Noxious fumes, exhalations emanating from suppurating wounds cut deep into the very fabric of the deathscape, cling to sloughing skin and torn rags. A bell tolls far in the distance, but whether it’s mourning for all those consigned here, or a call to gather more souls, is hard to discern.
Perhaps that tolling was actually a signal for a final gathering of the diseased and damned, a sign that ‘The Last Match’ is about to begin its long, endless journey. Mournful winds carrying the dust of sinful aeons upon its currents, scours and abrades both flesh and thought, the marchers trudging through infinite wastes blacker than the blackest night. There are no stars here to guide the way, no torches able to penetrate the thick veils of impenetrable dark. It is only instinct and imperative, or directions from some unseen source, which drives them onward. It is neither the journey nor the destination that matters: it is simply the act, as purposeless as it is.
This is quite the ride, a trip to the deepest pit of an underworld that goes beyond human imagination, a journey to the event horizon of a void that not only stares back at you but also shows you the sum of all fears and magnifies them infinitely. It spares you any graphic depictions, but gives you enough clues and hints so that your own worst enemy at times like this, your imagination, evokes all manner of cancerous and pestilential visions. This isn’t a place the soul can withstand for long, at least the human part of it; perhaps the immortal aspect has the strength to endure, but even that’s in question. A welcome, and deep, introduction to the nihilistic, apocalyptic nightmare that is the Hadean abode of Altum.
Available as a digital download via Bandcamp:
Psymon Marshall 2019.