Published on Sunday, 20 March 2016 13:27
Band: Atrium Carceri
Album title: Archives I-II
Release date: 22 March 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber
01. Archives I
02. Archives II
The dark ambient powerhouse Atrium Carceri is back with something a little different this time around. Archives I-II looks back on the last ten years of the Atrium Carceri project. Simon Heath chose his favorite lost gems and gave them all a makeover by way of re-editing, mixing, and mastering into two long tracks totaling almost an hour and a half. This was quite an unexpected release, but now that I've heard it I couldn't do without!
Archives I-II is pulled from the period between 2005-2015. Covering all but the first two Atrium Carceri releases. When I asked Simon about not including these as well, he explained: "An unfortunate studio hard drive crash wiped most material from the Cellblock and Seishinbyouin days. After this huge blowback I started being a lot more careful with studio material and invested more time doing backups. There is, however, audio from before 2005 which was used in other works composed later, my field recording gear was still intact during the crash." Luckily Archives I-II is not lacking in content.
Most Atrium Carceri albums have fit into a grand overarching story-line, which Simon Heath has slowly been unveiling to us over the years. Each album like a chapter, or a window into this world. I had to wonder if Archives I-II was meant to be an active part of the story or if it is more of a side project, akin to The Old City or Onyx, both of which are outside the Atrium Carceri story-line. Simon explained to me that "This is separate from the ongoing story-line, I look at it more as a fragmented view that diverges from the main path. For example, one track in here, which is about a war torn area, was scrapped from Phrenitis, another track was produced during Souyuan about a black portal in a smoky old art gallery in Damascus. These are all glimpses on the sideline of the main album that has been reconstructed to create a kind of schizophrenic melting pool of memories. Not least because that is how I feel when listening to this material myself."
Archives I-II is the first long form album by Atrium Carceri, Simon has used two long tracks, almost a full album length each. This brings out a whole different side of the Atrium Carceri project, and one that I am happy to experience. Atrium Carceri has always been a project that is as equally focused on the experience and emotions of the listener as it is on telling its tale. The beauty of these long tracks is that the listener has ample time to sink deep into them, letting us engorge ourselves in this brilliant mosaic of the Atrium Carceri universe. It is all the more rewarding to hear these longer tracks when taking into account the flawless execution of splicing all the fragments together. Simon Heath has compiled this album out of snippets of sounds taken from a full decade of recordings on two continents. Yet when listening, it would be hard to realize that this isn't a brand new album. The quality stays consistent throughout Archives I-II. The most interesting part of this mash-up, to me, is how well it all fits together. At one moment we are hearing deep reverberations and a stony voice, similar to something off The Untold or Void, then this will morph into a beautiful female vocalist, bringing back memories of Ptahil or even The Old City. Then it could progress into a chill psybient groove that nods in the direction of Krusseldorf. All this coming together makes for one of the most rewarding listening experiences that I could imagine.
Taking the story-line out of the equation left Simon to focus only on the aesthetics of the sounds and this is really noticeable. You may not find yourself listening as hard to a specific track, trying to pull some hidden meaning from it, but I assure you that every moment listening to this album is time well spent. The shifts between the cinematic, drone, and field recording focused sections make the time fly while listening. There is never a dull moment and it is almost impossible to notice when one snippet of sounds shifts into the next. With such pleasure listening to Archives I-II, I had to ask Simon if he had any plans for a follow-up in this Archives format, he responded: "I will leave it open ended for now, but I had a lot of fun going down memory lane with this material, remembering misty nights in the Scandinavian forests, or climbing down the subway tunnels of Stockholm."
Archives I-II has everything that an Atrium Carceri fan could possibly hope to hear. The blending of a decade of material makes for what I could describe as a greatest hits of Atrium Carceri, without actually including a single one of them. See, all the styles and intricacies that make Atrium Carceri such a premium dark ambient project are present and glowing on this album. If someone were to ask "What is dark ambient?" I would feel comfortable having them listen to Archives I-II. Within these two tracks are many of the hallmarks of the dark ambient and specifically Atrium Carceri sound. While considering this for review I listened quietly with headphones, as well as on the metro, also with larger speakers while gaming, while going to sleep, and while reading. Archives I-II was the perfect companion in each instance. Therefore, I highly recommend this album to any fans of dark ambient or anyone looking to give the genre a chance. The production value and creative talents are pouring out of this release and I promise it will not get old any time soon.
Review written by: Michael