02/08/2011

Review: Secret Druid Society – Restless

First Fallen Star, 2010


Tracklisting:

1) Deserted World
2) Restless (Foreboding)
3) Lonely Moon
4) Phobia (Stones Are Moving)
5) Restless (Night Is Here)
6) Dawn Over The Deserted World
7) Endless Ice Plains

“Restless” is the debut album of this Australian project, consisting of an anonymous duo creating dark drone ambient, in order to sonically represent the restless opposition between bright and dark sides of our world; I presume that the kitschy Victorian band name stands for the bright, while the genre description stands for the dark.

Jokes aside, as clearly showcased by the beautiful album cover and layout, the music on here is all about nature in its pure state, wallowing in cycles far surpassing the limits of human imagination. If you’ve ever seen “Life After People” on History Channel, well, this is pretty much the soundtrack to it – minimalistic and monumental, not unlike earlier works of Thomas Köner. It transposes entire aeons into several minutes, depriving them of any human quality, other than the occasional gnaw on whatever chunks our civilisation may have left on the face of the Earth. The music is transcendental, not in a metaphysical way, but in that the sheer amount of time the album entails is well beyond our immediate understanding.

This is one of the reasons why the album actually sounds more ear-friendly than one might presume. The fact that what you’re listening to is millenia, and not minutes, makes the music calm; this isn’t about volcanic eruptions or violent thunderstorms, the focus is on cycles and ages. This causes the music to sound much more ambient than dark throughout most of the album, staying minimal and subtle at all times – well, almost all times, but I’ll come to that later. That said, long, deep drones aren’t charting any new territory, although they are imaginatively used and don’t inspire that familiar I’ve-already-heard-this-a-thousand-times feeling.

This isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have its shortcomings, though, even if just a few. A minor issue might be that some of the tracks are spread just a bit too thin, particularly track No. 5, which goes on for a good fourteen minutes, without really that much to back it up. While I wouldn’t go as far as to qualify these moments as boring, some listeners’ attention span might be challenged, even for dark ambient standards. However, the one major qualm I have with this album is track No. 6, which repeats the very distinct melody previously heard in track No. 1 (as suggested by the title), and while it works at the very beginning of the album, it definitely doesn’t here, as it’s too bright, too sharp in tone and simply too distracting. A pity, really, since the drone underneath would’ve been one of the album’s best moments on its own. I might be too harsh on the artists in question, as the track itself isn’t bad, I was just annoyed at how much it unnecessarily ruined a potentially excellent track and the flow of the album on the whole.

“Restless” is a good album, and a great one considering its status as the project’s debut. It’s far from perfect, and it may not be mind-bogglingly original or creative, but it has the most essential quality any dark ambient album should have – it depicts exactly what it’s trying to, which is not an easy task at all. I’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever the Society is planning to offer next.

7/10