Somnolent - The Infernal Expanse

06 Dec 2021 - Thorsten

Blackened Industrial, Droney Ambient | Sentient Ruin Laboratories | Release date: 03 Dec 2021

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Whenever I hear the word ‘expanse’ I automatically think of the beginning of Star Trek, when they are talking about and its line of ”to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Why am I bringing this up in a review on a meandering, machine-like, industrialized, blackened ambient record? Because of the title and because of its structures!

Somnolent is the brainchild of Jessi Nihil, who has been working under this stage moniker for a decade now and has been releasing records in the underground scene, basically unnoticed by any kind of larger audience. And now her latest record with four tracks and nearly 40 minutes running time has been released as a collaborative effort by American darkness-deliverers Sentient Ruin and European catastrophe-connoisseurs Cyclic Law.

What does a record sound like that is released on these two labels? Well surely not nice and inviting, at least not for the uninitiated. And even for those who are used to listen to music beyond any formal aspects, with structures and counter-structures there is a lot to take in on this record on which Jessi sees help by Abstracter’s MA.

It becomes quite apparent how open this record will be when listening to the first track (all of them are simply numbered); people from different musical backgrounds will hear different “genres” in that track, because it is so open. Some will hear experimental krautrock, others ambient doom, some may talk about shoegaze or even free jazz. And yes, all of them are correct because that effect is wished for – try to forget about labelling, because in the end it is all a concoction of black metal (yes, there are blastbeats underneath all of the chaos and cacophony!) and all of the aforementioned.

How can one achieve all of that on one record? By highly effectively adding layer upon layer upon layer. One may be ambient, the second playing with some krautrock or even prog rock percussion, the ethereal, infernal screams by MA somewhere in the thick of the thin fighting its way to the surface whenever not needing to fight for survival. And this play with textures enables us to connect the title Infernal Expanse to Star Trek. This record goes where many others have stopped before even trying. It creates this haunting, yet never clearly chasing atmosphere as if our stalker is right behind the tip of our hair lurking, waiting just to see us fall and then jump on us and devour us, so that we become part of the infernal nightmare. At the same time, the sounds also have no clear-cut shapes or ends, thus they are ebbing to and fro, slowly vanishing here, creepily reaching out there. As if we are witnessing a shamanistic ritual full of aching and longing underneath the blackened cloaks. However, underneath the monkish garments of rough wool one does not find human beings, but sentient machines slowly dissecting the possible endings for mankind.

The expanse is becoming bigger and bigger, it is coming for us and we will be hard-pressed to find a way out; also because, at one point, it becomes obvious how unlikely our escape is. And then we lets us fall and drown – and fall into the nothingness of the sheer abyss. The ever-growing expanse. Falling and falling we hear the sounds from hell and non-mankind coming closer and in some ways knowing what will come is even worse than arriving at the dead bottom. Do not enter Somnolent, if you want to sleep afterwards. If you enter, be aware that this voyage has no ending. You can check in anytime you like, but you can never…