21 Jun 2022 - Dan D.
Dark Ambient | Release date: 25 Feb 2022
Llyn Y Cwn is the one-man field-recording-based dark ambient project of Ben Powell who, as it states on the Bandcamp page, has been making electronic music for over 25 years. Having been aware of Llyn Y Cwn for a couple of years now since enjoying 2019’s Cold Spring debut Twll Du and the follow-up Dinorwic, I was extremely looking forward Du Y Moroedd when I became aware of its release.
Du Y Moroedd (‘the black of the seas’ in Welsh) turns out to be a sublime album of glacial, abyssal dark ambient, which, as the artist explains, contains “environmental soundscapes and atmospheres from above, below and beside the ocean; field recordings made onboard vessels at sea; sounds from submerged recording devices deep underwater; recordings from the coasts of North Wales to Greenland and the Arctic Ocean.” Llyn Y Cwn deftly manipulates and layers these inspiring sounds interweaving with sombre synthesizer tones to create a captivating audio journey.
The opening track “Trwyn Du” takes the listener straight to the windswept coast of North Wales with sounds of the sea and seabirds before the bell at Trwyn Du lighthouse (recorded before the bell was removed in 2020) and layered drones set in. Feelings of isolation are immediately present, and the track evokes an atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Robert Eggers-film.
“SS Apapa” and “Adrift” ship the listener out to sea whilst “Submergence” plunges you below the depths into the Epipelagic Zone, although one could easily imagine themselves in a bathysphere blissfully plummeting in to the Hadalplegic Zone.
The title track brings the listener, now feeling like an aquanaut, back topside before being submerged again back into the frigid briny deep by “The Hunt”, maybe on the trail of an enemy submarine or a famed Architeuthis dux, before “Descent” has you being lured into its abyssal lair.
Just as you have started to feel the tentacled, enveloping embrace of your deep-sea host, you are back at “The Skerries”, a group of sparsely vegetated rocky islets off the coast of Anglesey. I have no idea if it is the case, but Llyn Y Cwn masterfully evokes a sense of desolation. “Erebus and Terror” follows with its superb use of recordings of cracking ice from below the surface coupled with glacial drones. You almost feel as if you are experiencing the final moments of an unfortunate sailor who has fallen overboard during Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated attempt to force the Northwest-passage.
Du Y Moroedd finishes with the nearly 32 minute-long epic that is “Stratigraphy” which almost serves as an epilogue and elicits a trance like state whereby you can imagine the seas being drained, layer by layer revealing the hidden secrets long preserved in its depths.
Whilst I’ve always mightily enjoyed Llyn Y Cwn’s palette of sounds, the way in which the unique field recordings and slow-moving dolorous drones are incorporated together to truly give a sense of place and emotion on this album, have pushed it to the top of their catalogue from a personal perspective. As melancholic as it sounds, I find solace in the feeling of isolation that Llyn Y Cwn’s work on Du Y Moroedd creates. For me, this is one of this year’s best dark ambient releases so far from an artist who keeps getting better and better.