03 Mar 2023 - Dan D.
Ambient | Smalltown Supersound | Release date: 27 Jan 2023 | Favorite song: Composition 13
Ambient music has always had a special place in my heart. The best of it can transport the listener to other worlds and present you with beauty or sinister darkness. Whilst there is no escaping the serene gloriousness of early works by Brian Eno, the insidious nature of the sounds created by someone like Lustmord is something that I’m personally more drawn towards.
Oslo’s Deathprod (or Helge Sten as his family and friends more likely know him), is someone who wades into the dark sonic territory. First using the name in 1991, for the last 32 years Sten has been creating incredible, and often unsettling, soundscapes using “homemade electronics, old tape echo machines, ring modulators, filters, theremins, samplers and lots of electronic stuff.” In fact, 2004’s Morals and Dogma is my favourite Ambient album of all time in any of the myriad sub-genres that fall beneath the umbrella of Electronic Ambient music. The sounds he employs in his recordings are his own and have a certain something which pleases my auditory system and grey matter immensely.
Compositions is Deathprod’s first new studio album since Occulting Disk in 2019 and while the excellent Sow Your Gold In The White Foliated Earth was released last year, this was more of a set of Neoclassical pieces comprised of sounds made by Harry Partch’s legendary instruments rather than a standard Deathprod release. As with many albums of this nature, Compositions takes multiple listens to completely appreciate its intricacies.
Comprising 17 tracks, ranging in duration from 58 seconds to 3 minutes 58 seconds, this release, on first listen at least, is very minimal. Using ”a personal, unique combination of obsolete digital audio processors and sound generators” the palate of sounds isn’t as wide ranging as a lot of Deathprod’s other work, but it aids in providing a collection of tracks that feel more personal, introspective, and intimate. Drones fade in and out like forgotten memories attempting to make their presence known, longing to be remembered. Granular crackles appear and disappear. Microtonal changes portray the feeling of textures guiding the listener through shifting landscapes. A warm, comforting hiss that envelopes the ears radiating reassurance that whilst you may be somewhere alien, there is nothing to fear. There are no harsh, angry sounds here, just plenty of drones and reverberations of a more solemn nature.
The more times you listen to Compositions the more you hear. This is the case with many Ambient and Dark Ambient albums, but what I found particularly interesting with Deathprod’s work on this specific release is that I don’t think I’ve heard an album that on first listen appeared so minimal to ultimately end up so rewarding. This is a master of his craft at work and it’s easy to see why Helge Sten is so revered as an artist. For anyone interested in high quality Electronic Ambient music, I recommend this album.