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William Fowler Collins - Tenebroso [Handmade Birds - 2012]

Tenebroso - dark, gloomy, murky or a style of painting which violently contrasts light and dark. Also, a brilliant, hour long sonic sculpture by William Fowler Collins.

The title says it all really. What we have here are six pieces of dark ambient noise that paint a vivid picture of some unnamed approaching entity which never quite exposes itself, preferring instead to remain in the shadows, only revealing itself in brief glimpses. This is an unsettling journey into a soundworld of threatening and malevolent sonic underworlds but one which ultimately provides the listener with a rewarding experience.

Beginning with ‘Scythe’ we are greeted with white noise like distant traffic for a minute until a lone piano takes over, melancholy and dissonant, before becoming a stark and angry tune.

Next up is ‘In Valleys’ which begins with low machine hum. Something seems to be approaching but what it is is not clear. Metallic drones appear, becoming louder and more threatening, generating a primal cacophony. Then it backs off, not showing itself yet, High pitched flute like sounds then follow heralding the visitation but still we are not clear what it might be.

‘What you are now we used to be’ is next and follows the same trend. Drones approach, then mid-range frequencies before the whole thing recedes into the distance again threatening to reveal something but not quite doing so, never telling us what they used to be.
 
‘Tapeta Lucida’ gives more clues. The phrase means ‘eyeshine’ – the shine we see in the eyes of animals caught by a light in the darkness reflecting back at us as cold bright orbs. The track itself is a brilliant sonic recreation of this phenomenon, with wind sounds and cold rattling as a distant storm approaches. Waves of sound, like lightning, flash across the soundscape, momentarily shining through the dark as metallic rains appear to intensify the storm.  Finally, a swarm of buzzing insects appear as the track fades away.

Track 5 ‘What we are now you will be’ continues the journey and threatens to turn us into something else – what they are now. Another 10 minute dronescape, the track again pulses and roars like a roiling sea before fading away to leave us with final track ‘Devil’. It starts almost silently for over a minute, building suspense. Slow building low tones then lead to the inevitable appearance of something. Is it the Devil himself? It’s hard to decide as the appearance, when it does come, is a terrifying wall of harsh electronic screeching. It’s so bright and loud after the darkness that we cannot adjust to the contrast. Something is there but we are blinded by the brightness and still oblivious. The track ends abruptly and we are left in silence, still in the dark.

I loved this album. The artist was new to me but the emotions and atmospheres generated were not. If you like dark ambient music or classic eighties horror movies this is a must!

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Dave Biddulph
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