Aeoga - Temple Treye [Aural Hypnox - 2014]
Chillingly tense ritual ambient project Aeoga was possibly the darkest and greatest of the 'Helixes' collective of artists released by Aural Hypnox, a Finnish label which prides itself on its mysteriousness, very limited runs and meticulous, handmade magickal packaging.
For years, "Coav" and especially "Zenith Beyond the Helix-Locus" were my go-to albums for razor sharp, unimaginably vivid evocations of frightening and unforgiving landscapes - serious tools for psychedelic journeying on the level of Coil or The Hafler Trio. To my ears, the newer releases from the label haven't quite upheld the mystique of the older ones, which were immediately striking in their utter alienness, striking at psychic frequencies beyond emotion.
On "Temple Treye", classic Aural Hypnox elements are present - odd atonal horns that could be conch shells or bones, dusty and similarly boneline percussion, feedback drones with tense wavering beats of dissonance, and the occasion distant murmer of a voice. Oddly, I associate the previous albums of Aeoga with a more heavily processed electronic sound, disembodied from all human reference, but the sort of sound on this album is often found on albums by labelmates Arktau Eos and Halo Manash.
The sound engineering on this album is a lot less 'bright' and immediate in feeling than in the case of "Zenith Beyond...". There is a general murky distance to all of it, which served to make it easy to tune out by accident, in my case. I am not used to accidentally tuning out any Aural Hypnox release: as a matter of fact, what initially caught my attention about the label was the incredible unease the artists could create with intense minimalism and near lack of sound.
This is the sort of place where even with a torch or candle the light would be so swallowed that making anything out would be impossible. This utter dimness places it closer to the muffled wind currents and remote war drums typical of modern dark ambient, which had grown to be a heavily flooded genre even before most of Aural Hypnox' original releases. The indistinct, familiar swells that undulate from the black mass of silence may eventually find meaning only to cave dwellers or to the utterly obsessed. I certainly can't muster the enthusiasm for such a relentlessly (and often pointlessly) 'grimm' genre as I used to, especially when I hear that l little has developed or changed.
The feeling of intended 'ritual' is evident; there is a meditative, even softness with which the musicians strike each tone from the various organic noisemakers. In the end, though, there is a sleepiness to this recording, and the tension that is created often dissolves with sluggish meandering. "Zenith Beyond..." was so engaging largely because it was divided into 15 short, contrasting pieces, a larger narrative strung from small vignettes. This kind of momentum is just not present on this album.
In conclusion, Aeoga didn't pull me as deeply into altered state as they have managed to in the past. I don't particularly mind anything about this album other than its slightly more generic, unfocused character - the sound textures are pleasing and fitting to the label's sound - but I would consider this to be a disappointing follow up to "Zenith Beyond the Helix Locus", one of my all time favorites. Perhaps a new dimension will open to me with this one in time, but it seems to lack the manic fire that made me excited for the group to begin with.Josh Landry