Necropolis [CSR51CD]

Reviewed by Troy Southgate

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NECROPOLIS come from the large Siberian city of Irkutsk, a fortified military centre on the banks of Lake Baikal which also serves as one of the main administrative centres of the Russian Orthodox Church. The city is known for its harsh environment and can be found next to the famous Trans-Siberian Railway that runs all the way down Mongolia in the South. And I did mean South, by the way, not East, which just shows you how far to the East of Russia the city really is. In the early part of the twentieth century, Irkutsk was host to various clashes between the ‘Whites’ and the ‘Reds’ during the Civil War and the military presence is still very apparent today. Necropolis even took samples from disused missile shafts for this very project. There are two lengthy tracks on this album and the first of these, ‘Necrosphere’, was originally released on a CDR limited to just 85 copies. Needless to say, striking a deal with Cold Spring will certainly heighten their notoriety and put Irkutsk on the musical map along with other local heroes such as Belyi Ostrog, Printsip Neopredelennosti and Chyorno-Belye Snimki. Try saying that after six glasses of cheap wine! The cover of the album shows a deserted building full of empty brick fireplaces, broken panes of glass, wooden beams, collapsed pipes and assorted rubble. ‘Necropolis’ runs to no less that twenty-nine minutes and begins life as a rumbling tunnel of medium-pitched droning and discordant shunting. The menacing vibrations sweep across you like an approaching storm, as though you were buried alive beneath a battlefield. This is what Dark Ambient is all about, providing aural props that stimulate the mind and allow the imagination to run wild. The effects remind me a little of the music that accompanies the nightmarish torrents of blood scene from the soundtrack of ‘The Shining’ by Wendy Carlos, but in this case dramatically punctuated on six-and-a-half minutes by a loud and unexpected crash that brings you back to your senses with a start. After that we have a gentle ambient interlude before a return to the claustrophobic surroundings of a subterranean hell. Everything about it is just so bleak and unsympathetically detached from the human condition. It’s as though you were to find yourself in the womb of a monster. One is made to feel thoroughly uncomfortable and ill-at-ease on the one hand, but at the same time one remains aware that this unlikely sanctuary is far preferable to that which is waiting for you outside. An occasional knocking, watery disturbances and passing trains add to the overall uncertainly, but there are welcome moments of calm and tranquillity around the eighteen-minute mark. Synthesised tones, rising and falling, wash over you like a lullaby. But this is merely a brief respite as the distant rumbling and a sound like escaping gas slowly begins to increase. It’s very threatening and oppressive, as the sense of beauty begins to disappear in the face of renewed hostilities. Indeed, towards the end once can just detect the sound of a droning aircraft, almost like the way the old paper planes disturb your dreams as they hum overhead on their nightly journey towards the coast. The second track, ‘Morning Air’, did not appear on the previous release and is just over fourteen minutes in length. The swaying effects that dominate the first few minutes are like taking LSD in a needlework factory. Not that I’ve tried it personally, mind, but the repetitive stuttering sounds like the effect you get when you pat your ears with the palms of your hands. In fact this music seems tailor-made for a trip down to the hallucinogenic mushroom patch and I can only imagine what it must sound like after a large dose of fresh caps and stalks. The constant rumbling and droning of the earlier track are still there, but the ambient imprint which flows across it all has a slight metallic quality. It has all the drama of a new dawn, as the sun rises across a post-nuclear wasteland and illuminates the twisted horrors of the night before. Distorted vocals and a cacophony of radio frequencies add to the effect. This is a very nice album and it will be interesting to see how Necrosphere can develop their sound in the months and years ahead. For more information about this project, contact: