Secret Pyramid Movements of Night

[Students of Decay; 2013]

Styles: drone, ambient, space
Others: Solars, Stars of the Lid, William Basinski, Nicholas Szczepanik, Arvo Pärt

Within drone and ambient music, invocations of cold, grandiose landscapes seem ever-more pandemic. These haunted realms that drift between the human and the alien, the semi-lucid and the palpable, seem more and more commonplace than their frighteningly dense, noise-focused brethren, constricting the creative pool with ambient drones that seamlessly drift from one to the other, and then into the ether. It’s rarer to find a work that sets up these near-clichéd atmospheres but then has the audacity to slyly draw its listener in and foster a complete immersion. Movements of Night by Secret Pyramid (Amir Abbey) is one such work. It’s a surreal ambient construction that traverses a vast post-human existence that is just as grandiose as its relations, one that’s also cautiously constructed to ensure an individual voice is present.

It begins with a heartbeat. On “A Descent,” an ever-rising series of chords grow from a thin, vaporous chasm, and as it thickens and makes itself apparent — its lower and higher frequencies revealing themselves — a slow, vaguely human pulse drags itself from the shadows of the enormous behemoth now manifesting as a wave of hissing drone. The heartbeat, a nod to human presence, walks the thin line between connotative beauty and blunt cliché, but it doesn’t really fall into either. The “Descent” that Abbey sets up eventually fades into a higher sheen of ambience that leads into the following track, the heartbeat simply vanishing. Bleak.

Between the interchangeable bases of hazy, dovetailing mists of guitar drones and swirling piano chords that cycle ever onward — always subtly changing, whether it be their overtones, the various long-form delays, or the soft layers added above — Abbey spins out an immense, almost abstract realm that is resplendent but never garishly epic. From the second track “A Quiet Sky,” we are treated to a warped, oscillating guitar-based ambience that moves through a series of subtle variations and instrumental changes all the way through to the next-to-last track, “Depths.” It’s a resigned and funereal drone that sits beneath a surprising crackling hiss, a color now surprisingly sharp compared to the layers of shrouded electronics and strings that Abbey has forced the listener to grow comfortable with.

Ending with “Escape (Fade Out),” Abbey’s desolate space delivers a dejected electric piano figure before rising into an glowing aura of harmonics and stretched vocals that disappear into the void. If this sounds heavy or depressing, it’s not as though Movements of Night is unbearably morbid, more that it’s genuine in its efforts to truly connect and present the artist’s imagined landscape. In this way, it’s extremely evocative, without needing to draw one down to the pits of human despair.

Where Movements of Night succeeds isn’t in crafting a wholly unique aural landscape — and perhaps it would be folly to claim that as Abbey’s intent. The hallmarks of other influential sonic sculptors are apparent — the working instrumentation and methods of craft on this release are well-established by those of the past. What sets this work apart and marks out its uniqueness is the awareness of depth, of space, and how to engineer or even conjure an expanse in which the listener can enter and simply slip away, into nothing but infinite waves of melancholic static and hiss.

Links: Secret Pyramid - Students of Decay

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