Miasmah have a chilling history when it comes to cutting the lights. A renewed fear of the dark embraces all conscious thought, breathing life on fiery, doomed wings. Experiencing a release from their enviable roster becomes exactly that – an experience, and it’s one that you’ll remember long into the night. Phobias writhe when the dark comes, and it isn’t just a primeval instinct that saved our ancestors on more than one occasion. Now, with Black Tie, it’s made very real, so real that it sits right in the midst of our presence; you just can’t see its face due to the dark. You might not think you need rescuing after the first couple of seconds; a profound pride might stop you from making the emergency call and shutting down your stereo system. If you’re still not afraid, you will be after listening to the dark ambient of Black Tie. Black Tie heaves the suffocated breath of untrustworthy oscillations, dripping from above like black icicles forming black pools. If music is reflective of certain environments, then Svarte Greiner, the alias of Erik K. Skodvin, pulls in the cold, stark beauty of Norwegian imagery and clouds it further with sharp air. Black Tie is most definitely black. This isn’t a highway at night, where stained light sources beam through the windshield every other second. On Black Tie, there is no light.
Black Tie stands on its own, but the title track was originally featured in an installation by fellow Norwegian Marit Følstad. Deaf Center’s sound cannot be replicated, but Skodvin, as one half of the duo, should know a thing or two when it comes to bad omens and haunted atmospheres. In reality, there are only surface-similarities between the two, and they’re the ones that you’d expect – the bleak power of Black Tie lies dormant, but it is always very, very close to the surface. Greiner’s music is a potion all of itself, still carrying the cut-throat threat of nature but incredibly aware and sensitive to the beauty of the dark. Even though Black Tie is the darkest of dark ambient, it isn’t always obvious in its intent; it’s subtle and conniving, conspiring inside the drones with a malevolent intelligence. Greiner lays into Black Tie with a crushing atmosphere that isn’t without a unique slant of beauty, but it is one that requires caution to approach. Caged inside Deaf Center’s music there exists an icy abandon, resentful of its forgotten state among the cold forests, pale ravines and secluded, barren caves, where the scraped incantations on the inner walls enter into the music, absorbed completely. Resounding in pitch and appearing in Greiner’s own bowed strings, the unnatural atmosphere blends with the natural environment until they are one and the same; an uneasy couple. Greiner’s atmospheres are laden with the pitch-black regions of the soul, without being soulless.
A nerve-shredding atmosphere clasps you, but it never becomes unbearable; there’s an unhealthy, guilty pleasure in the unfolding horror, like looking through private windows, or the car crash caused by the pitch-black sections on a midnight road, the blink of a second where no light is found on the highway. Black Tie also has its contrasts; the deliberate, evil planning and the act itself. The cello resembles a carved, wooden timbre dusted by a thousand statues, still and silent. The stark cello scrapes through the cold air with no prospect of morning’s hope. Advancing to an explosive, imposing point, a series of sonic booms shudder outwards, sending distorted, gritty shockwaves echoing through the catacombs of the decimated imagination.
Every repetition adds another trickle to an increasing pool of restraining tension. Erupting suddenly, the seeded thought settles into a psychotic mind, in a horror film that has not yet been thought of, let alone begun shooting. And then, the original, black thunder possesses the track once again, removing the threat of the advancing music, strangling what-was-to-be and forcefully reaffirming complete control of its own destiny. A slow moving progression only makes the atmosphere even more foreboding; the lack of pace acts against our ability to run, like the exit that never gets any closer during a nightmare’s finale. A barren panorama reveals itself, waiting for a climax fit for the flood that you know is coming; it will happen, and nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing can stop it. Always amplifying, all the time, the sense of dread is infused with a slight sliver of paranoia that instantly raises the hairs on your neck and sends little shivers down the back of your spine. Is the presence in front, or behind you? Despite the fear, it’s tempting to turn around and see for yourself.
‘White Noise’ is truly cold-blooded, penetrating deeply, past the zone of suggestive dread and into full-on ambient doom, where the unmasked face of fear lives and breathes amid disillusionment and suffocation. It digs into your skull, through the psychological shutters that otherwise repel any horrific thought. Through the violence, the final scene is left unedited. Like the final, cautious walk through a trail over blood-stained floorboards. The rumbling bass subsides, but it isn’t just a bass frequency – it’s intrusive and invasive. Ascending and then falling, like disfigured phantoms hiding in a dark sky covered with black cloud, the once-subtle doom arrives on voices that used to be angelic; now they retreat down below, crying their mutated song of brutality and agony as they descend into the depths. This kind of fear doesn’t wear a mask; it may not be the prettiest, but it doesn’t hide its looks either.
And then the shivers return – the cold will do that – encapsulating the Norwegian chill under the cover of darkness. Full dark, no stars. You find yourself faced with unstable shudders that hide your worst fears; and yet, it’s impossible to look away. Transfixed, the unhealthy light behind the door becomes addictive. Sliding across the speakers comes a rustling entity, creeping ever closer underneath a rising, dissonant drone. Just when you thought it was safe, you discover that the aftermath has knocked out the electricity – the one constant that previously kept the spirits away. Now, the surging, black mass of squirming water has destroyed the reassurance of the safety in light that used to emanate from the now-useless power supply.
Black Tie awaits you in the darkness – and there aren’t any second guesses as to who’s behind the blackout. Lights across the street flicker back to life, but not here. The wires have been cut in a primitive act of vicious fury. The feeling of invasion breathes down your neck and your heart races along the afterburn of rhythmic drone, spilling out the last drops of blood in a red fountain, destined to produce a new kind of flood, as it traces along the boards as a river traces the Norwegian landscape. The power cut was just an illusion. It’s too late to discover the lights were already out.