The Loneliness of the Deep Sea Diver is an undersea sound in which Arrowounds, the experimental electronic project of Ryan S Chamberlain, explores the depths of suffering, isolation, and loneliness, perhaps brought on by being lost at sea, after the boat has shattered and tragedy has struck, and after the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor. You’re being seduced by sirens and they’re grabbing you, taking you under, pulling you into the deep. Arrowounds designed The Loneliness of the Deep Sea Diver with aquatic lore in mind, primarily creating a simple, single concept…but it grew and evolved into something of many strands and tentacles. Scattered sonar blips and scribbles of incoherent sound bubble up from the depths, as if picked up by radio frequencies. Lifeboats circle the area where communication was lost. Chamberlain’s storyline grew out of the sea diver’s fate, namely a nautical exploration attempt that ended in tragedy. Trapped below the surface, succumbing to fear, paranoia, and hallucinations brought on by sensory deprivation and low oxygen levels, the diver’s sense of reality is quickly submerged in the unreal.
Chamberlain’s own feelings are tied to the music, too, taking him into the depths along with the sea diver in his role as a caregiver, and someone close to him who was going through the ordeal of treatment for cancer. Chamberlain and the diver both share the experiences of a loss of control, understanding, and suffering, but the music also brought comfort to him, clinging onto it like a life-raft while a personal storm raged on and on; the music gave him an outlet and he submerged himself in it, a safe place where he could channel his emotions.
Although the diver succumbs to the depths, the recording was a therapeutic process and a way out of a nightmare, escaping even by venturing further into it. By confronting it, he was able to first exorcise and then expel it through musical release, and Chamberlain has called this ‘tape loop therapy’. He worked on loop-layering, rhythm, and decay, staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead. Eventually, some solid fragments of sound emerged from the aural wreckage, coming out from the depths. Its insular and claustrophobic atmosphere translates well to the theme of a stranger in an alien world – that being the all-engulfing ocean and the presence of a lone survivor, a tiny speck of life floating in the great unknown – but there are other survivors, too: the loved one receiving the treatment and Chamberlain himself – both battle-scarred, but able to tell the story.
The sounds are deep and as heavy as an anchor. Some are suspended, floating in the sea, while other segments squeal like a hulk of rusting metal. You can brace for impact, but in this record, the impact is a distant, fragmented memory, blurred by the blue and a slow suffocation as equipment is drained of oxygen. The later, thumping beat of ‘Sunken Phantoms / Hollow Earth’ is muffled thanks to its submersion, and it’s reminiscent of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project, but this is liquid music, where the aquatic is home. The rhythm itself has the syncopation of a ventilator, further blending the two strands. In reality, escape is possible. Down here, in the music, the diver’s only escape is the imminent relief of death.