Steel Glares and Night Shadows.

(Obs / Still Sleep 2012)

What sonic potential lies beneath the surface of natural materials? How can these be unleashed to create a mood unrealised in their natural form? These questions are explored in “Steel Glares and Night Shadows”, a new collaborative release by Russian sound artists Five Elements Music and Denis Shapovalov.

As the title suggests “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” is both industrial and dark in tone. Loops of manipulated sound merge with deeply pitched drones, creating a dystopian soundscape which never loses its tension. There is little to distinguish the five tracks from one another, each running between five to fifteen minutes. Yet this is not a criticism. Over the course of “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” the artists immerse the listener into a hypnotic world where sounds border on the edge of familiarity.

In “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” the treatment of the original field recordings uniformly renders them into an eerie metallic tone, resulting in mental images of deserted industrial zones at the onset of night. In this composition there is little hint of any biophony, instead the sounds that reside within cement and steel dominate the soundscape. We are left to guess the source of tiny clicks and scratches that gently appear from the depths of the composition, though from reading the artist statement we can assume they are primarily generated from interacting with metal, glass and wood. However identifying the source of each click and scratch isn’t the main focus of this release. Instead “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” intends to take us into a deep emotional state through the swirling mass of treated sound.

Listening to “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” is a reminder of how composition can be as much about the experience of travelling into one’s own mind as it can be about a specific geographical space. Whilst many field recordists and composers journey to remote areas in order to present their representation of space, Five Elements Music and Shapovalov use unidentified field recordings from the cityscape to move us inwards. Consequently “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” could be described as an ambient composition, or more narrowly, dark ambient.

The powerful effect of this Russian release shows the ongoing relevance and development of ambient music. Although the term “ambient” is often confused with muzak and new age relaxation music its original intention was far from mundane. In 1978 the godfather of ambient music, Brian Eno, explained it as “an atmosphere, a tint…designed to induce calm and space to think”. Eno also emphasised the importance of ambient music’s non-intrusive qualities stating that “it must be ignorable as it is interesting”. In this respect “Steel Glares and Night Shadows” continues the lineage of Eno’s musical philosophy and approach, an atmosphere is created and sustained which somehow colours the background of the listener’s thoughts without ever being intrusive. It is subtle, beautiful, and formidable.

[Sergey Suhovic left, Dennis Shapovalov, right]

-Jay-Dea Lopez

Sergey Suhovik discography
Denis Shapovalov discography
Still Sleep website

Jay-Dea Lopez

Sound artist and journalist at Sounds Like Noise.