It’s that haunting time of year and as mentioned in the Horror Punk 101 posting a while back, Halloween’s the perfect time to dig up some frightening tracks to set the mood. And while horror punk is all murder, all guts, all fun, according to Samhain, if you’re looking for music that’s truly creepy and unflinchingly dialed directly into the human psyche, you can’t go wrong with these free-flowing, sinister sounds. Completely detached from conventional music constraints, dark ambient artists (typically the pure vision of isolated souls) are able to craft sound art that’s as clear a view into the human psyche as your ever likely to hear. With the tracks on this list, you’ll be blanketed by the darkest, most unsettling sounds ever created — play it for the neighborhood trick or treaters if you want to scare the piss out of them and keep your candy.
Dark Ambient Delights (95.7mb Zip file)
1. Anenzephalia – “Nohaem 3″ (2003)
Any track from this psyche-warping monster would be a fitting start to this list, but track number three from Noehaem is a stunning example of the endlessly expansive possibilities of dark ambient music. With a monotonous beat so slow that the space inbetween beats fills in with waves of sound, emulating the sensation of sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss.
2. Coil – “His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite” (1990)
This group with roots in industrial, noise and experimental scenes encompasses and transcends all those genres, often leading into territory that could later be defined as dark ambient. For example, check out this unnerving track from their Unnatural History collection that’s built from growling sound collage that somehow manages to continually build for 3+ minutes. Also check out their Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser disc which is every bit as chilling, but excluded from this list as it’s too conventionally composed to be considered ambient.
3. Schloss Tegal – “Anthropophagy” (1993)
In case you didn’t have a dictionary, the title of this track is a clinical term for cannibalism — par the course for one of America’s (now based in Berlin) darkest dark ambient groups. This track from their Grand Guignol CD is one of the most ominous tracks on this list, with deep bass textures that build and transform into an ever-evolving mix of menace and calm.
4. Temple of Not – “The Sunken Houses of Sleep” (2005)
This track from a split Rex Ex Ordine Throni LP with black metal band Nightbringer makes the perfect slow motion compliment to the blistering cacophony on the flipside. This side project from two Nightbringer members manages to overshadow the excellent, but somewhat standardized black metal of their main band. You’ll find a much more immersive sonic experience in the waves of cool, Bladerunner-esque tones in this track.
5. Lull – “Moment 1″ (1998)
The initial track from this brilliantly conceived CD (99 ambient tracks that can be played at random for a unique experience every time you listen) is a gently-formed sound cloud for the ultimate chill. Mick Harris (aka Lull) knows extremes, going from drumming blastbeats in Napalm Death to freeform ambient in his Lull project.
6. Rapoon – “Groundswell” (1998)
Zoviet France co-founder Robin Storey made a name for himself in the industrial and noise circles of the 1980s, and continues to be an active soundscape artist with more than two dozen solo releases under then Rapoon moniker. This enveloping track from the The Fires of the Borderlands CD drifts from shifting drones and eerie siren songs into minimal drone. Positively haunting.
7. Crepuscule – “Created” (1997)
From the Music for Decay CD, this ghostly creeper is ambient sound design at its organic best. En Lewellyn (aka Crepuscule) is a mortician by day and dark ambient sound artist by night, existing in a space some between light and dark, life and death, a fitting title for a project called Crepuscule, a word meaning twilight or the period of darkness before or at the end of the day.
8. Lustmord – “Heresy Part III” (1990)
Often credited with starting the dark ambient genre with his Heresy LP, Brian Williams (aka Lustmord) made notable field recordings in slaughterhouses, crypts and caves that capture an unearthly cocoon of sound that are as sinister and frightening as anything you’ll ever hear. His contributions as sound designer for commercials, video games and film cement his reputation as the godfather of the genre, along with recordings throughout the ’80s that pushed industrial/experimental music into darker, abstract worlds.
9. Vidna Obmana – “Flesh Reaper” (2001)
Another long time ambient artist with releases dating back to 1990, Dirk Serries (aka Vidna Obmana) knows his way around isolationist tones and rich, atmospheric soundscapes. “Flesh Reaper” from the Tremor CD is lush with shifting echoed ambience and distant acoustic drums.
10. K-Group/Omit – “Slow Movement Toward the Abyss” (1998)
One of the most haunting and masterful examples of dark ambient drone comes from the B-side of this 7″ collaboration between New Zealand’s Clinton Williams (aka Omit) and Paul Toohey (aka K-Group) released on the US label Colorful Clouds for Acoustics. Also be sure to check out their Storage LP.
11. Omit – “Uniselector” (2002)
Utilizing oscillators and other analog sources, Clinton Williams masterfully crafts hypnotic, polyrhythmic tracks so stark and spacious that you can’t help but be sucked in by their mysterious gravity. There’s almost a warmth to the cool, minimalist tones. From the stellar Rejector CD.
12. Greater Than One – “Trust (Excerpt)” (1990)
Don’t bother looking up the rest of Greater Than One’s tepid discography. Nothing else they did matches the depth and atmosphere of this extended 12″ single which was released as a one-off diversion from their otherwise forgettable goofy industrial funk. What possessed or inspired them to craft this release is anyone’s guess, but what is known is that it’s every bit as moving and brilliant as any other release on this list.
13. Aphex Twin - “Tassels” (1994)
One of the best known artists on this list also put out one of the best dark ambient releases ever. While this techno/acid house king may not lay claim to the genre, there’s no denying the staggering depth and genius of Richard D. James’ (aka Aphex Twin) landmark Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 double LP, which continues to gather new followers with yet another rerelease this year.