The Dark Ambient Community At Large
The Dark Ambient Community At Large
I have come to realize several things about the dark ambient genre and its greater community. I would like to share them with you. First off, I’m sure this will be a given for many, but when I say “darkness”, I do not only mean spooky. Darkness in the context of dark ambient manifests itself in a variety of ways. The heartbreak of a lost love. A peaceful walk through the woods on a cool evening. Extra-terrestrial lifeforms visiting our planet. A crackling fire inside an arctic cabin. A mental tour of the cosmos. These are all dark experiences. Dark, just like the man locked inside a cell, hallucinating, as he falls deeper into his insanity. Or, like the raising of evil spirits by means of seance or satanic ritual. The greatest common denominator here seems to be a sense of solitude.
Now may be the greatest time to be a fan of dark ambient. There are a plethora of new projects releasing every month. This is beautiful, because many of the veteran artists and trailblazers for the genre are still planted firmly in the center of the scene. New projects are cropping up around the globe. Meanwhile, veteran artists like Simon Heath of Cryo Chamber and Frederic Arbour of Cyclic Law are doing everything in their power to keep the momentum moving. Cold Meat Industry was a benchmark label for the genre of dark ambient. It may be gone, but many other suitable labels have cropped up around the globe. Add to this the advent of Bandcamp, a website which has changed the face of underground music. Now, dark ambient artists are more poised than ever to make a splash in the musical world.
Consider the global scale of this musical movement. It can be quite surprising to realize how much these artists have in common on a personal level. I have talked to many of the leading artists in the genre over the last few years. Through these conversations it has become clear to me that a love for nature and darkness is almost unanimous. There is a sort of timidness to the genre, a sense of realization that we are not the makers or keepers of our universe. Often, we aren’t even the keepers of our own livelihoods, personae, or mortality. This humbling realization may have been a defining factor from the beginning. But, by this point in the genre’s evolution, it seems to be a given.
These artists seem to have so many common interests. So it is no wonder that we are seeing more and more collaborative work. We aren’t just seeing collaborations between artists who live in the same town. Dark ambient artists are collaborating on a global scale. Collaborating in a way that might be a first for the musical community. I can’t think of another genre which has such a global yet close knit community of artists.
This humble nature also seems to seep into many of the geopolitical topics covered by the genre. Dark ambient albums are less likely to show active signs of aggression toward anyone or anything. Instead, we often fall into the roll of the oppressed. Take the topic of the apocalypse, one that seems to have been beaten to death by the genre and yet manages to continue to feel fresh and relevant. The scenario usually goes: Our governments have corrupted our politics, our waters, and our atmosphere. Now that our brief window of cultural and technological paradise has passed, what is left for us? Many an album answers this question from their own unique perspective. Yet, few artists within the dark ambient framework ever take on the role of the oppressor. We are not the ones doing the destroying, we are the destroyed ones. We can also look at examples of polar dark ambient type albums. Often depicting a frozen planet, maybe right after the dinosaurs, or during our last minor ice age. At a time when humanity had not yet discovered all the tools to destroy mortals and the Earth. Conversely, we could be witnessing a planet which has succumbed to a nuclear-induced ice age. Again, in these albums we are looking at a sort of innocence lost. Maybe even an innocence rediscovered. A time and place in which the hunt, staying warm, and surviving are the utmost concerns.
Another telling sign of this union of minds is the prevalence of atheism within the community. Yes, there are many believers in old religions. Religions associated with nature. But, even these people share the same feelings toward popular religions, persecutions, and ignorance. It’s as if we have all been oppressed and so we respect the fragility of others. Yet this often can become more of a cautionary tale against collective ignorance than a call to peace. It would seem that many dark ambient artists have a ‘live and let live’ mentality. There is rarely ever a political motivation behind these cautionary stories. It seems like the popular sentiment is: go ahead and destroy the planet, but if you do, this is what you can expect. We live in a time when political opinions are exceedingly polarized. This sentiment of passivity could be the best thing for the longevity of the genre.
A combination of these similarities in views are why the community has done such a great job of coming together and respecting one another. I have seen almost no animosity from one dark ambient artist to another. Where else in the world can you currently find a niche, where Americans, Russians, Greeks, Swedes, Aussies, and Iranians (among many others) all come together under one peaceful banner. Not uniting to start some sort of revolution, but to enjoy the talents and company of one another. The template set here is impressive and could teach a few important lessons to the global consciousness.
Written by: Michael Barnett