Review Summary: O, what elegantly crafted ruin
You’ve got to wonder about Peter Andersson. To create music like you’re walking through the wastelands of an extinguished hell isn’t exactly something done while riding on unicorns and rainbows. Traditional ambient of course took it’s inspiration from the world around it, the hum and bustle of the world being the canvas to paint their own scoundscapes. Raison d’etre, Andersson’s dark ambient project has done just the opposite – The Empty Hollow Unfolds doesn’t simply accent moods and textures – it creates entire worlds of them. Worlds in ruin, torn and broken, a post-apocalyptic vision translated through music. Of course, while there’s never really been beauty in ruin… oh what elegantly crafted ruin it is.
The most apparent thing that strikes out from this record is its sheer lifelessness, with the only warmth here is a lingering one from a vibrance long past dead, a wandering dread loitering in the air. Even the closest thing to life that resides on the album, the gothic choirs which feature so prominently throughout, play their role in the tradition of the ancient Greeks choirs as faceless spectators, uncaring and unfeeling, their voices lingering only to watch the lonely journey of the music. The music itself, if you can call it that, remains forever distant – shadows and echoes of sounds off grey stone masonry, never with any clear source, forever in the atmosphere of things. It’s an album that is cold, dead, and most strikingly – alone.
The bedrock of these songs is the rolling, rumbling bass like undersea currents sifting through the music, which set up the foundations of Andersson’s finely sculptured music. Opening track The Slow Ascent
is simply that, with it’s low end only broken by the subtle tinkering of wind chimes and choral flourishing like an omen of things to come, while the twenty minute exhausting closer that is The Eternal Return and the Infinity Horizon
seems like the sort of music you’d want to listen to while exploring an unexplained underwater shipwreck, with it’s distant ship siren calling like a ghost of a dead crew.
However gapingly vast this album remains, it is in fact the subtleties and nuances that make this record worth listening to. The quiet rustling of pacing steps in The Hidden Hollows
place the listener right within the music, while the aptly named The Wasteland
builds itself from the sounds of scraping metal on metal – Cold and dead, its lifeless, distant screaming as chilling as that of any voice. Yet, despite the tension that lies underneath everything, it’s hard not to notice that it never allows itself to break, remaining a dormant monster who admittedly looks quite scary, but with no claws and teeth to bite with.
The other problem with Peter Andersson’s ambient project is that it’s… well, an ambient project. The Empty Hollow Unfolds may be the ultimate mood album, but it’s also made for a specific one, not lending itself to an everyday casual listen. Despite its five song track listing, The Empty Hollow winds out for just over forty minutes of immersive listening and it’s hard not to be utterly drained by its sheer soullessness. Some of course will simply find this boring and bland, which might be the case, but then again, perhaps you shouldn’t be listening to ambient
music in the first place. Right up there with contemporaries like Lustmord and Tim Hecker, it’s nice to a moody album that works – when you’re up for it.