Review Summary: With This Night shows Richards going back to his strange recording processes and his chilling, ambient sound.
Dean Richards, the man behind Disturbed Earth, has made a point to make it easier to argue that at least one of ambient music's purposes is to propel the listener into a sort of meditative haze; it's an argument which never really needed it, since the proof is, after all, in the pudding. What, with so many bands in this genre specializing in reverberating drones and major-vs.-minor interplay, how could the notorious atmospherics not seek to achieve this? It seems that Richards is fully aware of this affect, and that is indeed what makes his latest release With This Night
such a successful continuation of his delectable, enigmatic sound.
The album itself is a collection of layered guitar drones, but the effects that go alongside these sustained notes make the album seem ominous, but equally relaxing. Album opener, "Carillion," is a haunting song composed of plangent chords and atmospheric nuances, traits which carry over to the other tracks on the EP. Perhaps that's a good thing, because Richards works best with timbre and lulling melodies, and the structure he sets up on these three tracks allows him to fully explore all that he does best. On "Shadow" he haunts with typical ambient techniques, like reverberating tones, cold atmospherics, and elegiac chords. The result, while very stereotypical of the genre, is still a fulfilling listen guaranteed to menace the mind and ensnare the senses. The closer, "Softly" takes a new approach, like being blind sided with an ominous sense of emotional positivism. (Well, at least that's what it feels like in comparison to the glum hopelessness of the second track.) Here, Richards shows all the tricks up his sleeve, such as swells, glass reverberations, and even a start-stop dynamic to create an ethereal, soothing sound. But if that wasn't enough, there's the high-art concept to boot.
On With This Night
, Richards plays with recording techniques, something that, over the years, has become part of his aesthetic. The recording process is similar to that of Butterfly
, which was recorded live in 1977 on reel-to-reel tape, but released decades later. (Fun fact: In order to get the best out of his production, he had to unplug the refrigerator nearby his recording equipment.) This time, however, he just goes back to the technique he began to use at that time, recording his material with only two reel-to-reel tape recorders and a single guitar. It's a minimalist approach, of course, but the fact that he used this temperamental process in this day and age is admirable. This lo-fi production ethic doesn't domineer the EP, though; it makes the album feel more personal and truer to Richards's personality and style. Consider it yet another positive aspect of Richards's sound. And while you're at it, consider With This Night
another worthy installment in Disturbed Earth's large discography, as well as the entire genre.