posted on 5/2008 By:
Darsombra is the ambient project of one Brian Daniloski, also of Meatjack and Suckpig, and Eternal Jewel is his second release under the Darsombra name. It feels strange to say that I liked the last album better, the last effort of random feedback, guitar drones, and various spacey whatnots, but it's true. I checked out that record after reading Mr. Mooring's review of it—I was expanding my horizons, and I was thinking that maybe I could find some ambient artists that were worthy of repeated listens, which I did in Darsombra. Of the two records, Eternal Jewel is a step down from its elder brother.
The biggest difference I find between Ecdysis and Eternal Jewel is that, where the former is a genuinely intriguing and unsettling listen, filled with a droning melancholy, the latter record seems less inspired, losing the darkness in favor of what I would describe as a more “straightforward” or “traditional” ambient approach. The album opener “Auguries” features interlocking guitar melodies that play off and around one another; the chiming delayed guitars in “Drops Of Sorrow” are almost Radiohead-like and add a decided post-rock feel to the album. Only “Night’s Black Agents” displays the creepiness that Ecdysis played so well, and long before the end of that song’s sixteen minutes of squall, the mood shifts from eerie to irritating. (“Drops” also overstays its welcome, although at only eight minutes, it’s not as egregious an imposition.) “Lamentings / Auguries” is the record’s saving grace; its balance of feedback and Pink Floyd-like space-rock guitar is truly mesmerizing.
Also lacking on Eternal Jewel (outside of “Lamentings”) are the moments of more complete song-craft that helped Ecdysis transcend the limitations of the style, like the slow industrial-meets-krautrock stylings of “My House.” In those moments, that record managed to overcome the inherent conundrum faced by all ambient recordings—how to engage the listener with an art-form designed to be background noise—and it did so by being more than just spidery guitar doodles atop one constant keyboard note. Often Daniloski would augment the bare-bones instrumentation by overlaying odd vocal lines (like the preaching during “Drag The Carcass”) or the mechanized slow percussion in “My House.” Eternal Jewel, however, keeps closer to the half-joking description above, losing all human voice, and thus it runs headlong into the very same “fade into the background” problem that plagues most other ambient records.
So it would appear that I’ve written a review not only of this album, but also of the prior one, but so be it… In one respect, as something of a dark ambient newbie, I’m lucky. Had I gone about my exploration of Darsombra in reverse chronological order—this one before the previous one—then I’d have likely stopped here, written the whole thing off as just a man with a guitar and too much time, and I’d have missed out on Ecdysis altogether. The bigger fans of dark ambient will find some bits of worthwhile atmosphere here, but to casual fans or anyone new to the band or the style, I say check out the earlier work first before progressing to this one. Darsombra is a good project, and Eternal Jewel has its moments, but it’s a definite regression from the starting point of Ecdysis, and that’s, put colloquially, a bit of a bummer.
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