CD, Force Of Nature, 2006
Following the release of the EP “Morphine Dawn” in 2004, “Under A Morphine Sky” is the debut full-length release by California-based 15 Degrees Below Zero, a project which evolved from the remnants of industrial/experimental act Imperial Floral Assault Unit.
Evolving from power electronics into introspective dark ambient, “Under A Morphine Sky” takes the listener on a haunting aural voyage of highly immersive soundscapes, that demands the listener’s undivided attention and can only be fully appreciated in the isolation which is achieved solely through the use of headphones. Technically, 15 Degrees Below Zero refer to their music as “structured improvisation”, a term which makes perfect sense upon hearing this album and which is tied to their origin as what would be a one-off Noise band effort. This piece of information, while not essential to appreciate “Under A Morphine Sky” does give some insight into the aural structures of this industrial-noise/dark ambient album, in which effectively nothing seems to be predetermined but which anything but chaotic.
An interesting aspect, is the inclusion of guitar work as a defining element in 15 Degrees Below Zero’s music; not a very common element in this genre of music, it adds to the appeal of this project’s musical compositions and makes them even more unique. “End Of Message”, might be considered ‘just another’ competent power electronics track, if it wasn’t for the guitar element which, starting melancholic and distinct from the electronics, evolves and merges with them finally recovering its individuality, in what is a very adequate introduction to this album and easily one of the stand-out tracks.
Following up on the opening track, the first half of the album is a succession of immersive and haunting tracks bordering on the obsessive, of which “The Cliff House Jumpers” is a highlight and “Watching” develops into an angst-ridden construct reminiscent of Haus Arafna. Another highlight is “The Final Result”, which evolves from several crescendos and plateaux of seemingly chaotic ambient noise leading to the rather soothing but still somewhat tense “Obsession” – a track which is in some aspects reminiscent of works by Mlada Fronta. The interaction between acoustic guitar and electronic noise ambient in “Downs, Part Two” is rather organic and provides a fitting closure for this album.
While not a ground-breaking piece of work “Under A Morphine Sky” is an excellent release and sure to appeal to aficionados of industrial noise and dark ambient as well as to anyone with a broad taste in music and should be checked out. For those not into this kind of music and who may be curious about, it is a rather good piece as well.
— Miguel de Sousa