CD, Cyclic Law, 2011
Vortex’s “Rockdrill” is the newest release from dark ambient label Cyclic Law. Though Vortex has a previous full-length release, via Tesco Organisation, I am not familiar with their work. After listening to this for a few minutes it is readily apparent that Vortex is a good fit at Cyclic Law.
The album opens up with “Rockdrill I” which is a tremendously shadowy, subtly melodic droning piece that slowly builds and crescendos into some driving martial drumming, which continues for the second half of the piece. Overall, this reminds me a lot of Sophia. Oddly, the following song, “Canto Spoleto”, changes gears completely, as it is an extremely minimal composition which consists of little more than a few plucks of a stringed instrument and spoken vocals for its duration. Though boring, it manages to conjure the thoroughly creepy and archaic atmosphere of being alone in the midst of a strange bog. And it’s nice to have an album that is not simply ten tracks of drones.
The rest of the album is something of a combination of these two ideas. Most of the tracks are droning ambient soundscapes littered with distant banging and percussive elements similar to the opener, though the spoken vocals resurface occasionally in a couple places. The vibe of the music recollects something perilously mysterious of deeply ancient and organic origin; I find myself constantly getting mental images of primordial human plight. Tracks like “Persistence”, “Asylum”, and “The Fall” utilize melodic drones, the occasional synthline, and heavily reverbed, crunchy industrial percussive sounds which lend them something of a horror film score vibe – a bit similar to “Seishinbyouin”-era Atrium Carceri or old Raison d’être. Overall, fans of industrial-tinged dark ambient (with a pinch of neofolk) should really like this one.
My only complaint with the release is the extremely murky production. To provide an example, it sounds like the Sophia releases. This muddy sound does help to bolster the extremely eerie and uncertain mood, but in many places it becomes a bit difficult to tell what is actually happening in the track, as all the droning sounds melt into one large cesspool of obscurity. If the production was better this record would easily be a 9+. It sounds like it was made a long time ago, which could be taken as positive or negative. However, one cannot argue that it unquestionably embodies extreme darkness.
Overall, this one will definitely appeal to fans of the style and label. Especially so for those who are fans of Sophia, Atrium Carceri, Yen Pox, etc.
— Dan Barrett