CD+DVD, First Fallen Star, 2009
The Norwegian artist Karsten Hamre has been reasonably prolific for a number of years, with projects such as Penitent and Arcane Art, gaining a respectably cult following on the way. This is the latest release of the project with which I am most familiar, Dense Vision Shrine, having had the chance to witness a live performance of the dark ambient act in Prague three or four years ago. Having been reasonably satisfied with the decent music delivered, I did feel it was rather on the generic side and wondered if the potential to rise above the ranks of average dark ambient acts would be realised.
In the mean time I have heard little from Dense Vision Shrine to suggest that he is competing with the big names, which possibly causes Hamre some justifiable frustration, so I was curious to hear how he might have progressed with “Time Lost In Oblivion”. Certainly, releasing a special DVD together with the CD was an ambitious move, suggesting a healthy confidence that there is sufficient demand for Dense Vision Shrine product. So I was pleased with what I found, more interesting and involving than the 2006 album “A Voyage Of Imagination”, albeit still with the occasional, hard to define area for small improvement.
This new album is said to have its roots in the work carried out on the afore-mentioned piece, suggesting that Hamre himself is always keen to refine his art, and features music based on the 2007 album also entitled “Time Lost In Oblivion”. Where previous work may have struggled to hold the listener’s attention or sounded too much like other, typical dark ambient artists, this new work is much more accomplished, coming across as the archetypal soundtrack to a non-existent film. That said, the DVD is slightly disappointing in being only a slide show used for live performances rather than an actual film, but there is some impressive photography on offer. The semi-abstract pieces during “Through Fjords And Burning Skies” and “A Woman’s Cave” were especially pleasing to the eye, almost hypnotic even, but on the other hand, some parts of the disc were a bit too much of pleasant holiday snaps or dull photos of grim streets.
As for the music, highlights include “A Voyage From The North”, with its strange combination of fear and optimism of sailing into unknown waters, and the desolate title track, effectively using minimal synth waves and random metallic sounds to create an appropriate feeling of emptiness. “Through Eternity” features mournful chords over a suitably weary rhythm, which returns in “The Black Forest” in a slightly more sinister manner, and the incongruously titled “The Girl Next Door” closes the album well, leaving me feeling curiously dishevelled and uneasy, but also surprisingly comforted. With the DVD on as background texture rather than constant viewing and in a fittingly melancholic mood, this is a rather satisfying package, especially at the end of a hard day.
— Nathan Clemence