CD, Zoharum, 2008
While there may not seem to be that much happening over the 37-minute span that is Silesian dark ambient producer Hoarfrost’s debut release, “Ground Zero”, it quite rapidly becomes evident that this is entirely the idea: this album is intended to embody the concept of human existence as a disposable commodity. Minimalist though his approach may be, it carries with it an unexpected complexity within its associated atmospheric quality.
The album drags the listener on a journey through an abandoned, desolate wasteland. Degraded, rough electronic impulses stream across yawning chasms, leaving a distinct impression of sonic vertigo in their wake. Crackling, vague signal interference hints at forgotten communications (especially so on “Red Alert” – the only track to utilize any form of vocal sampling) while drawn-out bursts of static rip through the whole on winds of distortion. The included video for “From Here to Ruins” further reinforces this post-human, alien concept: a single viewpoint flashes across rubble and the detritus of a civilization long since consigned to history. Filmed in oversaturated greens and purples set against the dull grey of broken concrete, it carries with it a sense of not belonging, of being a visitor to the scene of some catastrophe – much like the feeling aroused by imagery of the outlying villages and towns around the Chernobyl site. Disaster, destruction and despair all vie for your attention, but it’s the overwhelming sense of loss that prevails – of human existence reduced to nothingness, all its fragility revealed in an instant of annihilation.
“Ground Zero” is thus a prime example of uneasy listening music. It is a musical representation of fallout and not something one can ever be comfortable with. It is thought provoking and unsettling, and this is why Hoarfrost will never be hugely popular. A select audience of pessimists will relate to its message, but most will simply wonder why nothing happens for nearly forty minutes, why there are no easily interpreted builds and breaks to dance to, and why they have an uncontrollable urge to drown their sorrows. If anything, “Ground Zero” is anti-ambient. Instead of creating atmosphere, it entirely destroys it.
— David vander Merwe