“Doombience” is a tern that describes electronic music that applies a devotion to oblivion to ambient sensibilities. Stephen Parsick (and his band ‘Ramp) are the exclusive purveyors of this brand of dark tuneage.
The releases examined below span many years and even styles, offering densely layered doombience along with some tastes of peppier tuneage.
STEPHEN PARSICK & COSMIC HOFFMANN: Blasters of the Universe (limited edition CD on Parsick Music)
This release from 2009 offers 74 minutes of dynamic electronic music.
These collaborative tracks were recorded between 1999 and 2001. One piece is a selection from the duo’s live performance at the Jodrell Bank Planetarium in England in June 2001.
Differing from most of Parsick’s doombient work, this release features dynamic synthesizers creating masterful melodies of energetic constitution.
Track one features a conjunction of bouncy keyboards generating an urgent melody of interstellar constitution. A sprightly pace is maintained throughout the piece as the intertwining riffs plunge upwards and outwards, heading for astral glory.
Next, a more stately opening swiftly spirals to stratospheric heights as dual keyboards merge to form a glittering starscape of inspired proportion. Uplifting sentiments are conveyed as the song breaks free from gravity to drift among cosmic medium.
Next, a more brooding temperament is adopted as growling electronics gather and mutate into a flowing expansion of heavenly textures that are soon punctuated by bubbling diodes and dense electronic sweeps. A level of breathtaking intensity is achieved, plunging the ascension into the influence of climactic weirdness.
In track four, meteorological sound samples are used to lend the astral tune a terrestrial flair. A dreamy piano establishes a pleasant melody as birds enter the mix, coaxing the piece into a pastoral disposition which is further enhanced by keyboards exhibiting a cosmic tinge.
Next, a series of soaring keyboard riffs propel the listener into a realm of increasing acceleration. Auxiliary electronic tonalities assist the lift-off. As the central theme persists, additional keys temper the journey with wistful buoyancy.
The live track is next. Here, the duo establish an ethereal zone of celestial serenity seasoned with an effusive expression of nobility. Electric sitar punctuates the flow, approximating stellar novae, as the expanding universe continues to grow beyond infinity.
Next, gurgling electronics and cyclic keyboards conspire to reach an immediate climax of cosmic ecstasy. Seductive riffs swarm in to enhance this pinnacle and maintain its level of euphoric delight. As the piece progresses, the intensity devolves to a twinkling congeniality that crosses undulant sands under a twilight majesty. Reprises of glory occur throughout.
The last track features another astral excursion peppered by mind-boggling peaks as guitar sustains are tortured to an extreme state of quantum distress. An escalation of insistent electronics supports those guitar pyrotechnics, achieving a level of tension that is quite remarkable.
A sense of majestic awe empowers these compositions, communicating the grandeur of outer space with rich melodies and a swelling exhibition of valor. Even shorn of any space age sensibilities, these tunes muster a vital puissance that is wholly compelling.
STEPHEN PARSICK: Cambrium: Music for Protozoa (DDL on Parsick Music)
This release from 2009 offers 79 minutes of cerebral electronic music recorded live at Bochum Planetarium, Germany, on December 13, 2008.
The astral textures employed in this music are designed to create the impression of the audience’s displacement in time, transporting the listeners back through prehistoric ages where they are exposed to hordes of blooping diodes marking the evolution of micro-organisms.
The atmospherics possess an eerie, vaporous demeanor. While maintaining a constant presence throughout the concert, these cosmic airs undergo substantial evolution of their own, swelling to evoke celestial importance and focusing to draw attention to microscopic events.
The bloopings are all generated by an Arp synthesizer, lending the strangeness an earthy character. These sounds are entrancing in their vivacious diversity. They run the gamut from staccato gurglings to undulant stellar winds.
Rhythmics evolve from the sinuous arrangement adopted by the blooping noises. As the music progresses, these pulsating tempos achieve a lavish series of helixes that produces engaging melodies as they swim through the gaseous tonal foundation.
One is witness to the genesis of basic life-forms. Amino acids coalesce and form bonds with each other, producing single-celled organisms that gradually mutate and develop methods to refuel themselves. Habits are gestated, simplistic though they are, bewitching nonetheless in their awesome implications.
Wandering from ambient passages to outbursts of electronic activity, this tuneage is a moving experience.
According to the liner notes, this music was inspired by Parsick’s fascination with an “earth time scale” encountered in Bielefeld’s Arboretum.
STEPHEN PARSICK: Drones and Shimmers: Music for Loop Devices (DDL on Parsick Music)
This release from 2009 offers 61 minutes of ethereal electronic tuneage recorded between 2000 and 2002.
Ethereal auralscapes unfurl and display expansive properties that softly stimulate the dreaming mind.
Track one explores a realm of sustained organ in which the chords are maintained while additional ones generate a sense of gradually evolving harmonics. Rises and recessions provide the illusion of progression, culminating in a gritty conclusion as the layers fuse into a piercing ascension.
In the next piece, keyboard tonalities establish a denser environment in which pulsating chords stretch into expansive eternity. Subtle undulations provide a semblance of cascading waves of tenuous sound, achieving a mesmerizing excursion through agricultural valleys.
Next, e-bowed lap steel guitar is utilized to produce sparse but buzzing drones which muster puissance as the piece progresses. Auxiliary layers introduce an edgy quality that boosts the song’s intensity. While remaining placid, this elevation establishes a haunting demeanor with hints of sheathed teeth.
The next track examines an airborne disposition with ethereal keyboard drones that drift on high. These threads eventually intermingle to form lusher pulsations, evoking a sense of gentle sedation that lasts a long time.
The final piece features an assembly of organ drones, heavily processed vocals, and some string and choral layers to achieve an understated journey into the heart of divinity. The organ tones serve to instill a buoyancy that is swiftly given a heavenly mien with the subliminal introduction of the choral and string elements. The processed vocals become more like a bass tone which generates a quality of awed presence to the mix. The result is a grandiose ascension to levels beyond stratospheric elevation where the majesty of the universe is laid bare.
Ambience with a subtle touch of grandeur.
STEPHEN PARSICK: Rhizophora: Music for Mangroves (DDL on Parsick Music)
This release from 2009 offers 74 minutes of dark electronic ambience.
This auralscape of minimal substance achieves a dark presence with expansive textures that swarm to form roiling clouds of ominous ambience.
Dense atmospherics gather overhead, forming an impenetrable firmament of darkness. While hardly threatening, the sparse tones muster an uneasy disposition with their pensively sighing waves, as if approximating an interplanetary vacuum with their imposing resonance.
Auxiliary tones emerge gradually from the main drone, establishing a momentous presence of even denser inclination. A sense of expectation is conveyed as this ponderous mass of sound accumulates. Eventually, the density disperses, and the music reverts to its prior definition.
Another creeping change enters the mix in the form of an electronic hiss, rising like a series of tidal waves which engulf the temperate drones with their agitation. When this surf finally recedes, it leaves the ambience devoid of its menacing demeanor.
Soon, the introduction of gently grating noises lends a mechanical presence to the flow, as if massive airborne vessels have emerged from the dark vapors to hang overhead. With these ships comes the hint of harmonic tonalities filtering through the ephemeral mix. Solitary beats and traces of chords punctuate the rarefied mists, warning of imminent change.
A swelling of these chords occurs as shrill pitches erupt forth like brilliant beacons stabbing out into the claustrophobic environs. In the wake of this brief display, the soundscape returns to its sparse character, but this time the ethereal medium possesses a trace of optimism (albeit an elusive trace).
The music culminates with a gathering of forces as the waves express themselves with a resurgence of murky determination, reprising the dark opening of the album.
While sparse and generally uneventful, these compositions exhibit a moody cerebral infection that fosters introspection.
STEPHEN PARSICK: Sediments: Music from 1989 to 1994 (limited edition CD on Parsick Music)
This release from 2009 offers 77 minutes of formative electronic music.
This music is presented as a documentation of Parsick’s early development into the realm of electronic music.
The first three tracks come from a debut cassette (The Rotation of Galaxy) in 1989 which Parsick released under the name Ganymed. Here, Parsick uses synthesizers to achieve a very classic sound, spacey and generally drifting. There overall structure is ambient with elongated tonalities peppered with glittering astral bubbles. A moodiness is present in the second piece, characterized by deeper timbre, which the third piece adopts a cosmic disposition as the harmonic flow strays close to a melodic definition with lavishly streaming chords of majestic beauty.
Tracks 4 through 9 come from Parsick’s Polarity cassette release from 1991. Here, melodies are seasoned with rhythms. A sense of animation is very extant, as brisk e-perc propels often nimble-fingered keyboard riffs. The pieces are shorter (than Parsick’s customary ten-minute models), focusing their structure into lively expressions. Some of them possess a distinctly flowing character, foreshadowing his later ambient predilections. A more conventional sonic palette is utilized--flutish keyboards, choral streams, and heavenly airs--bestowing the music with a very retro sound.
The last two tracks come from 1994 and embody a deliberate Klaus Schulze quality with sweeping tones and bubbling effects. Here, the temperament of the music focuses on a cosmic demeanor with a constant melodic ascension punctuated by intentional hints of understated grandeur. The second piece features soft rhythms that lend the song a gentle urgency, while airy synthesizers generate a pastoral mood, one that strives for altitude but keeps things well within the planetary atmosphere.
A tasty glimpse into Parsick’s electronic evolution.
‘RAMP: Doombient Zero: Van Dik Hout Zaagt Men Planken (DDL on Extended Moment)
This release from 2009 offers 68 minutes of retro electronic music recorded live at the Sixth Alfa Centauri Festival in Huizen, the Netherlands, on April 10, 1999.
Joining the band for this performance is Stefan Kraft, who supplied rhythm programming for one track.
Here, ominous auralscapes provide bridges for dark melodies that lead to auspicious pinnacles, only to be swamped by brooding depths that perpetuate the cycle.
The doombience is stark and austere. Textural flows evoke a distinct sense of being lost in the void. Excruciatingly elongated chords lend portentous substance to these ethereal passages.
The melodic interludes display laudable influence from the retro Berlin School of electronics, with dense keyboards delineating undulant harmonics while snappy e-perc establishes rhythmic embellishment. While these tunes retain a dark temperament, they flourish with a buoyant mesmerism that is quite attractive.
Multi-layered keyboard loops intermingle with addition keyboard threads, generating a lush trance for all within earshot. Harmonics build into complex structures of resonance. The resulting melodies are sinuously engaging. Each of these pinnacles exhibit gradual builds to momentous vitality before sliding out of audibility as they sink into the textural bridges.
E-perc plays a integral part in this music, creating harsh-yet-sultry tempos that lurk within the rippling tuneage like spinal columns made of writhing snakes.
The set’s original finale has been replaced by a studio recording of that tune...but then the excised song is included as a bonus track.
‘RAMP: Doombient Four: Caverna Larvarum (DDL on Extended Moment)
This release from 2009 offers 56 minutes of haunting electronic music recorded live at Dechenhohle Iserlohn, Germany, on October 26, 2002.
Joining Parsick for this performance is: Edgar Hellwig (on tin whistles on two tracks), Marcus Reuter (on assorted touch guitar drones and loops on a track), and Mark Shreeve (from Redshift) (on massive moog modular sequence on another track).
Severe textures establish an auralscape of densely haunting demeanor.
Moody electronics serve to generate a dire sonic environment seasoned with artificial chorales. Unfurling into expansive layers, these auspicious electronics achieve a decidedly dark and ominous presence. Selected impacts punctuate the flow, evoking nervous incidents amid the roiling gloom. Gradually, separate threads surge into dominance only to recede and allow fresh tangents to flourish.
While the soundscape is mainly harmonic, tenuous elements contribute hints of imminent melodics, which are usually swamped by subsequent drones that resolutely maintain the music’s dreamy flavor. (Dreamy is a misnomer; nightmarish is more apt, although no overt scariness is utilized. The flow conjures a steady mood of menacing edginess.)
Reuter’s guitar stylings blend perfectly with the shrill pulsations. Piercing tonalities blaze in the distance, like beasts in great suffering.
Meanwhile, Shreeve’s presence initiates a bulky rhythmic passage. Enormous metallic hulls collide in a portentous tempo. Excruciating wails express mechanical pain.
Eventually, the ubertones achieve a subdued, almost pensive authority. The sweeping drones marshal themselves to generate an extension into the murky shadows of tomorrow, leading to the concert’s conclusion.
Perhaps some of this stygian moodiness can be explained by the fact that the band performed this music in an underground grotto, surrounded by a hundred candles.
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