Monty Adkins returns as his alter ego, Skrika, for another foray into electroacoustic ambient. The dark and cinematic soundscapes on Soludenia follow the path forged on last year’s Fifth Nature. Nonetheless, Adkins’s approach just sounds different than most examples of this loose and evolving genre. In addition to synth chords and drones, he manipulates massive swathes of sound that shimmer and move through auditory space. Some of these structures resemble drones, while others are more similar to tone clusters. He eschews going full-on acousmatic, but these tracks exhibit more than a little of those techniques.
On top of all that (which is a lot), Peyee Chen contributes wordless vocals on several of the pieces. Case in point, Pantropic Adaptation includes a two-note chant over bell-like sounds and sculpted distortions. Machine-like rhythms pop in and out of the mix. Toward the midpoint, her chants evolve slightly as the music takes on a disorienting biomechanical character, with sweeping electroacoustics dominating the still-present synths. It is as if a chimeric cyborg is about to leap out of your speakers.
In contrast, Ice Fields of the Eidola begins with quietly intensifying waves accompanied by rumbling and crackling. The latter resembles the skittering of small creatures but more likely represents melting of the titular ice fields. The ecological doom loop signaled by these noises continues with long-held notes guiding distortion across the frequency spectrum, particularly in the low end.
Chen returns for Cerria’s Lament, with an approach more reminiscent of slow-moving song (the words, if any, are still hard to make out). This is the most conventional and emotional piece on the album, with lamentations of yearning and loss. Unlike the other tracks, the backing music is mostly drone and bassy pulses with minimal distortion.
All in the 8-10 minute range, these six tracks are a heady and gripping descent into existential dread. Adkins has established once again that he is not only one of the leading purveyors of this cluster of styles, but also is expanding it into new territory. In doing so, he has created colossal and abstract sounds that are best appreciated at high volume. Very well done.