A highly powerful set of heavy ambient droning is Oranur III: The Third and Final Report (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR174CD) from Schloss Tegal. What we hold is a somewhat reworked version of a 1995 album (not 1997, as the press release asserts) produced mostly by Richard Schneider with the help of MW Burch; apparently it was among the first pieces of a genre to be labelled 1 as “dark ambient”, and was originally released on the band’s own label, Tegal Records. One of my personal benchmarks for ambient music is Kevin Martin’s excellent Isolationism comp from 1994, and I think it had its “darkish” moments including contributions from the “occluded” side such as Lull or Scorn. I suppose the idea of using the term “dark ambient” didn’t occur to anyone until a year later. Admittedly, the “subject matter” for this album is a fairly menacing one. Of course it is also completely preposterous, and is concerned with Wilhelm Reich and his apparent encounters with UFOs; the booklet features grainy monochrome photographs of flying saucers and short pseudo-scientific essays which summarise Reich’s reports, using phrases such as “DOR manifestations”, “CORE men” and “EA”, proceeding as if these terms were understood and widely accepted in the scientific community. Stories of UFO appearances are related with little in the way of supporting context. This sort of thing makes one almost nostalgic for a period in the mid-1990s when musicians like Disinformation, ECM 323 and John Duncan claimed to be doing “research” linked to their sound art. However, this release also carries the troubling message that it’s “the third and final warning to the sleeping beings of the earth” – a darkly poetical sentiment which almost takes us into that twilight world that sits between philosophy and mysticism, e.g. Nietzsche or Jung.
It is impressive that this very dense and solid sound was made through analogue methods originally. However, the present edition, while “remastered”, has also been doctored in some way; the sleeve note seems to suggest that the original recordings have been enhanced with digital technology, and new recordings or reworkings have been added. Nonetheless, the music here is very compelling for those times when you need a lengthy trek across a churning field of grey mud-like sludge; more than simple “drone” music, Schloss Tegal have found a way to really plumb the depths of their sound, as if sinking a drill into a fathomless pit of oil and dredging up a rich harvest of “Texas tea”. Schneider’s genius is in keeping his UFO music shapeless and eerie at all times, rarely allowing his musical flying saucer to land anywhere near a root note or a recognisable musical pattern. The slightly paranoid theme of the album is sometimes underscored with voice elements, which are deliberately obscured and reprocessed into shadowy, hollow whispers, in the manner of an X-Files fictional CIA agent discussing the behaviours of alien life forms. I get the feeling the musicians spent some considerable time crafting and burnishing these gaseous forms, perhaps spending more time under headphones and behind the mixing desk than a normal man ought to. If true, this may explain the general sense of intense introspection, exile and alienation that is conveyed through this music, more so than the explicitly stated surface theme of aliens from outer space. Then again perhaps Schloss Tegal members were of the disposition that draws them to the work of marginal figures like Reich in the first place.
- by who? ↩