Artist: Ammonite Chamber Exploration & Devonian Dawn
Album: (s/t) Split
Label: Lost Armor
Country: United States of America
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
In the primordial dawn of the world, long before the dinosaurs (longer still before dinosynth) we were all creatures of the ocean. Free-floating the depths of the oceans surrounding the oversized landmasses that were the supercontinents of eons past before we crawled onto the land in our various states to undergo the adaptive radiation that kick-started the dried-out evolutionary processes, of which we are the summation. Recalling those archaic times, or rather, inspired by them Ammonite Chamber Exploration and Devonian Dawn team up to give us (s/t) Split, a title as simplistic and true to point as both the music they have showcased, and the creatures they are hailing at the beginning of the time period of whic they are celebrating.
Simple though the soundscape may appear, it is also rich in-depth and ambiance, that it almost seems embryonic in fashion, hinting at the soon to be explosion of diversity of life that the later Devonian period is known for.
The first four tracks belong to Ammonite Exploration Chamber the first of which, The Shores of Laurussia, is an encompassing piece in that it creates a larger pool of ambient noise and distorted bass thrumings that lay the groundwork(or oceanwork) for a combinational interplay of pulsating blips and waved-out synth chords whose volume swells and drops off in odd time. The result is that it make one feel as if the are within the deep sea genesis of current swilling that culminates into a wave lapping at the shores of the super continent Laurussia. Horsetail Shadows Upon Horn Corals, the following track, begins with a discernible synth chord before it is drawn out and played with in volume and tonality in true drone fashion. One of the interesting points of this track is how it masterfully transitions into a lower end frequency without becoming jarring, as if an undercurrent was sweeping you along deeper into the piece, and put into cooler, and deeper waters in every thassalophobs worst nightmare, when all of a sudden, towards the end of the track there is a resurgence of the tonal and volume play with more dramatic interchanges, that brings you back from the depths and leaves you in shallower, higher toned, waters, implying a sort of brightness. This theme Carrie’s into the third track, Peaceheaven Eternity, where the underlying bass thrummings and trembling a have been cut off, so that this opposition creates a light, airy feeling of floating just below the surface of a gentle rocking between wave crest and trough. Tiktaalik Envy comes on a hit jarring, and is reminiscent of a Boards of Canada b-side from Geogaddi, and is perhaps one of my favorite tracks because of its emblematic nature. This track takes what Ammonite Chamber Exploration has been showcasing for their side of the split and somehow, in an almost oxymoronic fashion when considering it’s placement in the drone genre, amps it up. There are tonal and volume fluctuations, underlying thrimminga that give it depth and a through point to the rest of the split thus far, and even implements a few new tricks like complete track breaks and restarts that seem to imply a fragmenting of familia ordering and reordering as the explosion of life kicks off just before the Devonian Dawn(I.e. the second half of this split) that gave the era the nickname the “Age of Fishes”.
If we were to look at this split as it’s meant to be, we would see two halves of a perfect whole, the early gestation period of an era/it’s subsequent thriving, various mutations that arrive and live or die off according to natural selection/the generalized refinement of specifies situated within a cline becoming more and more fine tuned via adaptation. If Ammonite Exploration Chamber is the random mutations of this era represented in experimentation, then Devonian Dawn is a study in established species honing their adaptive traits within the environment. This is not to say that one is better than the other in the musical sense, rather, they are different tracks, or branches from a similar musical taxonomic order, splitting at the genus level of electronic, or even species level of dungeon synth, and having their respective sub species(genres) of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Drone. All of which is exemplified within the elongated track Trenches of Aquatic Life, Devonian Dawn’s only contribution to this effort, (though far from lack luster, clocking in at just over twenty-seven minutes) in which Myst, the person behind Coniferous Myst, Longsword and many others, stays within a singular framework of drawn-out chords played in slight variations of tonality and depth. Myst then utilizes this framework to their advantage, by layering them just enough to aid in transitional portions without a sonic drop-off, or jarring shift that would disturb the tide pool of dark ambiance.
While either side of this split could be considered a release in its own right, and rightly stand alone by its own merits, the combination of the two creates a specialized hybrid that is worth listening to, and then listening to again. The beauty of this split lies within the evolutionary processes that is akin to the diversification of oceanic and subsequently land-bound earthly life. Simply put, we have on our hands, with this split, two seemingly dissimilar approaches to a genre of music that is taken by way of adjacent subgenres that do not necessarily go together; and yet they are able to co-habitat within the same place within this album and speaks to a healthy array in variation of life during a veritable boom of such within the Dungeon Synth community along with it’s various sub-genres, what is not unlike the Devonian Dawn of several million years ago. Perhaps this is the herald of “The Age of Dungeon Synth” for the underground?
Be righteous by listening to and supporting both Ammonite Exploration Chamber and Devonian Dawn on Bandcamp: