Babalith hail from Portugal, a nation not widely known for it's dark ritualistic ambient so I was intantly curious of how this would turn out. This release is part of a joint venture of Britain's Sombre Soniks and Finland's Cursed Tapes, named 'Thee 23 Sessions' and it's the first one in line. It's been out for quite a while now but we thought we might as well give it a go.
So Babalith perform dark ambient of the ritualistic kind, with a dose of field recording thrown in. At least that's what I think it is. It's kind of hard to make out through all the digital processing. Because of this, Babalith is definitely on the noisy side of the ambient spectrum, so if dreamy, soothing ambient sounds are more your cup of tea you should stear well clear of this. That said, I quite enjoyed it. It's creepy, mysterious and has some interesting use of signal processing. You're constantly kind of wandering (well, at least I was) what the source of the sounds is. Often it feels that eerie voices bubble up from underneath the mix. Other times it is as though there are animal sounds being processed. And ever present is this harsh, digital fuzz in the background accompanied by what appears to be traffic sounds, or sounds of a deserted city at night. For most of the time it's not very rhythmic, although synthesized rhythms pop up every once in a while. Quality wise it is recorded, mixed and mastered pretty darn good. The layering of the sounds is good and even though it is often noisy, it never gets blurred and remains clear throughout the whole playing time.
As much as I enjoyed it, there are some major drawbacks to this release. For most of it's 23 minutes, it just moves along without ever having a sense of direction. I know that dark ambient doesn't necessarily have to have a well-defined beginning, a build-up and an ending but the way this is presented it is more of an abstract collage, than an actual musical piece. Which is fine if that is what Babalith intended it to be. I would like for it to have more of a story-like structure or a more defined concept. As it stands now it is certainly interesting soundwise but it fails to draw the listener in. After the initial few listening sessions I felt I heard everything there was to hear. And really, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the abrupt ending. I know the concept was to have it at 23 minutes, but to just brutally cut it off with a quick fadeout is unacceptable in my view.
All in all, Sombre Soniks and Cursed Tapes have created an interesting concept which will hopefully produce a nice amount of interesting releases. This, the first one, fills me with mixed feelings. Soundwise I am all for it, structurally I feel it falls short. To end this on a positive note, it DID make me curious about Babalith's output. If that manages to be more engaging structure-wise I'm sure we will hear more from this Iberian act.