Accidental Tones – In The Dark

A few days ago, I received a message from Michael Bryce, otherwise known as Accidental Tones. The message read, “It may be a bit darker than you usually like, but I thought I’d send you a download code anyway”. For those who read my most recent review of Aux Field’s ‘Square Landscapes’, it’s known that I’m enjoying a bit of a dark ambient phase as a way of coping with the heat of Summer. Accidental Tones’ newest and self-released album, ‘In The Dark’, is just what I needed.

‘In The Dark’ features ten tracks of sparse and brooding synthesized soundscapes, relatively short in length, and titled by ascending Roman numerals that allows the listener to decipher their own narrative. The first images to come to mind are of cold, desolate and colourless environments void of any human warmth. Bryce achieves a raw sense of isolationism through the use of vast audible space and a focus on gradually shifting tonalities. The album was recorded both to cassette tape and digitally, which offers some technical insight as to how the album maintains a consistent sense of physicality throughout.

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‘III’, as an example, utilises repetition, giving a mechanical uniformity within the sonic hollowness. A mixture of analogue and digital synthesizers in combination with a string of effects pedals guarantee the subtle variations that frequent the album; it is in this manual approach to ambient music making that helps to avoid the mundane, even in such minimal compositions. ‘V’ introduces more recognisable synth sounds, drenched in reverb to create a sense of foreboding in the depths conjuring images of some abandoned underground space. Undoubtedly, my imagination is furthered by the photographic documents of a friend, Richard Linehan, whose work often involves similar place.

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Photo by Richard Linehan, showing a disused service tunnel beneath a hospital

The second half of the album delivers harsher, less-decipherable tones; in listening, I’m forging my own narrative where the upon leaving the safety of cover, the unruly landscape is opened up to expand in its scant vastness. The squelching sounds of a hopeless search litter ‘VII’, followed by the abstract sci-fi-like tones of ‘VIII’, which bounce and zap uncertainly. The album comes to an end with the alien-like sound of deep modulation and descent in ‘IX’ and ‘X’ that serve to heighten the sense of morbid curiosities and discomfort created by Bryce throughout.

Accidental Tones –‘ In The Dark’ is available now via the artist’s Bandcamp page on a name-your’ price deal, mastered by JC Blackley Industries.

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