Dronny Darko & Ajna

Album Title: 
Radioactive Immersion
Release Date: 
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Review Type: 

As mentioned a 1,000 years of cryo-sleep before… Oops, I’m mistaken. I mean: as mentioned a 1,000 times before, Oregon-based label Cryo Chamber might be an institute, a standard, an authority when it comes to Ambient-based collaborations. With collaborations I do not mean ‘split’ releases, yet really two (or more) artists joining forces to create something new, something that withholds elements from all musicians involved, and focusing on a mutual goal to achieve. With Radioactive Immersion, this label by Sabled Sun / Atrium Carceri’s Simon Heath offers us, dear audience, another co-operative work by two notorious artists from the scene.

Actually, both of them are no stranger to the label. However, it is their first collab (if I am not mistaken) for Cryo Chamber, even though they did several collaborations before on this label with other artists;  they did work together twice before, even though it was via some other (equally professional and impressive) labels (i.e. Petroglyph Music and Reverse Alignment (the latter, by the way, is now part of the Unexplained Sounds Group family).

So, Ukrainian human being Oleg Puzan (Dronny Darko) and US-born humanoid Chris F (Ajna) joined forces once more, which resulted under the moniker of Radioactive Immersion. Both of them wrote, performed and produced these thirty-seven minutes of spatial sonics (seven chapters), professionally released digitally and on compact disc (reverse board digipack, printed in an edition of 400 copies). Like most material on this label, this release too got mastered by the label’s head-chief Simon, who took care of (also: once again) the stunning (and appropriate) artwork (the cover picture accompanies the concept for sure).

Once more being profoundly conceptual, this story deals with a post-nuclear ‘adventure’ or ‘quest’ (to be honest, I am not sure, but have both futuristic Horror themes at the one hand, and the semi-apocalyptic Chernobyl disaster at the other, to do with this concept album’s inspiration?). Fungae have taken over the site, oxygen has been replaced by toxic air, and the water floats like a source of lethal veins though the remnants and ruins. Weird geometric patterns are everywhere, earthly life is nowhere. What will they search for, what will they find? The clock is ticking…

Just like this story of a scarifying expedition, an expedition in search of answers, the aural part is an adventure too (what else did you expect). There’s no doubt about this, as from the very beginning of the opening title Anomalous Gravity Distortion. It starts very ominous, with layered digital / synth manipulation and additional sounds, creating discomfort, anxiety and unconsciousness. With ‘layered’, I refer to the several sound-lines, subtly yet extant. After a short while, samples get used, like spoken words (radio contact from a site not abandoned yet?), machinery, transportation, bleeps and other sources. Also spatial noises are introduced, and towards the end, things grow even darker, when hints of malignancy join. It’s like a macroscopic sonic experience through a gathering of audio design and microsounds (note: I did steal both descriptions, ‘audio design’ and ‘microsounds’, from the label’s promotional flyer, yet it is way too fitting not to use).

The narrative continues in a comparable way, with individual ‘songs’ that tell their part of the quest. ‘individual’, for they have separated titles (I admit that this is an easy description), yet because you feel this tale evolving too, and each part tells an own fragment, an own chapter, which you feel on your skin, in your mind, unrelenting, deep-going, light-absorbing. Several levels of Dark Drone Music, injections with samples (metallic things, waterdrops, voices and so on) and Field Recordings, hints of Electroacoustics and industrialized electronics, moments of Horror Ambient, manipulated noises from unknown sources, synthetic and reverbing sounds, it’s all canalised into a deeply captivating, surprising and intriguing elegance and ambience.

As said, each piece is like a chapter within that monumental sci-fi story. Plutonium Clouds, for example (which features ProtoU aka Sasha, the partner of Oleg), is less noisy and mechanical, yet rather ‘floating’ and even meditative, as if some plutonium mist creates hallucinogen visions of a spaceless void and unphysical matter. Or is it the fungal air immersing the listener with dreamlike yet bleak images and foggy illusions… The lengthy (12+ minutes of duration) title track too comes with intoxicating ambient soundwaves, somehow tranquil and integer, yet permanently penetrated with uncomfortable additional noises and weird sampling. Probably because of the languid tempo, it works both mesmerizing and impending. Other pieces are much more ‘intense’, even though they remain sluggish in nature. Bottomless Gorge is an example of loud sonic experience, focusing on the presageful awareness of a sinister and hazardous environment. Uranium 235 and Mutated DNA, for example, hold the middle in between remote ambience and heavily pulsating sequences.

Cryo Chamber are known for their ‘cinematic’ releases. Radioactive Immersion too is like a soundtrack for a Horror movie, yet not one overwhelmed by suspense and action, yet a truly claustrophobic and asphyxiating one. Visions of cocooned bodies, cold laboratory machinery, vast factory halls with clinical equipment, lightless corridors, all filled with silent yet threatening crackles, radio messages, digital noises, eerie whispers, peeps and hums, but no ostensible living entities…