A handful of Cryo Chamber releases have seen multiple artists working together. These joint efforts range from duos or trios to collaborations or compilations. Azathoth is a near two hour collaboration of twenty plus artists and Tomb of Empires is one of Cryo Chamber’s first compilations. Where the former masked the identities of its composers, the latter allocated four artists two songs apiece. This compilation, while unified by a theme of humanity’s history, did not articulate a single story.
Locus Arcadia walks a middle road; one between collaboration and compilation. It’s not an amalgamation of songs tied to a single idea, but rather a coherent ambient account of one person. Randal Collier-Ford, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Council of Nine, and God Body Disconnect, all seasoned dark ambient composers, each craft a chapter in this space ambient story. They place us in the space suit of this lone individual. With an ambiguous origin, this dark ambient collective leaves listeners to question how this person ended up on their own. Maybe they were left behind or perhaps they survived some horrendous event. Whatever their circumstance, listeners are treated to a masterful dark ambient journey. It unfurls along metallic walkways of the Locus Arcadia space station, chasing questions the protagonist has about the disappearance of its denizens.
In some half-lit hall, Randal Collier-Ford introduces Locus Arcadia with “Into the Maw Where All Men Die”. Its monolithic, rust-tinged exterior bellows a low hum as it slowly churns in the space above some unknown planet. Electronic systems are down. The station is trying to reset power, which creates a methodical droning loop. Under failing bulbs, the person’s heavy breath lingers. Cryptic chirps resonate off the cold steel and darkness consumes every inch of the hollow tube. Locus Arcadia’s interior teems with ominous mechanical vibrations. A radio transmission echoes from afar. They recall a prison. Maybe that is the origin of the hushed words. They forge ahead.
No sign of a communications system. Standing atop some guard tower, they look off to a pale courtyard. Before it lies a cell block. Beyond, Locus Arcadia’s cyborg research facility. That could be where answers hide.
On “Black Echo of Morgues and Memory”, Flowers for Bodysnatchers induces suspense. A coiling drone drenches the air. In the alley of unlocked gates, the black void ahead seems to writhe. Metal thuds on concrete. Pangs of white noise permeate from dilapidated cells. The individual turns on their heartbeat sensor. In monotonous rhythm it clicks, unable to locate other organisms. They re-harness it to their belt. A few steps forward; the monitor continues to thump. What saturates the atmosphere becomes hostile. A pallid specter grasps from the black as horrifying strings subsume the ambience. Frantic, harrowing shrieks from the instruments claw at the person’s boots. They bolt across the courtyard.
An aura of mystery douses the research facility. It’s here on “Pale Sister of Sanctuary Lost” that Council of Nine constructs a canopy of robotic microtones. Metal arms sway from the ceiling. Their noises reverberate as they twist to push or collect objects. These sounds engulf the person’s footsteps. It’s lonely. A coo trickles from the mouth of an unseen woman. Her smile radiates with a warm, inviting drone. It’s tranquil. It beckons the person to come forth. Still, there is no one in sight.
They reach the end of the hangar; a jammed door leaves space large enough for a body. The woman’s hum is drowned in foreign chatter. Maybe this is the location of the radio transmission they heard earlier. To the right of the door, the word sanctuary is scratched into the metal.
IV. Fateful Resolve
The tunnel, dim, is filled with the person’s nervous breath. Perspiration coats the glass prison encasing their skull as God Body Disconnect guides listeners through Locus Arcadia’s final chapter. Tatters of jumpsuits litter the floor. Nearby, a lifeless body rests against the walkway’s railing. Determined to find someone living, they walk past.
… going to die here. Get out while you can, the corpse whispers. A mechanical drone roils through the wanderer’s helmet. Electronic synths palpitate, building tension. As they enter their final room, a strange silence suffocates the air. Waves of static ebb and flow over the mechanical architecture.
… waiting for you. We have much to show you, an unknown voice mutters. Thick reverberation inundates the atmosphere. Harsh noise clamors with the person’s heartbeat. Louder, the cacophony whirrs and reaches its climax.
Of course the fate of the protagonist will not be given away. The piano piece in Locus Arcadia’s finale is a beautiful capstone. Somber or tender, its tone will depend on your interpretation of the person’s outcome. The story morphs over repeated listens as ambient cues reveal themselves. Locus Arcadia is a magnificent dark ambient mosaic that the artists allow you to construct for yourself.
Score: 9.0 / 10.0
Listen to “Into the Maw Where All Men Die” above; purchase Locus Arcadia here.