The year is 2148. The world is in ruin. Human life is absent. Skylines of dilapidated architecture are shrouded in dust. Robots roam frigid streets; they execute meaningless tasks ad infinitum. Fields of grass stand tall and are overgrown with no pathways cut or footprints left. What happened? Where are the humans? When did all of this change occur? Sometime in 2145, a lone man thawed from his frozen hibernation tube. His birth is the lens from which Sabled Sun (Simon Heath, Atrium Carceri) observes this post-apocalyptic world; his subsequent life of wandering this desolate wasteland is the framework for Sabled Sun’s 21XX series.
Each year in the series is a record that describes our protagonist’s journey. Song titles provide context for the lavish dark ambient environments; scant dialogue sharpens each record with a science fiction edge. Every orbital period constructs tantalizing soundscapes that reveal secrets of this vacant planet. An absurd level of detail pours from each composition. Subtle field recordings personalize this character. His feet crunch on gravel; his breath, at times, is quiet or hesitant. He speaks little, but his organic noises capture listeners in his headspace; you see this world through his eyes. Sabled Sun then subsumes listeners under a masterful dark ambient allure. Piano and strings blend with the ambient drones to evoke a bevy of emotions. Every release is an immersive experience.
2148 opens with our nameless protagonist locating “The Ark”. White clouds of ice puff from his mouth with each exhale; a thick drone condenses the air. It swells and seeps with ominous indifference, encroaching on his solitude. The whirrs engulf him as he reaches for the door. He enters the hull and looks up. All falls silent. The ark is gargantuan and vacuous, like “A World Emptied”. Rays of ambience shine through the tears in its husk. Light fills the chamber with an unsettling, yet peaceful drone. It basks in loneliness and saturates the cold space with a mysterious aura. It’s chilling, but coos with comfort. Time lapses. Days or months pass, it is uncertain. His feet carry listeners into a laboratory. Vines have created a mesh atop the concrete floors. They invade the equipment. It’s all “Overgrown”. Mechanical reverberations ricochet off the walls to create a dissonant loop, disorienting our protagonist. It licks his skin with corrosive static. Piano lurches from the bloated wood with a harrowing melody. Together, they drench the hallways and testing rooms in darkness. It’s an unnerving amalgam that burrows under his skin. He finds an escape hatch. Foot after foot, he climbs the rungs toward the small light peering through the glass above. Don’t leave … don’t leave … stay … don’t leave … stay, the “Discarded Children” bleat from below. Their voices are monotone, robotic. Though they lack capacity to articulate emotion, their repeat phrases sound desperate and afraid. His hair stands on end, but he doesn’t look down.
Sometime later, under a canvas of night, our protagonist is laying in a field with his eyes fixed on the infinite stars. The black void howls. A dark ambient breeze sways the tall grass encircling him. From the glowing lights, an electronic beat pulses above the windy drone. A piano melody reveals itself in the form of a space station, “Project Locus Arcadia”, streaking across the lucid canopy like a shooting star. It twinkles with ethereal beauty. Effortless, it crosses his zenith and brings him solace. It arouses hope that something else exists beyond his microcosm of a life. The song is absolutely sublime and one of Sabled Sun’s best compositions.*
Days become shorter; the year is almost over. A dense drone blankets the soil in fog. Blind, our protagonist wades through the particles of cold ambience in search of shelter. A red light flickers a horizon away. He draws closer. From the mist, an uplink station emerges beneath the light. Large chunks of its dish have rusted away or been salvaged. Inside of him an idea is “Conceived”: maybe the station is his way out. He finagles with the switches in the control room. Computers begin to power on. Deep throbs permeate from their mechanical architecture as they reboot; static fills the room and a drone envelops him. Anticipation wells in his chest. The dizzying lights of the dish begin to ignite. Then, a piano carries his signal. His transmission careens up into the dark space above. It’s a touching, moving melody that drips with isolation yet burns bright with hope. But who knows if anyone is out there to receive his message.
2148 is Sabled Sun’s most eloquent scripture thus far. Its runtime is leaner than each preceding entry. There is also less dialogue. But with fewer words come more abstract soundscapes; set pieces are more engrossing. This obscures the story’s details, but allows you to immerse yourself deeper in this post-apocalyptic world. It epitomizes Sabled Sun’s skill in penning complex landscapes constructed only of sound. It’s a breathtaking release. You not only see the world through this protagonist’s eyes, you fear the dark of night and marvel at the rising sun. You immerse yourself in this character and become him.
Score: 9.5 / 10.0
Listen to 2148 above; purchase the record here.
* “Project Locus Arcadia” also serves as a reveal for something larger. The song transcends the confines of the 21XX series: it’s a portal to another Cryo Chamber release, Locus Arcadia. This is a huge surprise that corrugates the very fabric of the series. It uncovers the secret that the protagonist is not so alone after all. In fact, he may be a part of some grander scheme. He may have some purpose in the cosmos crafted by Cryo Chamber artists. It’s not clear what this purpose is, but it’s an outline for future records and tie-ins to illustrate. We will just have to wait and see.