The creators are dead. They fell long ago. The common folk departed with them. Some were murdered; some cannibalized. Many committed suicide; alone. It happened in a flash. Rampant starvation, water supplies poisoned, the air became noxious. Society cracked. Not in just one city. But in every city. They were all doomed from the start, these fragile creatures retched and primitive. Disease razed them to the soil, buried them where they belong. Mostly hair and bone remain now.
Above the carcasses leer their creations. Tall they stand unmoved by the fallout. They are what’s left. And they are dying. Scorched by the sun, lashed by howling winds and hail, bitten by snow, trampled by time. Decay reigns here. It has devoured progress, immolated humankind’s endeavors. All that’s left is the resounding terror of these crumbling cities, these creations. No human hears their cries for they have perished. Except for Noctilucant.
Crumbling Cities Echoing Their Terror (Crumbling Cities) is a collection of unreleased Noctilucant (Joseph Mlodik) compositions recorded sometime between late 2015 and late 2016. Founded in the summer of 2015, the Wisconsin-based dark ambient project was birthed from Mlodik’s desire to compose music that spoke to him. He vacated the helm of his blog Lunar Hypnosis and embarked on a cinematic journey, not to look back on his wordsmithing past. Now here in the summer of 2017 – just two years since Noctilucant’s inception – Mlodik has published nine digital releases. Crumbling Cities is his latest. It does not continue the overarching narrative Mlodik forged in his debut Back to the Mud and his follow-up Oblivion to You All. Rather, Crumbling Cities is a stopgap for the impending sequel to Oblivion to You All. No words exist here, only a voiceless continuum of nightmares.
Crumbling Cities clasps your throat the second it begins. Mlodik bleeds all sense of hope dry. He transfixes listeners with an atmosphere that cuts deep into the caverns of your essence. From belfries, rooftops, ledges of silos and the tops of skyscrapers, he chronicles the calamity that crushed these cities. This is Mlodik’s dark ambient apocalypse by design. His listeners, the subjects of sweat soaked night terrors.
High above in the dead of night noctilucent clouds hang. Crystals of icy synth and particles of field recordings swirl together in a chilling translucent drone. It tickles the spine. Cold and primordial, but somehow lucid, transcendental, Mlodik’s soundscapes enchant with this peculiar cosmic imbalance. Glimmers of awe pierce the mesosphere from time to time. But they are momentary, swallowed quickly by the ever looming darkness. It is a unique sound, a style, Mlodik has carved out under his Noctilucant moniker. And it follows listeners throughout Crumbling Cities, scattered above in a blanket of blackened condensation.
There, up in the atmosphere, a faint yellow-orange halo encircles the moon. Pallid the white orb casts a dying light on this smoldering architecture. “You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet” unfurl.* Fractured asphalt, naked stone, wood, bricks, and nails; they all whimper. They are trapped beneath this veil of glacial synth-laden blackness. Beams of metal all warped and jagged twist upward into the sky; they tried to escape the ground, this soil, and failed. They too are trapped, suffocating in Noctilucant’s ashen murk. “Down by the Docks (Alternative Version)” submerges listeners beneath a cerulean abyss. Ships rusting and decrepit creak; waves lap against their hulls. Bubbles boil and burst; the struggle for air made flesh.
Needles of pine, their skin, litter the pavement and fill the lungs with stale resin on “A Solemn Night”. That anemic sphere, casting pale shadows through the rotten branches, exerts its indifference on this patch of planet. The ambience – the yawning void – is oppressive, but only for a moment. The night sky suddenly ignites, the droning shades become lamplight. Those noctilucent clouds roll back. A sense of calm washes over the air; gentle winds of synth blow. Needles now crisp, refreshing. It opens up – the world – to whisper its unspoken secrets. It’s peaceful, but only for a moment.
This barren place, so alien and alluring. Timeless it feels to wander here. Those clusters of water vapor are back, “Beholding the Murk” over these megaliths. A turbid drone coils about each building, coalescing dust with a stench of carrion. Breaths come heavy. Pangs of ringing synth whirl about your skull. Clarity disrupted. That seething abyss – bellowing in low dark ambient thrums – obscures sight, drowns life. Haunting “The Unrecognized Words” concludes Crumbling Cities. The sustained shrieking frequency, the splotches of eerie white noise, the gnawed tongues of the creators writhing, mumbling; it leaves an indelible blot of dread on the mind.
Lifeless is this landscape Noctilucant drags listeners through. But with the unrecognized sounds spilling from his cowl, these charred inanimate structures feel alive. His storytelling here in Crumbling Cities needs no words. The elegant creep of his soundscapes seize with overwhelming isolation. They vibrate with terror, revealing a dimension unbeknownst to us. This world is trying to heal, but all it does is hemorrhage.
* This track was originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu. It is a composition on the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack.
You can pick up a digital copy of Crumbling Cities Echoing Their Terror on Noctilucant’s Bandcamp page. The download only costs $2! You can also stream the record as many times as you wish on Spotify.
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