I don’t know where I belong
Forever a lucid feeling
I’m always out of place
And I don’t know where I came from
I see it when I’m dreaming
Another time and space
The first few months of the year are always a little confusing. I’m still discovering new music from the previous year, while also getting bombarded with new music for the new year. I wasn’t going to review anything older than November 2019, but I made an exception here. In January, I found ISON’s brand new album “Inner-Space”, and I instantly loved it. It released back in August.
ISON comes from Sweden, a hotbed of amazing music. This is more of a project than a band, so to speak, as the lineup just includes Daniel Änghede (Crippled Black Phoenix, Hearts of Black Science) and Heike Langhans (Draconian, LOR3L3I). These two musicians are experienced and mature, but this project takes them outside of their normal genres. You will also hear Neige of Alcest guest on one track.
The music here qualifies as blackgaze, I think. It’s not quite the same as Alcest or some of the other pioneers of that subgenre, but it has the same murky brightness, drowning emotions, and blackened light that I would expect. “Inner-Space” also has plenty of electronic and ambient influences, and the overall tone is Gothic in the truest sense. The album makes you feel like you are floating in an abyss of feelings and textures, and it drifts along in muted, yet beautiful fashion.
The lyrics enhance these murky feelings, too. ISON seems fascinated with planes of existence and astrophysics. With this new album, they seem to shift their focus from the heavens above to the heavens within us. The lyrics are highly personal: feeling lost, searching, and quite human. I think that was one huge draw for me. Even though Heike’s vocals are wispy and spectral, I can still understand both the words and the emotions she radiates.
As with any blackgaze/shoegaze album, the record is best heard in one sitting. It hovers and wanders, and your mind will get lost in it. Many of the tracks feel a bit alike, but I feel there is enough diversity, enough textural exploration, and plenty of climactic moments to feed the curiosity and artistic cravings in my brain.
The singles for “Inner-Space” were “Radiance” and “ISAE”. The former features Neige of Alcest, and so his recognizable tone washes over your mind immediately. It is tinged with guitar, as well, so the song feels like ambient black metal to some degree. “ISAE” is even better, in my opinion, accented with electronic loops and soaring vocals from Heike. Both songs are great representations of the album.
Without talking about every single track, let me mention three more songs. The title track starts the album, and it is a good opener. I love the looping electronic musings that hover over the emotional vocal lines, and I love the gently climaxing guitar near the end. “The Fifth World” is another favorite. It has possibly the most addictive central melody and chorus of the album, and it fades in and out with utter grace. The final track on the album is “A Golden Force”, and what a finale it is! Similar to the Nordic Giants, ISON utilizes voiceovers on this last track. Words about existence and hope pour into our minds before Heike’s harmonies begin to escalate the track into one last emotional triumph. It always leaves me with a high.
ISON has produced an album of warmth and vibration. I love the effects it has on my brain: the calming clouds of rain that it produces. It gushes and inhales so much emotion, and I can’t stop listening to it. Do yourself a favor, and bask in the glow this album provides.
I realized while writing the ISON review that I needed to talk a bit about this new album from 暗号零 (meaning Password Zero). This album doesn’t belong in a Triple Feature, and it definitely deserves some more attention. The album is called “Mother”, and it released in October last year. I am finding it to be a fluid, enlightening experience.
I know nothing about Password Zero except that they hail from China. I can’t find a website, social media account, or YouTube profile on them. The only place I can find them is on Bandcamp, but I believe it is run by their label, Vill4in. I have no names or anything else about the project/band.
However, that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to quality. This album is ambient/electronic/dreampunk in nature, but it possesses a heart that few others in that genre ever display. The melodies are far more direct and meaningful, and the colors are bright and clean. It is truly a cathartic and wondrous tone that it offers, one that fills a room with light and beauty.
The album feels like a nostalgic trip through life, visiting the meaningful and impactful moments that changed everything. I believe it is an exploration of the memories and feelings of the artist’s mother: her touch and her smile, her smell and the feeling of her presence. I assume she has passed through the veil now, and so this album plays like a tribute and a ballad to those feelings of both loss and comfort. The end of the album, though, seems as if it were a return to one’s present mind, seeing the mundane as something beautiful and to be cherished, perhaps? It’s difficult to know, but I recognize and identify with what I feel here.
My favorite tracks are “分娩”, (Childbirth), “Camilla”, “Mother”, and “然后一切如常” (Then Everything is as Usual). Each of the tracks feels differently, from the bright looping machinations of “Childbirth” to the hovering musings of “Camilla” to the more progressive structure of “Mother”. “Then Everything is as Usual” ends the album with whimsy and color, and it feels perfect. Ever song feels like it is humming with energy and humanity.
“Mother”, then, is an album that I will not forget any time soon. I love it for reasons that go beyond music. And, though it does not have vocals, I leave you with the poetry that accompanies it on Bandcamp. Go buy this album.
How is it that I never saw your wings
When you were here with me?
When you closed your eyes and soared to the Heavens
I could hear the faint flutter
Of your wings as you left.
Your body no longer on this side
Your spirit here eternally.
I see your halo shine.
I close my eyes and see the multi-colored wings
Surround me in my saddest moments and my happiest times.
You fly into my dreams and when I am asleep
I feel your wings brush against my face
Wiping away the tears I shed
Since I can no longer hold you
In my arms
But in my heart.
Find ISON online:
Find 暗号零 online: