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While Senmuth has certainly grasped my imagination and attention even with some of his beautiful ambient work, it's unavoidable that some of many, many albums will turn out to be flops. Such may the case in Senmuth's dark ambient work 'Chambers,' a sprawling concept piece revolving around a handful of historical figures the man behind the music of Senmuth has obviously studied. Be sure to find a much darker tone here than usual for this project's music; Senmuth has rarely sounded so unsettling and morose. However, the unnerving vibe of the album aside, the fact remains that despite giving an atmosphere, very little else occurs here of mention, and as a result the album tends to be quite boring.
While this album 'Chambers' could certainly be seen as enjoyable if taken from the perfect perspective, it feels like there just ins't enough actually going on with the music to be worth an intent trip. A lack of melodic structure or conventional form is inherent in ambient music, but even listening to 'Chambers' simply for the sake of relaxation, there are very few discernible sounds and memorable qualities to make Senmuth's music really soar here.The dark feeling here resounds throughout, but the fact that the vibe remains the same throughout somewhat desensitizes the listener to the feeling after a ways into the work.
As for the concept of historical figures, I feel a lot more could have been done in the music to reflect the distinct personalities and feats of these people. With interesting stories behind each of these names, it would have been easy to find something really particular and engaging to drive the music with. To the album's misfortune, 'Chambers' just ends up sounding like another Egyptian-themed ethno-ambient album from Senmuth, and in the case I was hoping for something more than that, I've been a bit disappointed.
Early this year I began exploring what might very well be the hardest discography to explore on all of the Metal-Archives, at least from a quantitative standpoint. Thus I ventured onto Senmuth’s website and got his then-newest available album, Chambers, having next to no idea of what to expect or of where this experience would take me. Looking back, that seems to have been a most inspired idea, as I can safely call myself a Senmuth fan now, having gotten around eight albums as of now and not planning to stop anytime soon.
But what of the music found on Chambers? First of all, it’s certainly not metal. It’s a form of folk ambient, or, as Senmuth himself calls this and similar albums, dark ethno. Chambers is an album divided into five songs, each revolving, on average, around the 10-minute length. The album itself seems to be some sort of concept whose nature I’m having trouble grasping due to the abstract nature of it all, but which seems to lie in its division into five elements, or the five (insert name here)’s Chamber titles. In any case, Senmuth seems to be the only one to truly understand his concept, from the abstract nature of his brief notes on it.
Musically, this is brilliant and atmospheric ambient music, so good that it’s probably still my favorite ambient Senmuth album. The music revolves around flexible, evocative keyboard playing which focuses mainly on being soothing, but with an important dose of evocative atmosphere, to create a general feeling of both progression and perhaps some insecurity. Folk elements are added very subtly to the music, as is demonstrated within the second track, Wellington’s Chamber, by the tweaking of the keyboards. An interesting element is the percussion, adding a constant, slightly variably timed beat in the background, which in the end adds a certainly present but ultimately subtle industrial aspect to the music. The mood itself is variable, as there’s a generally positive feeling permeating the music, yet a sense of dread is never very far away.
If I had to choose distinct highlights, I’d probably have to go with the final two tracks of the album. Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber is both the longest track and the most melodic, having the more effective overall flow and being the most breathtaking of tracks, with extremely fitting discreet variations in tone and speed to keep the listener interesting all along, while the previously mentioned percussion supports the music from a bit further back, not too loud in the mix and occasionally sounding so natural that one could think, for a moment, that it’s regular drumming. The other highlight is Campbell’s Chamber, and this particular song sounds rather Oriental in nature, in going with the interest that Senmuth often shows for Oriental civilizations (particularly ancient Egypt, but also others). The keyboard melodies which achieve this sound, so particular on the album, are what make thing song stand out from the others. The song itself keeps varying on the same theme for its ten-minute duration, much like the previously highlighted one.
Chambers is an excellent album, worth listening to due to its ambient mastery, and it’s also apparently a good introduction to Senmuth’s music for anyone having the minimal patience necessary to digest this album’s contents. From what I can gather from my proportionally small Senmuth listening, this is one of his best ambient albums.