Confined inside a tomb, breathing out centuries of fine dust, Tombs awakens. Luckily, it’s not the Tombs we know of from The X-Files, but it does hold just as menacing a lair as the one featured in the show.
Dusty, dry winds drive the music of Tombs forward, placing the music somewhere deep in the abyss of noise-drone, electronic experimentation and feedback-annihilated loops, yet it’s a sound that, up to this point, has remained relatively unheard. Plumbing the depths of what is possible, Tombs is haunted by the people that haven’t left and crypts lying in ruin, lacking any kind of light.
Using an 8-track, Tombs was recorded as one entity at St George In The East Church in Shadwell, London. Yet, the imagined church that awaits you inside the music isn’t an entirely healthy one. It does, however, make Tombs what it is, and the live setting of the Church allows an unbelievably dense atmosphere to creep in and eventually resurrect this crumbling tomb. The influences of the Church, and the acoustics surrounding it, seep into the drones, and drag a distorted, anguished blade all over the crumbling atmosphere as if the drone had been previously tortured. The music reveals a kind of Church centuries old, dating way back and in need of some desperate repair and renovation. Spirits are the only orbs of light, save for the already lit candles; they’ve been expecting you.
Cold, chilling winds enter through the gaps, where the unsteady white light of a candle offers the only real sanctuary of safety. As the atmosphere develops, the drones start to creak, and then crank up to a roar, distorted beyond their original state like an indistinct, mummified sermon. Opener “Dalyan” sets the appropriate mood, a dim light illuminating the first few pews of scratched wood and echoes falling far behind. The first loop, reminiscent of shushed footsteps, sounds as if they walk through the very wall. Hauntology this isn’t, but a rush of whooshing wind isn’t alone in creating the chills, especially when the track dissects in two, splitting slowly in the mix and then dividing completely like a silk spider-web struck by a recoiling face.
Tombs is the underbelly that lies forgotten inside dank cathedrals; past the creaking doors and unused corridors, and down the flight of stairs that give you a venomous sensation just by setting foot on the highest step. As a piece of music, it’s a pretty amazing feat. As a debut, it’s even more of an amazing feat. These atmospheres still hold onto terrible acts, unable to separate from the past, almost as if the very loops were slices of past decades and past incidents cycling back into the present. It’s an effortless slab of dark ambient that does just enough to strike a balance between fear and curiosity. And in the space of only four tracks, Tombs is never rushed or prolonged (you probably wouldn’t want to spend too long down here, for your own sake). Only the lightest of electronic influences can be heard; the treble-rich oscillations and cycles of noise-harmony create a foreboding and unsettling image of fallen archangels and weeping statues charcoal in stone. Unlike many apparitions of noise-drone, the music of Tombs places melody at the altar, where voices shriek out plumes of dust as mummified sermons.
“Endless Palms” feels like it could fall at any point, lost in a labyrinth of tunnels that still cling to the oily sin of their past. Despite this, the drones seem to squeal and sing at the same time, and it is this imbalance that tilts the mind one way and another; we’re never sure where this tunnel is leading. Loops are used to cycle and progress the atmosphere, clanking and grinding at intervals, but remaining firm to the voices that continue to haunt the space.
Coda “Winter Dreams” is the ultimate sonic force that abides in the deep corners of the underground; the distortion-heavy bass growls like an angry beast left in an ancient, disused chamber. Not quite noise, and not quite drone, Tombs is a moulding of styles, united by a common black shroud of lively decay and dusty chills where organ-deep reverberations create unfathomable crypts of subterranean sound. Moon Zero has created a special record that deserves a lot of attention; descend those steps, one at a time, into the Tombs.
You may never come back out. (James Catchpole)