The album begins with the sound of a clock ~ perhaps the Doomsday Clock ~ and John Carpenter synths. The world is about to end as the Russians and Americans fire their missiles at each other. The air sirens sound, and the lucky few who have bunkers grab their children and pets and head down into the deep. Above ground, the detonations shake the earth and burn the sky. Now what? A life of isolation and diminishing supplies, waiting for help that never comes, the half-life of nuclear material guaranteeing a permanent burrow.
But of course this didn’t happen. The bunkers still exist throughout the U.K. and elsewhere, and this recording offers them a cold elegy. What were we thinking? In the U.S., commercials cheerily advised children to “duck and cover” should the bombs fall. But the world survived, along with evidence of the future it narrowly missed. In Grey Frequency’s “Greylow Tunnels”, one hears the sound of Geiger counters, loneliness and desolation. The classic phrase, “it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” doesn’t apply; one wouldn’t want to visit either. But perhaps the most powerful piece here is A Year in the Country’s “The Filter’s Gone / The Last Man Plays the Last Piano”, as it paints a lonely picture of music itself. When no one else is left, the most beautiful sounds and the ugliest sounds are the same thing.
Panabrite and Polypores’ pieces ~ the latter featuring a cold digital wind ~ return to the electronics of Keith Seatman’s opener. By now a certain sense of inevitability has set in. We’ve heard how far this path can lead and are now reliving the cycle of dread, panic and isolation. Listening Center’s “Comms: Seen Through the Grey” combines electronics and dark ambience, its title a stark reminder of the fact that people once volunteered for three-week monitoring positions, waiting to give the all-clear once the radiation had dissipated. Time Attendant’s “Crafty Mechanics” contains the elements of a club track, but is not for dancing; it’s what a club might sound like if all the machines wound down. And the plodding, pounding “Crush Depth” is Unknown Heretic’s aural description of creeping, inevitable doom, as slow as a funeral drum and as claustrophobic as a tomb. After all this, one hopes David Colohan will provide a little light; but “Waiting for the Blazing Skies” is as bleak as its title implies. The only glimmers that Colohan provides are the harmonic clusters that occasionally appear, false echoes of a fallen world.
The Quietened Bunker is the continuation of a series that began with The Quietened Village, and in similar fashion to its predecessor is available in Dawn and Night Editions. Our opinion: we’re all going to die, so why not spring for the Night Edition? We could use a little extra beauty in our final days. If nothing else, remembering how close we came can grace us with a sense of being spared, and fill our hearts with bittersweet gratitude. (Richard Allen)