After writing ethnic music for over half a decade at this point (over the span of one hundred and forty-three individual studio albums), it's no surprise that Russian musician/history buff/general crazy man Senmuth has gotten rather good at it. Bar-Do Thos-Grol, his most recent foray into dark ambient music, shows off just how proficient he's become at it. The album consists of one long work, titled "Antarabh?va", which, like the album title, derives from Buddhist beliefs of existence. The piece is divided up into six movements that all segue into each other.
The thing that makes Senmuth's brand of ambient music work is that there's pulse and drive to the music without being insistent. Maybe it's just a light bangle, or a consistent pulse in the wind, but there's always something pushing the music forward, preventing it from languishing in its own emptiness. And yet it leaves so much space open to involve yourself and explore that it feels like you're taken along at your own pace; it's a truly delicate balance that he's managed to perfect. What's more, the music involves just enough musical movement that you never grow bored with it; for as much as it stays the same and allows you to breathe in the repetition, something is always changing in the music, no matter how subtle. Whether you relegate it to the back of your mind or focus intently on its evolution, it's beautifully composed music for either purpose. Even better, each section, while clearly part of the same whole, has it's own distinct identity and set of qualities. The album never gets tiresome on account of a lack of ideas.
Part III, "Aspiration to Regeneration", is the standout movement of this piece. It does venture into more structured music here for a bit, featuring a strong, heavy drum pulse and stricter adherence to the usual song format. There's even something vaguely resembling a sketchy guitar solo, done perfectly to match the ambiance without drawing itself out. Part IIII [sic], "From Conception Till the Death", is also rather remarkable, centring around an incredible buildup from the softest of pulses into a loud, near-cacophonous crescendo.
Any fans of dark ambient music would be remiss to let this album go by, especially because, like nearly all of his works, this album is available for free download on . And even if you have only a passing interest in ethnic or dark ambient music, you won't find a much better introduction to an excellent genre than this.
8.0 / 10
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