Artefactum – Sub Rosa

15/06/2009 § Leave a comment

Title: Sub Rosa
Label: Drone Records (Germany)
Genre: Dark Ambient/Ritual Ambient

Track Listing:

01 Rosa Alba
02 Rosa Rubea

Artefactum’s promo shots would give you the idea that her music is anything but dark and sinister. Normally dark ambient artists like to like to gear themselves up in rubber, sport some idiotic 80s goggles and pose meaningfully over a keyboard with a big whirly logo in the background rather than skip through forests wearing flowers, but this is exactly the way that Artefactum chooses to represent herself. Doing so doesn’t seem to be so much of an allergic reaction to the clichés of the ambient scene but a genuine interest – much of Artefactum’s imagery involving flowers, vegetation and the essences of the natural worlds. Her first 7” record, Sub Rosa, contains two tracks each respectively meaning ‘White Rose’ and ‘Red Rose’, the album’s theme apparently revolving around alchemy: it’s limitations and transmutations. Drone Records have held back with their thesaurus this time, being so economical with their language as to advise this be filed under ‘alchemistic drones’ rather than something like ‘botany-based ritualistic thaumaturgical drones’. I should be thankful, but at the same time I don’t want to give them too many ideas.

Again I’m slightly disappointed not to see the physical packing with this promo since it sounds particularly pleasing – apparently the disc comes as pink vinyl with handmade decoupage covers closed with a pink ribbon. It’s all a bit girly, but then everyone needs to get in touch with their feminine side occasionally: those who see femininity as a sign of weakness could especially do with a day trip to All Saints, a bucket of sparkling perry and an evening of The Break Up and Failure To Launch. See, there’s nothing to be scared of [apart from bad romantic comedies].

Artefactum has an understanding of vastness. Rosa Alba imprisons us in a black, empty space, while chimes, distorted wails and drones wall us in. Like its same suggests, it is the subtler and purer of the two tracks, more minimalist in execution than its counterpart. As we explore the aurals surrounding us Rosa Alba opens to reveal a larger, wondrous dark space as stars explode in the far distance and moans permeate the environment. If it all sounds rather bleak that’s because it is –Artefactum is able to build a wonderfully subtle and disturbing atmosphere without the whole thing building into some kind of intense mush. Rosa Rubea, which follows directly on from the theme of its predecessor, retains the subtle moans of Rosa Alba and slowly build them up into a suffocating intensity before bringing in deep, echoing percussive elements, leading the EP out in a mystifyingly ritualistic precession.

In spite of being only two tracks long, Artefactum has produced an exceptionally effective piece of dark ambient made all the most edifying by its short length. Sub Rosa is able to take the very best influences from dark ambient acts such as Raison d’etre, Inade and others from Loki Foundation and mix them into a stunningly composite and structured work. The presentation may be all floral, light and carefree, but what lurks behind the lush appearance of this vinyl is a very dark creature indeed. Artefactum may be little-known in dark ambient circles, but it’s clear she’s deserving of much higher reputation and praise.

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