The essence of ‘dark ambient’ is becoming misunderstood. Nowadays artists seem too intent on jumbling unrelated, nondescript eerie sounds into one album, the resultant product being little more than a pastiche of unrealised ideas and underdeveloped forms. The very best dark ambient works are those that put you in a particular place, that make you feel included in a setting, whilst giving allowance for space and exploration along with the music. Dutch power noise project The Peoples Republic of Europe understand this all too well and have taken a break from their expeditions into the realms of harsher sonic scenes by completing a trilogy of pure dark ambient albums. Solipsism comes on the back of Cumulonimbus I and II, released in 2000 and 2005 respectively, and now, six years down the line, the third part drifts into the ambient arena. TPROE prove that an understanding of the flipside is all too crucial to making ambient music and years confidently traversing the power noise world have made this foray into the field of dark ambient all the more effective.

This is very much an understated work. Solipsism’s intention is not to affront, invade or overturn as much as to creep into your aural spectrum and slowly turn it darker. It’s like a slow-breeding virus, a tightening vine or a drifting oil slick that looms into your field of vision but whose magnitude is too colossal to ignore. Cut from the same cloth as the more subtle works of Lustmord or the little-known UK Leviathan and Chinese IHVHLXXII, its static black noise and fluid aural swathes come split from an ever-blackening firmament of hopelessness and desolation, providing the perfect backdrop for a world in moral fallout. But Solipsism is more than just a backdrop: it’s an axis, a centrifuge, a cause. It’s the cloud of enveloping darkness that turns the world sour and breeds sourness in return. It is the might and central constituent of our natural return to expiration through uninterrupted entropy. It is greyness and blackness in sonic format.

But don’t expect much to occur though the 71 minutes of Solipsism’s length. Most of the tracks found herein are long, uninterrupted howls from a black beyond underlined with deep, misty drones and distant roars. Occasionally we’ll hear the hum and repeated click of an abandoned machine churning its way past us, or lost, purgatorised spirits speaking in tongues with forgotten meaning. It’s a very slow-burner indeed, presenting us with long sections of thick, atmospheric emptiness echoing into eternity and stretched-out, ruined halls of vast length leading to an ominous and unknown destination. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether these places, wherever they are, leave us free to wonder their massive landscape or whether we are trapped in a permanent location at the mercy of a rotation of ever-blackening seasons.

TPROE theme the album around secret societies, science fiction and the occult, but apart from the track titles, the true inclusion of these ideas is up to any of us to discern. In “Empty City” we exist under an iron-red cloud holding up a deadened sky as rusted machines whirr and tick about us; in the gargantuan “Carved in Basalt” the might of nature engulfs us in a rumbling, booming display of authority; while in “Chthon” we spiral through a submarine world of disturbing depth and force. Solipsism loves to engulf us in its power – the power of the natural world, the power of man’s avarice for dominance, and the power of emptiness and silence.

Solipsism is an extremely compelling work. There is little melody here, more melancholia, but its strongest asset is its understanding of what a dark ambient album needs to be successful and convincing. It’s a nicely unchallenging work on a direct level, though its long, drawn-out sections of minimal activity may still test a few listeners. Solipsism occurs both underneath us and around us, and like some Gorgan of dark ambient, direct orientation into its centre will fix us to the spot. With a few too many artists mimicking their masters and producing tonnes of unconvincing, incidental overspawn, this modest album crept into the market and is one of the most accurate depictions of what true dark ambient should be like, carrying the same ethos as Nurse With Wound’s excellently effective Soliloquy For Lilith. TPROE clearly know the laws and imports of extremes, and Solipsism is the perfect illustration of their expertise.

Heathen Harvest