Cryo Chamber, 2013
Genre: Dark Ambient
1. 55º44' N 60º54' E
Get the album here: On Cryo Chamber
Simon Heath proves once again he has a fine ear for this genre. Exposing other projects that are absolutely worth paying attention to. Neizvestija comes out of Sweden, but don't let the location fool you, the album "Majak" is a Russian story. I had, honestly, never heard of this story, but it is extremely intense and powerful. I think Neizvestija did an excellent job transitioning the truth of that history into music very well.
The first track on "Majak" is clearly coordinates for longitude and latitude, so I simply put them into google to see what I would find. I found a wikipedia page outlining one of the most polluted areas with nuclear waste. Here is the image of the region:
Located in western Siberia, Russia there is a place named Majak (or Mayak, depending on what article you read). Here they had a power plant in the late 1940's and it's operation spanned through much of the Cold War era. The purpose for this was to naturally make nuclear weapons, but it seems the Russians worked too quickly in trying to figure out how to make the powerful weapons. The longitude and latitude above seems to be lake in the region of Majak that was used for dumping nuclear waste from the local power plant. The end result of this is a worse nuclear disaster than Chernobyl (in the Ukraine). Even today this region is heavily polluted and the lake has become quite a problem. They've had to install huge concrete slabs to contain the nuclear radiation. This plant is now being used a reprocessing plant and issues in the region persist even today.
Here is a link to a great article giving this album even better context: Article on Majak
Interesting article on some more history and current issues: Radio Free Europe
A book on the topic you can buy here: Nuclear Disaster in the Urals
After having read this extremely fascinating history I have a new context for which this material is composed. It's bringing up notions of highly irradiated areas, which means I will ultimately compare this project to 20.SV. While I believe 20.SV did a better job at generating the notion of an area overwhelmed by radiation, I must conclude that Neizvestija did a great job at conveying the story of this region. After looking at images of the very desolate region I feel the music on "Majak" is an apt description of what someone might feel while wandering around there. In the song "Techa" I imagine my Geiger counter going off as we travel along the riverbanks.
That constant high pitched wail as I see the abandoned buildings pictured above.
Throughout the album there are samples of people talking littered amidst the recording. This adds to the feel of traveling the area. Once in a great while you might come across another person and you hear them having a conversation with someone else. Maybe they even stop to talk to you as I sense in "Karachay". Closing off this irradiated journey we're back where we started. Standing on the banks of the lake. This may not be true, but I like to think from the lake this image of the plant is looming in the background somewhere.
I don't feel compelled to write down a story of my own journey while listening to this. Instead I think a listener would benefit far more by reading articles while listening to this. Look at the pictures, there are so many more to be seen online. It is a terrifying and engrossing tale, just as "Majak" is musically. I didn't know anything about this story when I started listening, but I feel better for having read it all and immersed myself in the album while I did so. It is simply an exquisite intellectual exercise and I highly recommend all listeners take the time to do this.
A slight note on the art. I always have enjoyed Simon Heaths graphic design. It's incredibly eye catching. The cover certainly conveys the image of a place decayed by radioactivity, but after having read this story I feel like the artistic experience would have been better served if he used more from the region. I realize time constraints are certainly a problem, but if he had incorporated a few more pages for a booklet with images from the area I think it could have been a compelling visual experience as well as audio.