Invictus Music 2019
Somber ebb and flow of velveteen gloom where monsters haunt the memories with a violent glare of flickering light.
Less than a year after “Above All Else” – the record which established this international collective on the borderline ambient scene – “A Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” takes the listener below the surface of personal turmoil to explore themes that run from astral scrutiny to internal conflict in most immersive manner. Such is the measure of grief-less loss Dave Hilborne, the ensemble’s leader, laid out here yet, for all the depth he’s set to fathom – as signaled by the titular reference to a website offering neologisms for the otherwise undefined feelings – the effort may prove futile, if engaging.
“There’s a vacuum where empathy resides,” he will conclude in one of the tracks on offer as if to highlight the space the group tentatively try to fill with the flow from the majestic “Unwavering” to soothing “Thaw” – a sequence of folk-informed chamber numbers which rarely fail to enchant – and vocals are often barely-there, indeed, suggesting intimacy while opening the songs’ scope to abstract mythology. But the occasional symphonic sweep – so uplifting on “Apophis” – defies any notion of desolate existence the glacial electronica of cuts like “Rabbit Hole” must impose on the listener, and the glimmering warmth of “Joseph” or “Echo & Narcissus” – where Hilborne’s cosmic-minded synthetic waves wrap around Eric Bouillette’s tense violin strokes – evoke hope.
When the latter’s six strings take flight on the epic title piece, throwing its throb beyond the pale, serenity reigns, and whatever obscurity was there is lifted. In the prog rock stakes, it’s the quiet moments like these – anxious yet delightful – that count.