released September 1, 2013
All tracks written by Miguel Gomes, copyright Be My Friend In Exile 2013. www.bemyfriendinexile.bandcamp.com
Vocals on tracks 1,2,4 & 5 by Laurie Mcnamee (lauriemcnamee.wordpress.com
Artwork by Tom Gilbert (www.tomgilbertreceptacle.org
There it is, titled The Silence, The Darkness, the first full-length work of London-based Dark Ambient artist and carver of dualistic twists Miguel Gomes aka Be My Friend In Exile, released in August 2013 on Gavin Catling‘s Perth-based Twice Removed Records in a limited edition of 100 CD’s. The album can also be purchased and fully streamed at Bandcamp. What began with fearfully gaseous dreamscapes on the debut How Do You Love? (Somehow Records, June 2012) and was transformed to cathedral-like antra and crepuscular ruins in the follow-up Passive/Negative (Twice Removed, October 2012) finds its contradistinctive and forceful synergy in the nine tracks of The Silence, The Darkness. Gomes remains keen on Drone structures, but embeds rotor-esque staccato schemes – for the adjective pointillistic would be a euphemism – of sanguine color ranges into the foggy panoramas. The track titles continue to be highly grotesque, a tendency that was already shown in Miguel Gomes’ Passive/Negative which featured a towering brute called On the Ceiling Beam There Is A Representation Of A Hideous Devil Spying On A Miserable Human Being. So that’s that. Concept-wise, Be My Friend In Exile illumines – and covers – the burden of inner conflicts, for most of the time, an individual is his or her biggest enemy. When it is dark and you cannot sleep, you ponder… and become your own infernal nightmare. Vulnerability and sinews conflate while Gomes’ titular silence which continues to neglect peacefulness and is more akin to a tense and fearful anticipation, the calm before the storm. And storms we shall receive. The Silence, The Darkness is of course neither entirely silent (Magic Window anyone?), nor completely dark, there is always a lofty sylphlike synth-oid helix twirling around the periphery of every dark string or harsh susurration. It is about the reigning force of ecclesial extirpations, built on heterodox vestiges whose emaciated decay is looming behind every sound layer. Here is a detailed look at all nine tracks and an outlook of whether Be My Friend In Exile is able to put the cryptic, soul-destroying conflicts into the spotlight.
To be perfectly honest: there are downright frightening and utterly crestfallen machinations and fabrics on the full-length debut of Be My Friend In Exile, but they must not be unleashed immediately. The opener Sleepwalker is nonetheless a coup de main, if only for its nebulous cloak-and-dagger mélange of heavily processed and therefore silkened guitar prongs which plink in the outer rim of the vaulted fog banks. The drone washes themselves are another strong inauguration in terms of the things to come, for they are severely multilayered, comprising of rufescent cloudlets, Laurie McNamee's quasi-human wails, alluvial protrusions and short chord bursts. Sleepwalker unites narcoleptic flumes with sylvan tendrils. From this point onwards, the album becomes more and more pressing, the track titles perniciously portentous: A Dead Will And A Reflection That Cradles It might indeed inherit the softer gloom from the opener, a comparably mauve-tinted haze, but contaminates this potential fatness of the soil with gaseous spirits who orbit alarmingly close to a hammering acoustic guitar. Thank the deity it is only an acoustic guitar, as its martelato tones are staggering and would have had bone-crushing effects once they transmuted to steel. The result is a dichotomy: forsaken drone gradients enmeshed with guitar-based turmoil hellions. The oxymoronic Eternally Ephemeral then functions as an interim stage. It lacks the sesquipedalian bedlam of the forthcoming titles and seems rather erudite in the given context. But its appearance is deceiving. Surreptitiously but steadfast, it moulds a granular diffusion into a fluxion of horrifically dark and brazen contrabass-like strings which are accentuated by five threnodic notes on a nylon guitar. The repetitive structure only boosts the feeling of being caught in this eternal fugacity. A purgatory of the mind.
The centerpiece and only track of over ten minutes follows, the long-winded We Continued Our Trip In A Silence, Which Was By No Means Unpleasant, Just A Little Shy, but careful there, this is not about a rose-tinted stroll of undergraduate nerds, but a fully fleshed out intermission of bliss! Yes indeed, it is as if Be My Friend In Exile wants to force a course correction, and a magnanimously cherubic one it is, too. Aerial synth airflows akin to Gas’ eponymous debut (1996) become intertwined with spacey bleeps and glacial shards, all the while gale-resembling paroxysms squall below that base frame. Occult gongs and deliberately apocryphal chimes round off the rapturous stream. It may be dualistic, but the majestic track resides much more in seraphic yet earthbound ethers than a subterranean gaol. What I Wish For Myself, I Wish For You returns to darker complexions, but only via its textures, as the tone sequences themselves are delicately silkened and even feature instances in major. Howling electric guitars float above a thermal placenta of sizzling-hot guitar formations whose droning nature is only lessened every so often by careful half-tone steps. The louder the volume level, the more luring these shapes become. Laurie McNamee is also said to be hidden in this jinxed vault. A womb-resembling antrum of effulgent whorls, and best of all, a place of shelter is erected with this composition. The following The Anxiety We Carry With Us differs from the previous arrangements in that Miguel Gomes tries to fathom out the afterglow and calcined physiognomies of the reverberated guitar strings. Heavily sustained throughout the runtime, their distensible vertebrae cover the threatening and album title-resembling silence and darkness most formidably. Not everything in this piece is placid or quiescent though: the middle section comprises of sweeping guitar spirals whose alkaline outbursts remind of poeticized whiplashes. It is only their comparatively soft luminosity and cottony appearance that prevents this presumption from becoming sinisterly uncanny.
The final triad of tracks is dedicated to the hardened listeners and Dark Ambient aficionados. This is my impression only and by no means given away as an explanation by the London-based artist himself, but both the track titles and the respective soundscapes form a disconcerting unison, with Slowly Sucking The Life Out Of Me being the album’s opus creepium. One can assume that the title is not entirely applicable, or else there would be no additional two tracks after its inclusion, but I for one would have definitely loved to have this particular tune as the asbestus-covered apotheosis and closer. For almost eight and a half minutes, Miguel Gomes willfully succumbs to the tendency I have previously feared in anxious anticipation of this tune: acoustic guitars are exchanged with electric guitars, and while the latter occasionally appeared in screeching or jarring form, their monstrous appearance is indeed soul-crushing and exclusively mean-spirited. The track is progressive and launches with an insalubriously scorching-terraqueous cavalcade of droplets, blebs and bubbles which are then ameliorated by enormously powerful and abysmally sinister electric guitar drones whose impetus cuts and pierces through the mephitic air. I think I spot a few classic piano chords in there as well, but those might be figments of the mind, last flashes of an increasingly frantic mutation; bit-crushed clangs, cyber birds and daemonic exhalations build the climax before a very long fade-out phase sets in. The most baneful track has been delivered. The final two tunes are built around an enigmatic mystique. There's Nothing Wrong With My State Of Mental Health is unexpectedly mellow and – in the given circumstances – almost mellifluous. High-pitched cosmic coruscations and pumping bass aortas beguile eminently blurry guitar fragments. The interstitial cusps in tandem with a moiré of hall and reverb make this a soothing tune, one that lives up to its title which, for a change, seems to be truthful. The almost crudely titled Cellar Door works well with another favorite track of a Twice Removed artist, Linear Bells’ Song For A Cellar off his album Esther (2012). Be My Friend In Exile’s take on that location is cryptic, comprising of gallons of whitewashed drone gusts and deathly cold storms which seem to be severely decelerated guitar strings, as some of them shimmer through when the starkest zephyrs are over for good. Silence and darkness unfold.
The best Dark Ambient albums are those which are not mercilessly dark. Be My Friend In Exile’s The Silence, The Darkness is, as it turns out, torn by surprisingly multifaceted forces, ones which were amiss in the artist’s Passive/Negative EP from 2012. Here, on Gomes’ first full-length album, these conflictive shadows are not necessarily creepers and critters on the ceiling, let alone even more brutish gestalts in forlorn woods, but come in the seemingly harmless shape of innermost conflicts. As abstract these passages may sound, they are skillfully transformed into music, are luckily less histrionic than well-balanced. The creep factor increases towards the end of the album, but this meets the listener’s expectancy, I presume. The first three tracks are enormously blurry and seem even more unreal than the dark spirits that occur later, all the while these then rev up the bane steadily: the cloudy Sleepwalker is more of a thermal feast than a daedal beast, A Dead Will And A Reflection That Cradles It probably epitomizes the dualistic twilight that twirls through the endemic wastelands best, with Eternally Ephemeral thematizing the unsolvable state of the mind in the title already and letting the sinister darkness in; a darkness which comes in the shape of ophidian contrabass-oid structures. Bewilderment continues to be all over this LP, What I Wish For Myself, I Wish For You is another poignant instance due to its almost joyous tone sequences… hued in arcane shades. The aeriform flumes and coils which are always in close proximity to Miguel Gomes’ aural dungeons prove to be the perfect antipodes and a designed contravention to the belligerent gestalt of the drones. The Silence, The Darkness is not so much about ostracism, nor is it intended as a warning about loneliness in a nullspace that came to be due to one’s own fault. It is more about recalcitrance, the sheer will to fight both silence and darkness with at least a modicum of ethereal alloys and girdling encapsulations. In short: it is about the simultaneity of contradictory emotions. Every moment is spoiled; not as dark as previously feared, not as mirthful as one has hoped. An apocalyptic notion, and Be My Friend In Exile’s third one already.