[Noteworthy] Hypnagoga Press, Ambient Church, and More

by Danica Swanson

In each Noteworthy issue, I explore one of the more newsy aspects of this newsletter project: short takes on selected articles, interviews, and other notable happenings on my radar. I talk a bit about why each item attracted my attention, and comment on its significance to the aesthetics, history, philosophy, and/or culture of dark ambient music.

This issue begins with a special treat: a sneak peek from my interview with Hypnagoga Press, which will be released for the exclusive subscriber tier next week!

As always, I take my time and work mindfully to produce each issue of Endarkenment, in keeping with its focus on contemplation and appreciation.

In this issue:

  1. Sneak Peek - A House Between Worlds: An Interview with Hypnagoga Press

  2. Bandcamp Daily - Dark Ritual Ambient Blends Haunting Music With Spiritual Energy

  3. Essay: The Eternal Drone by Marcus Boon

  4. The First Ambient Church Event in Portland, OR, USA

  5. Antikatechon Launches New Bandcamp Site

  6. Ghostly Shadows - Halloween Dark Ambient Radio Show on Hearts of Space

1. Sneak Peek - A House Between Worlds: An Interview with Hypnagoga Press

Siblings and creative collaborators Åsa and Pär Boström founded Hypnagoga Press in 2016, after years of careful consideration and planning. Both are accomplished and sought-after artists, designers, writers, and musicians in their own right; their label provides a publishing home for their many projects, including Hymnambulae, Altarmang, Bonini Bulga, and Teahouse Radio. Åsa and Pär kindly offered me a glimpse into the inner workings of the respected label. Here's a sneak peek at our conversation:

Danica: In your studio notes you wrote that Hypnagoga means “to journey and map.” Hypnagogic states are often described as liminal - i.e., neither sleep nor waking, exactly, but a hybrid state residing somewhere in the interstices between wakefulness and the onset of sleep. How did you select the name for the label? Did it emerge through your own personal liminal journeys?

Hypnagoga Press: Yes. All we do through Hypnagoga Press is informed by our own liminal, inward journeys. When we were young, we first came across the terms hypnagogia and hypnagogic via the Swedish poet and mystic Gunnar Ekelöf. His work has been highly influential for both of us. These journeys and the subsequent publications are of equal importance. All that we return with has this depth, with its roots elsewhere.

2. Bandcamp Daily - Dark Ritual Ambient Blends Haunting Music With Spiritual Energy

In a recent piece for Bandcamp Daily, Louis Pattison highlights a selection of musicians in dark ambient whose artistry draws on ritual and spiritual practices. In a particularly intriguing passage, Rob Fisk of Common Eider, King Eider describes the band as “vessels,” and their music as a vehicle for channeled energies "to use as they see fit." In keeping with their animist worldview, they also direct funds from their music to ecological protection and indigenous land rights struggles:

"Rooted in the philosophy of animism—the belief that plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena have a living soul—their recording sessions are literal rituals…"

While I prefer Graham Harvey's take on animism as "a way of living in a community of persons, most of whom are other-than-human," I'm pleased to see artists in this genre talking about their animism openly.

Perhaps my favorite of Pattison's selections for this piece is from Time Machines, a 1998 Coil side-project, which "…drew on Tibetan sacred music and the effect of psychotropic drugs to create what Balance called “temporal slips”—moments in which the listener has the sensation of falling outside of time." As a writer who sometimes uses "7​-​Methoxy​-​β​-​Carboline- (Telepathine)" to enable light trance states as I work, I can confirm that it works exactly as specified.

The author also calls Lustmord "the godfather of dark ambient" - an assessment with which many (most?) dark ambient listeners would agree, but which Brian Williams himself would not encourage, as I learned when I contacted Brian about an interview!

In any case, it's nice to see the dark ritual ambient subgenre getting some good press outside the most common channels. I'm hearing from several sources that the audience for this music is growing steadily, albeit slowly. It's worth noting that this piece has received over 4000 shares on Facebook so far, while a 2017 Bandcamp Daily piece on dark ambient ("Music to Soundtrack the Apocalypse" by George Grella) with equally excellent music selections drew about 1000 shares.

3. Essay: The Eternal Drone

In his cerebral 2003 essay for Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music, writer Marcus Boon takes a fairly deep dive into what might best be termed "philosophy of the drone." Exploring some of the ways drone music facilitates shifts in consciousness - and calling dark ambient a "mutant drone subgenre" with "moody horror film sound" - he probes into the question of why we find it enjoyable to be immersed in what David Toop has deemed the "ocean of sound."

Along the way he touches on alienation and existentialism, consonance and dissonance, pitch relationships, and the drone's relationship (or lack thereof) to conventional and unconventional notions of the sacred. Drones can be poorly suited to formats such as the CD, he argues, not only because of their length, but also because they rely so heavily on the acoustics of the space in which they're produced. And why, he asks, did the word drone acquire connotations of boredom, lack of differentiation, repetitiveness and even irritation?

An interesting question indeed. Worth a read, especially for philosophy- or psychology-of-music geeks.

4. The First Ambient Church Event in Portland, OR, USA

Speaking of drones: this weekend I'll have reason to be grateful - for the moment, anyway - that I live in Portland. I'll be attending the first-ever Ambient Church event taking place in this city, including a performance by Loscil ("Endless Falls" is a favorite of mine). The series began in New York, recently expanded to Los Angeles, and is now reaching more cities thanks to a partnership with the Kranky label. It's a two-night multimedia performance that hosts ambient musicians in churches, employing immersive lighting design tailored to the architectural features and acoustics of the performance space. The organizers also emphasize their mission to put women and non-binary artists in the spotlight, given that women were among the first composers to embrace this music technology. They also credit Tangerine Dream with the idea for "the original ambient church."

Attending a performance like this is something I've dreamed about ever since the days of my entheogen-induced journeys accompanied by Lustmord's seminal album Heresy in the early 1990s. I've even called my vision a "dark ambient church" at times.

If I have my wish, one day before I depart this mortal coil I will establish a "dark ambient shrine room": a small-scale acoustically enhanced religious space dedicated to Norse deities, featuring appropriate music and coordinated lighting design to enable deep engagement with the music and the divine. I’ve been using dark ambient as a facilitator of spiritual experience for many years, and I hope to create a space entirely devoted to this practice.

Andy Beta writes: “What strikes me about the audience at Ambient Church shows is the level of respect shown to quiet, delicate, or ‘ambient’ music—it’s similar to the kind of audience behavior you might encounter at a classical music performance.” [...] “That dedicated audience also allows for the musicians to go deeper into their own music, knowing they won’t have to compete with bar sales and idle chatter during performances."

[Playlist] Haunted From the Depths: Ghostly Dark Ambient

Chthonic Cathedral Project by Danica Swanson


1. Heid - Calling the Hidden Ones
2. Lustmord - Immersion
3. Innfallen - Epilogue (Scattered Remains)
4. Aghast - Das Irrlicht
5. Allseits - Gjöll
6. Dahlia’s Tear - Suicidal Notes From Lifeless Ghosts
7. Osman Arabi - Aghartha (Cover)
8. Archon Satani - Heavenly Inoculation
9. Iszoloscope - Your Dark and Ghostly Guidance
10. Brighter Death Now - Necrose Evangelicum
11. Camanecroszcope - Ancient Voices Haunt the Deep
12. Inanna - Besides Eternity
13. Dark Matter - Something Like…Home
14. Satori - Entity
15. Empusae - Fantasm I

Listen to the full uninterrupted playlist HERE. (Total time: 1 hr 42 min.)

Liner Notes

Spooky graveyards, a ghostly presence...is there something hiding down there in the dark musty cellar? If you're in search of a dark ambient playlist for an appropriately frightful Halloween haunted house or a creepy underworld ritual, look no further. Just in time for seasonal celebrations, I bring you Haunted From the Depths: Ghostly Dark Ambient, one of my most popular playlists.

Need some background music to scare trick-or-treaters? You can simply put this playlist on repeat. It’s tried-and-tested. It won’t frighten everyone, of course…but I’ve been listening to this playlist for years and it still has a remarkable effect on me, especially if I set the stage properly: draw the drapes shut, kill the lights, make sure my subwoofer is properly positioned for maximum bone-shaking impact, and boost the volume. If you can listen on a night that the wind is howling outside too, so much the better.

The most reliable of these tracks to ensure goosebumps every time is "Das Irrlicht" by Aghast. One reviewer of the album Hexerei Im Zweilicht der Finsternis ("Witchcraft in the Twilight of Darkness") from which this track is taken says:

"Originally released on the Cold Meat Industry label in 1995, this album by Norway's Aghast still rates as one of the darkest ambient albums ever produced…"

Over 20 years later, it remains among the most spine-tingling, macabre, intense, and original albums in the genre.

Other notable moments I still greatly appreciate in this playlist after many listens:

  • The haunting "howls" in the last two minutes of the Archon Satani track "Heavenly Inoculation."

  • The dramatic sudden shift in Lustmord’s "Immersion" around the 2-minute mark, the gradual build-up of suspense, and the deep thud at 7:40 that leaves me reeling and wanting more. (Many Lustmord tracks are ideal for testing subwoofers.)

  • That primal, throaty voice in Osman Arabi’s cover of "Aghartha," especially as it reaches a crescendo near the end.

Innfallen, in particular, is still quite an underrated project. As I wrote in my first published piece in 2013 for my underrated dark ambient albums series at the venerable I Die: You Die:

Nightmarish and haunting, yet without ever wallowing in the grotesque or slipping into dystopian cliché territory, the album treads in ghostly and morbid realms, and leaves in its wake a distinct taste for more.

“Epilogue (Scattered Remains)” is the most menacing and outstanding track, weaving a tale of dread and destruction in slow motion; I’ve often recommended it for Halloween haunted houses.

Notes about my playlists:

1) Whenever possible, I link the tracks I recommend directly to the artist’s Bandcamp or website to save my readers some search time and make it easy for listeners to support the artists by buying their music directly from them.

2) I accept theme requests! You can reply to any of the playlist emails or comment on the Substack website to suggest themes for a future playlist. I read and consider all suggestions.

3) As part of my Chthonic Cathedral Project to promote music-based contemplative practices, I offer a dark ambient music consultation service through which I put together custom playlists for events, gatherings, meditation groups, and so on. I direct half of any donations from this service to support the musicians whose tracks I recommend. Contact me for details.

4) I gratefully receive feedback on my playlists, whether it’s praise or constructive critique. What did you like? Which tracks were your favorites? Where could I improve? Feel free to let me know.
More playlists HERE.

Want to read more of the Endarkenment newsletters? Check out the archives of all previously published pieces HERE.

Image credit: background art by William Leighton Fisher. Text added by Danica.

Reminder: Subscribers in the all-access tier who would like to read the exclusive long-read interview with Ulf Söderberg (aka Sephiroth) published last week have two days left to take advantage of the launch month discount. This 50% off coupon (USD $2.50/mo or $25/year) is good for signups through 11:59 PST (GMT-8) on Oct. 30. Subscriptions return to the normal price ($5/mo or $50/year) at midnight on Oct. 31.

Half of all net subscription revenues for the exclusive tier go to the artists themselves!

[Preview] Scandinavian Heritage: An Interview with Ulf Söderberg

Coming up in the next exclusive issue: the October annual special long-read interview

In the next exclusive subscriber-only issue of Endarkenment I will finally publish what I consider to be my finest work as a music writer so far: a rare long-read (7000+ words) interview with Ulf Söderberg, aka Sephiroth.

To celebrate this exciting news, I’d like to make a special request.

Ulf is among the most highly respected composers in underground music circles. He's extraordinarily reclusive for a musician of his stature, and he rarely grants interviews. This one is his first in well over a decade.

What I'd like from you, dear readers, is your assistance in getting the word out about the upcoming publication of this long-awaited interview. It will be released through email in the next issue of the Endarkenment newsletter, exclusively for paid subscribers. A copy will be published on the Substack website at the same time, so people who sign up later can still read it.

In this issue you'll find some short preview quotes from the interview, along with an image featuring the newsletter logo (designed by the brilliant Pär Boström of Hypnagoga Press). Ulf has given me permission to share quotes publicly. Feel free to copy and paste the quotes, link to the newsletter, and share the image wherever you think it might be appreciated. Forward this email to friends and followers. Tell music fans about the impending publication of this interview on blogs, social media, over coffee dates, using smoke signals, via carrier pigeon...whatever suits you! All I want is for Ulf's fans to know that:

1) the interview will be published very soon,
2) that Ulf himself will receive half of the net funds from October sign-ups, and
3) that subscriptions are half price through October 30.

If you appreciate Ulf’s music as much as I do and would like to support him, would you help get the word out to more of his listeners?

If you do share this news, feel free to tag me, message me, comment, or follow me on:

The Black Stone Hermitage blog

…or email me at shrine.of.skadi at gmail dot com.

Thank you so much!

-Danica Swanson

Quotes from Scandinavian Heritage: An Interview with Ulf Söderberg

Danica Swanson: Your work features many references to Old Norse religion and culture. You’ve included, for example, Bronze Age rock carvings from Högsbyn, Tisselskog in your album art; quotes from the Poetic Edda (stanzas 5 and 38 of the Völuspá) in your album notes; and some interesting voice samples in “Tidvatten Part II”…

Ulf Söderberg: The voice in that track is my close friend, colleague, and mentor, author Sture Wikman, who reads a fragment of his poem “Tidvatten.” It was written at the same time as my album. It’s the same text that is printed inside the album cover…The music on the album Tidvatten is also a smaller part of a much bigger original production that’s about two hours longer than the album…Tidvatten should have been a triple album, really…

…the Scandinavian heritage is always strong and clear in my creative thinking. My next album will probably have a stronger Nordic tone than my previous albums.

Danica Swanson: What are your thoughts on your early influences?

Ulf Söderberg: I’ve inquired far, far back into my memories to find out where my fascination with these sounds comes from, because they have been present inside me my whole life - long before this type of music started to appear to the general public. My very earliest sound influences were probably not music at all in the traditional sense. […]

…this question regarding influences is a huge and complex mosaic for me. If I were to mention everything that has inspired me throughout the years, this interview would be 600 pages long. On one hand, I’m very selective and fastidious; I think there is a huge load of crap out there. On the other hand, I’m open to every genre and every expression of art…

Special thanks to the following people, whose kindness and support played a key role in making this interview happen.

Regular price for sustaining subscriptions is USD $5/mo or $50/year. Sign up before 11:59 PM PST (GMT-8) on 30 October 2018 to receive your first year of access to all the exclusive material for $2.50/month or $25/year. More info and FAQ here. To sign up at the half-price rate, use this coupon link. Feel free to share the coupon link with your friends and social media followers!

Table of contents with archives of all previously published issues HERE.

Loading more posts…