Q: What is Endarkenment?
A: It’s a digital newsletter focused entirely on dark ambient music. Features include:
Interviews: deep-dive interviews and profiles featuring selected musicians, labels, and artists
Chthonic Cathedral Project: themed playlists + liner notes crafted with discernment and care
Deeper Into The Shadows: personal reflections + fresh takes on classics, recent releases, & hidden gems of the genre
Notes On Endarkenment: thoughts on the history, philosophy, culture, esotericism, and aesthetics of the dark ambient genre
Collected Archives: snippets and highlights from previous newsletters
Community Voices: special guest writers
The newsletter also serves as a prelude to my book Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture. The book has been in process for several years, and this newsletter offers a one-stop place to read my published writings on dark ambient music while I finish writing the book. (In the meantime, you can read some teaser interview quotes!)
Q: Why is it called a newsletter if you don’t write about genre news?
A: Admittedly, “newsletter” is a bit of a misnomer. Substack is a newsletter platform, but a wide variety of publications fall under that rubric. I do sometimes write about newsworthy happenings in the genre, but when that happens, it’s incidental rather than planned. I don’t link any of my coverage to album release schedules.
Q: Who’s behind this?
A: I’m Danica Swanson, Creative Endarkenment Overseer (CEO), editor, chief word-wrangler, and happy hermit. I’m a co-founder of Black Stone Abbey, a modern contemplative monastic retreat inspired by pre-Christian Norse religious and folk traditions.
I’m based in the U.S., in the unceded lands of the Chinook Nation - also known as Portland, OR. My previous writings on dark ambient music have been published at I Die: You Die, Heathen Harvest, Wounds of the Earth, and the Pagan Bloggers portal.
Q: Why do you write exclusively about dark ambient music?
1. To foster greater appreciation for this underrepresented (but growing!) musical genre, attract newcomers, and inspire listeners to dig in deeper.
2. To honor and give back something of depth and lasting value to the long list of artists whose work sustains and inspires me.
3. To help listeners decide what’s worth their time. No one can listen to everything, even in an obscure music community like dark ambient.
4. To create space for contemplative, slow-paced, deep-dive music writing driven by appreciation rather than release schedules.
5. To conduct a focused experiment based on the question: Can my skills as a professional writer plus Substack’s direct subscription model provide a way to help direct more material support and sustenance to the dark ambient community?
6. To build a structured collection of writings focused entirely on dark ambient music. No other publication I know of devotes itself solely to dark ambient music. All too often, dark ambient is treated as a side attraction or an intro while another type of music gets the spotlight. But for me, dark ambient is the main attraction. So I decided to create the publication I have always yearned to read.
7. I think dark ambient has a lot of untapped potential. I’ve seen convincing evidence that it has a much wider appeal than industrial; it just needs better PR. (Mind you, I say this as someone who still loves industrial too.) I sometimes hear from new readers who have been listening to "mainstream" ambient or film soundtracks for a long time, but didn't even know the dark ambient genre existed until they happened to stumble across an article about it through a Google search. I hope Endarkenment can help guide their first steps into the genre.
Q: Why is it delivered via email?
A: Email delivery is the basis of Substack’s direct subscription model. Most people check email more reliably than they visit websites, and with email you don’t have to deal with pop-up chat boxes, solicitations, or autoplay videos. Email delivery also means you won’t have to worry that you’ll miss an issue because it never showed up in your social media feeds.
That said, if you prefer to read Endarkenment on the Substack website instead of in email, you do have that option.
If you want the really long answer to this question, read the cross-interview I did in January 2019 with Michael Barnett of This Is Darkness.
Q: How do I use the community features?
A: Anyone can click the little heart to ‘like’ an issue. At this time only paid subscribers have access to comments. Paid subscribers can comment on each post by clicking the button in the email, and the comments will appear on the post at the Substack site. I may select some of the best comments to use in future newsletters.
Q: How much does a sustaining subscription cost?
A: $5 USD per month or $50 annually.
Q: Where will my subscription money go?
A: I reinvest every bit of it back into improving the newsletter, interviewing more artists, and publishing new issues. (Substack takes 10%, which I think is fair for the service they provide.)
Q: How do I sign up?
A: Enter your email into the “subscribe” box on the website. It’s that easy. You’ll receive an email confirmation, and you’re all set.
Q: How do I become a sustaining subscriber so I can read everything you release?
A: Use the “subscribe” button, create an account, and enter your payment information. Once you become a sustaining subscriber, you’ll receive immediate full access to all previous subscriber-only issues on the website, and you’ll receive all future issues directly in your inbox as long as you remain a subscriber.
Q: How do I cancel my sustaining subscription?
It’s as simple as clicking on a “cancel” link and following the prompts. You can cancel at any time with no hassles. Some publications make it difficult for subscribers to cancel, or require that they talk to a representative to handle the cancellation so they can be quizzed about why they’re leaving. Not this one. This direct subscription model relies on mutual trust between writers and readers.
Q: If I like the newsletter but don’t want a paid subscription right now, what’s the best way to show my appreciation?
A: Click the little grey heart on the issues you enjoy. It's rather faint, so it's easy to miss it. Look for the grey heart icon at the top and bottom of the copy archived on the Substack website, and on the top and bottom of each email. Heart-reacts improve the newsletter's search rankings, and since more readers find it through Google searches than any other source, each one is helpful. The reactions also let the musicians know their fans are reading, which they appreciate.
Q: Can I forward the emails?
A: Yes. Feel free to share as widely as you like.
Q: Can I republish your work?
A: Possibly. But please ask first. All inquiries about republishing work from the Endarkenment newsletter should be directed to:
endarkenment.dark.ambient at gmail dot com
All the work published here under my name is copyright (c) 2018-2020 Danica Swanson, all rights reserved. Guest writers retain their own copyrights.
Q: Can I submit my music for review?
A: I don’t write reviews at all, so please don’t ask. The closest I get is the short blurbs I write (#1, #2, #3) on underrated dark ambient albums of my choice, and the blurbs on my Bandcamp fan page. Everything I write for Endarkenment is entirely driven by my own personal interest.
Q: Can I add you to my mailing list/friend you on Facebook and invite you to like my band page/etc.?
A: Adding me to mailing lists unsolicited or sending me PMs on social media to notify me of new releases is among the least effective ways to convince me to take interest in music. I’m in the process of reducing my social media use, with the goal of leaving it behind entirely.
Why? Attention overwhelm. It’s my biggest challenge as a music writer. There's so much amazing music released these days that I can't even give a cursory listen to half of what I'd like to hear, let alone become deeply engaged with it over time, so I can write about it from the contemplative frame of mind that this newsletter asks of me.
Q: What is your editorial policy?
A: I don’t accept promos, paid sponsorships, kickbacks, affiliate links, or advertising of any sort. I don’t want to feel obliged to provide coverage to anyone; that would put a damper on my passion for music writing. Being supported by readers allows me to keep a strict wall between editorial decisions and funding sources, while avoiding conflicts of interest.
As I mentioned above, direct subscription models rely on mutual trust, and that works both ways. I trust my readers, and it’s up to me to earn their trust in return. Trust is the foundation of my creative work.
I buy albums and merch out of my own pocket.
You can read more on the thought process behind the gift-model I’ve adopted for the newsletter’s second year here.
Q: Do you accept gifts?
A: Financial gifts or other resource grants to provide general support for this work may be accepted as long as they’re truly unconditional.
In keeping with my strict editorial policy and my solidarity-based goal of helping artists get properly paid for their work, I do not accept free albums.
Q: How do you select the artists and labels you interview?
A: I seek out artists whose work I appreciate, and whose interviewing style fits well with my contemplative approach. I’ve got a lengthy list of people I’d love to interview. I send out invites as time permits.
Q: How far out is your interview schedule booked?
A: About 3-6 months.
Q: How often do you publish new work?
A: I publish when a piece lets me know it is ready to be released. I do my best to release material as regularly as possible, but I don’t guarantee publication dates. Deep-dive interviews, especially, take a great deal of patience and time to produce since they often require lengthy correspondence and several rounds of edits. I also work full time as a self-employed freelance editor. If this direct subscription experiment does well, however, I may be able to gradually reduce time at the day job and devote more time to writing for Endarkenment.
Q: How do you edit interviews?
A: I typically edit for spelling, grammar, standard American English usage, punctuation, and readability. I submit edits to the artist(s) for final approval before publication.
Q: I found a factual error/typo/broken link in your work. Who do I contact to report it?
A: Contact me at:
endarkenment.dark.ambient at gmail dot com
While I do my best with proofreading and fact-checking and always strive to be reliable, nobody’s perfect. I appreciate error reports and will make changes as soon as I’m able. For corrections, I’ll accept the word of the artists themselves over all other sources.
Q: Do you take requests for custom themed playlists?
A: Yes! I love theme requests. I consider all suggestions, though I can’t promise I’ll use them. I also 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.
Q: How did you discover dark ambient music?
My “gateway album” into dark ambient was Lustmord’s Heresy, which I discovered in my college days soon after my initiation into industrial music in 1992. I picked it up while browsing the industrial CD section at House of Records in Eugene, OR. At that time buyers couldn’t always listen to music in advance. I bought it on a whim, without hearing a single track, just because I liked the subterranean cover art. It took me awhile to get into it, but once I did, I never looked back. Whoever was responsible for getting that copy of Heresy onto the shelves at House of Records changed the course of my life, without even knowing it.
Q: What’s coming up in future issues?
A: Here’s a sampling of the pieces I’m either working on now or have booked into the pipeline as of May 2020. Note that some have been delayed for reasons related to COVID-19.
Interview: Dark Ambient Sound Bath
Interview: Out Of Hell
Also coming up: public re-releases of the archived interviews from the first year - Desiderii Marginis, Northumbria, Hypnagoga Press, and Ulf Söderberg.
Q: Is there a table of contents listing every newsletter you’ve published so far?
A: Yes! Find it right here.
Q: Will any of this material be published in print?
A: Maybe someday. But for the foreseeable future it will remain digital-only.
Q: I’m a writer too - where can I learn more about this paid-email-newsletter-publishing thing?
A: I recommend this interview with Chris Best (one of the founders of Substack), a news article on NeimanLab from July 2018 for historical context, and the ongoing writings at the On Substack archive.
Subscriber growth has been excellent in the first year of their business. In November 2018 Hamish McKenzie (the other founder of Substack) updated the subscriber numbers in the July 2018 NiemanLab interview above:
"We had 11,000 people paying for subscriptions across the network. Now we are up to more than 25,000. The growth is going really well. More than 25,000 paying subscribers paying real money, not just $1 or $2 a month. There’s more than 150,000 weekly active readers of Substack newsletters. Early days, but we’re really happy with those numbers."
And at the two-year mark, Substack published a great piece on their continued success and their vision of a "new media ecosystem, built on trust, that pays creative people for their valuable work."
What readers say about Danica:
"You couldn’t pick a better guide through some of the lesser known underground lairs and cosmic reaches of the genre, so put on your druid cloaks and grab your chisels and stone tablets, because you’re about to be taken to school."
"…few folks are better positioned to discuss that most reclusive of genres …"
"…one of North America’s leading fans and experts on Dark Ambient music…we’ve been after her to write a piece for us since we started the site back in 2011."
~ Bruce Lord & Alex Kennedy of I Die: You Die
"The world’s biggest dark ambient fan."
~ Abby Helasdottir of Gydja
"...Endarkenment...is really a precious thing in the dark ambient scene."
- Anile Dahl of Dahlia's Tear
"Your genuine passion for dark ambient is really worthy of the maximum praise."
~ Davide Del Col of Antikatechon
"Brilliant…I highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter and supporting her endeavours!"
~ Dorian Williamson of Northumbria
Feedback from readers of Uneasy Listening: Dark Ambient Music Appreciation for Pagans:
"Awesome article...I sense that the book is going to be an important (and much needed) ground stone for anything dark ambient related."
~ Matej Gyarfas of Phragments
"Recommended read for those interested in perspectives on the art of listening."
~ Marcus Lönebrink of Sinke Dûs
"Danica Swanson, the entity behind The Black Stone Hermitage and author of an upcoming book focusing specifically on dark ambient, gives us a proper introduction to the genre. After years of following dark ambient music, interviewing many of its most prominent artists and studying the history and inner workings of the genre, Danica Swanson is uniquely positioned to speak with authority about the genre as a whole. Her latest article focuses specifically on introducing the genre to polytheistic practitioners, but it’s an equally informative and interesting read for any dark ambient fan."
~ Michael Barnett, editor of This Is Darkness