What I love about Dark Ambient music is that it can take all day to unravel as if it’s leaving the speakers in slow motion, spreading like mist, settling as a ghostly wisp, covering the peaks of your senses like a low cloud. A seventy-five minute set on slow release can have you transfixed for hours, massaging your neurons, removing you from the present, out from your body, detaching you from the place you are stationed and transporting you to another reality altogether. In the case of Zoviet France one wonders how to describe this music to other people, how to expose people to it. But it feels uncomfortable to offer an accessible commentary to their brooding, revealing their secrets under the floorboards. Should we commercialise the darkness? Are they like Blade Runner, a scripted fantasy underworld? Is it just entertainment?
What I do know is that Zoviet France don’t make themselves available to us to explain. They also don’t exist purely as a concept and they do need tools to create their epic, sonic triumphs and they probably need people to bother with their creations as a catalyst for invention. But it’s their insistence on not insisting that you listen to them, or follow them to find out who they are – that’s what makes me approach their music on their terms. Having succumbed to it without any prompting, hype, influence or even information, I decided that I should best blindly follow them into their nightmares, allow them the grace of knowing that they have my attention. Treat them as if you were getting into a strangers car – with trepidation and a certain buzz of nervous excitement, let them drive you silently into the forest. We owe it to them to listen to them like this, after all it’s us that have gone to them not the other way around.
Formed in Newcastle in 1982 Zoviet France have courted anonymity in its brightest form, there’s not much to know about them because it’s not of interest. We do actually know that Ben Ponton and Mark Warren are the current members, other members have come and gone leaving this core duo to not wave the flag for their music – we wouldn’t really know if there were others behind the scenes or not and we don’t particularly care what they look like, in fact to know might distort our image of them as shining Industrial, Ambient trailblazers.
Mort Aux Vaches (Death To Cows) from 1998 is one of approximately 30 albums, most of which are not available (you’ve got to be quick with this slow music). It’s something of a chiller and whether we should interpret the title literally for that dark fantasy movie S/track of the same name or let them bend the meaning till it has no meaning at all is hard to determine. Or do we simply wade through the marshes of their minds, unleash ourselves into the madness of their imaginations. Or perhaps they are only the vessels for you to explore your own dark tunnels, providing you with a S/track to a personal haunted inner landscape? It’s actually all up to us, they play no part in the aftermath of their creations.
Nothing grows in this music except creativity itself. There’s no blade of grass or soft breeze, nothing in primary colours, only withered arms in rags, an inevitable torture of the soul – it’s a horror movie for the ears. But it’s beautifully realized and such skill at evoking and captivating visual processions of the dead or the stink of a dank forgotten prison on a distant planet has you cheering for inspiration itself as it finds triumph in darkness and illumination.