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Lull - Journey Through Underworlds

Lull - Journey Through Underworlds coverAt the time when Journey Through Underworlds was released Mick Harris was part of avant dub duo Scorn, along with Nick Bullen. While Scorn explored dread and paranioa with electronic beats, Harris was exploring imaginary landscapes in the drone and drift of his solo project Lull. Scorn may have found themselves grouped with the post-rock crowd, but Lull were at the vanguard of the isolationist movement, a loose catch-all to create a genre of artists using drone, silence and atmospherics. The late John Everall's Sentrax label, who originally released this, was at the heart of isolationism with releases from Final, KK Null, Paul Schütze and Lull - in fact, Sentrax was set up as a means to release Lull's first album Dreamt About Dreaming. Lull delved deeper into the insidious ambient soundscapes that created the dread and doom underpinning Scorn's low and slow experimental ambient dub tones.

Dark ambient is a term bandied about when discussing Lull but they eschew the cavernous quake and elongated drone that's come to characterise dark ambient today. Sure on the eerie title track where voices are contorted into animalistic noises over a nebulous sound drift it veers close to dark ambient but the others offer much more. The development of the tracks is carefully considered and spacious with an implied rhythm at the core of their sound providing momentum, a drift as Harris has called it.

The opener 'Downwards' is steeped in a dank atmosphere of echoed and reverbed sound. The patter of hollow instruments are looped and treated to delay, and merged with grainy textures. Mick Harris often spoke of Lull being beat free but there is beats, especially in the hellish miasma of rhythms and jarring processed carousel swirl. ''Downwards' acts as a mere prelude to the massive 45-minute 'In The Distance'. Cast against a chasmic fog drone are spiralling glassy shatters, metallic shimmers and reverberating chugging drone. It's a deeply immersive and expansive slow drift through fiery pits and dark rivers spliced with creaks, pummels and rattles. At times there's battering like oars beating against the body of a ship and a short passage of erratic xylophone chime. Even in the absence of obvious rhythm, there is a momentum, albeit a slow one, in the pace of the varied sounds. Later on a storm of grating swirling sounds leads into stretched movements and an extended section of fluttering sound wisps darting overhead, its repeated textures, once again, hinting at implied rhythms.

Lull were considered part of that Kevin Martin coined isolationism genre, but listening now Lull seem much more experimental owing more to the likes of Zoviet France, Nurse With Wound and their remixes of Coil's How To Destroy Angels. At a time when Mick Harris is better known for his Twitter outbursts, Journey Through Underworlds is a reminder of when he was pushing the right boundaries and pushing ambient music into uncharted territories. If you missed it first time around, then Journey Through Underworlds is a wonderful precursor to both dark ambient and isolationism. Journey Through Underworlds is available and digitally from Cold Spring bandcamp