2 Eclipse 8:53
3 Liquid Metal Stasis 7:42
4 Another Cloud 9:08
5 Tenganan Grove 6:36
6 Within The Cloud 3:49
7 Ablution 2:23
8 Lambat Lane 24:24
Total Time 69:16
An ambient hybrid of traditional Indonesian soundscapes and electronics. Originally released in 2000 on Italy’s Amplexus label, Loren Nerell extends The Venerable Dark Cloud‘s original 22 minutes to over 69 minutes, culminating in a complete vision capturing a sound that Sequences described as “modern ambient drone music (that) melds with ancient tribal cultures to form something entirely new, sounding ages old.”
In 2000, Glen Hammett wrote for The Raging Consciousness Desk, The Venerable Dark Cloud “is spectacular, creative, and a delight to listen. Enchanting! The sensation the listener comes away with is one of a sacred mysterious quality, and I found myself wanting more when it ended.“
Sixteen years later, the wait is over. Capturing an ambient sound informed by Indonesian gamelan music, and the concept of animism, Loren remarks, “What would it be like to be a soul or spirit inside a gong? You would not think in human ways but maybe in gamelan tones. This album is how I imagine it would be to be that gong.”
From the liner notes, Loren writes:
This project started back in 1998 when Stefano Gentile asked me to contribute to his Amplexus mini-CD ambient label. The timing was perfect: I had just finished my masters degree in ethnomusicology, it had been a while since I had any time to create music, and I was very eager to get back to creating again.
The first thing that came was the title; well, actually I stole the title. The Venerable Dark Cloud is the English translation of the name given to the UCLA Javanese gamelan ensemble “Kyai Mendung.” I felt this title fit the mood of the music I was writing, plus I also had this concept for what the album was about. Indonesia is predominately Islamic, but underneath there are many layers of other beliefs including Animism, the belief that everything has a soul. This has filtered down into everything including gamelan ensembles; it is thought that the spirit of the ensemble resides in its largest gong. As an outsider, I was fascinated. I wondered, “What would it be like to be a soul or spirit inside a gong?” You would not think in human ways but maybe in gamelan tones. This album is how I imagine it would be to be that gong. “Within The Cloud” is how a gong would think created using only gamelan tones that I processed.
One unique aspect of the Amplexus concept that I found challenging was the short capacity of the little 3-inch CDs they released on; they held about 23 minutes rather than the 74 minutes on a standard cd. It was a challenge, but I found around 22 minutes of music to include. I felt and still feel it is the strongest work I have produced to date.
Fast forward about ten years; the CD is long out of print. Steve Roach suggested that I release the CD again but this time as a full-length version. I went back into my archives and found a couple of tracks that I did not include on the original release due to length. “Liquid Metal Statis” appeared on the Hypnos Compilation CD Weightless, Effortless and has been slightly remixed for this disc. The other was an alternative version of the song “Eclipse,” now called “Another Cloud.” Completing the vision are tracks “Tenganan Grove” and “Lambat Lane.”
Rerelease street date: October 14 2016
Reviews Editor –
Loren Nerell revisits an older track and expands upon it on The Venerable Dark Cloud. Stemming from a 23-minute song originally released on a mini-disc on the Amplexus label, this new release more deeply explores Nerell’s signature blend of shadowy ambient spaces, primitive percussion, and the unique tones of the Indonesian gamelan. Much of this album goes by like watching thick incense smoke waft across a moonless night sky. The sense of ritual is very strong, and these sonic meditations open the gate to a wide realm of imagery. “Dark Horizon” brings us in slowly on low drones, bits of percussion, and vocal snippets with a call-to-prayer feel. Field recordings layered into the background enrich the overall atmosphere. On “Eclipse,” which follows, we get the first appearance of the gamelan as it lays out a swaying cadence against a steady rhythm on drum. The gamelan’s bright, odd voice is compelling as it hypnotically repeats its line. “Another Cloud” follows suit later, falling into a repetitive pattern between chimes and drums as the background continues to move like mist. It starts a deep immersion that takes us completely under as we’re cut adrift on the long ambient flow of “Tenganan Grove.” This piece has a great humid, organic, lost-in-the-undergrowth sensibility right from the start. All the percussion from the previous tracks drops away in favor of nature sounds and long, murky drones. Within its first two minutes it gently takes control of your breathing. The track is just six minutes long but it’s absolutely the deepest six on the album and feels pleasantly longer. At its far end, it rises back up into “Within the Cloud.” The gamelan returns, bringing rhythm with it, and a sense of passage. Toward the end of this track, Nerell veers into sounds that are more assertive, if not jarring. which brings me to the one place on Venerable… where he loses me a bit. Although I am sure Nerell has a reason for including them, I could honestly do without the rooster and the storm sounds in “Ablution.” Both, but especially that rooster, are the only things that pull me out of this flow. The good news is, I fall back into it right away with the 24-minute closer, “Lambat Lane.” A dense cloud of pads, drones, and distant vocal samples at the start, it grows to include soft chimes and the curling call of didgeridoo. It swallows time as it goes, the sound swirling into a smooth vortex. A brilliant piece. Throughout the album, flute from Sasha Bogdanovich alternately soars and slithers through the shadowy proceedings, trailing a touch of sacred-music influence in its beautiful wake.
The Venerable Dark Cloud is a shadow-enshrouded meditation, a slow-moving journey into fully realized strange sonic places that offer our mind’s eye a lot to consider. Its rhythmic elements balance perfectly with the long drifts, bringing that primal/tribal touch I enjoy without moving the album fully into that realm. This is more about the mystery, the space inside, the secrets. A very strong offering from Loren Nerell.
Reviews Editor –
From Ambient Blog
To protect myself from overload, this blog focuses on new and recent releases, and skips re-issues (sometimes with pain in my heart).
But there are exceptions, and this is one. On the other hand, one could argue that this is a NEW release, since the original 1999 release with the same title only featured 4 tracks with a total length of 22 minutes. AND it has been long out of print! This 2016 edition, however, is 69 minutes long and is extended to eight tracks. AND it’s available!
What may be even more important is that none of these tracks show any sign of age. This is classic fourth world ambient music, merging Indonesian Gamelan sounds with electronic soundscapes.
Loren Nerell, who has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology, reveals that the album titles comes from the translation of Kyai Mendung, the name of the UCLA Javanese gamelan ensemble. In the belief of Animism, everything has a soul. It is thought that the spirit of the gamelan ensemble resides in its largest gongs.
“What would it be like to be a soul or spirit inside a gong? You would not think in human ways but maybe in gamelan tones. This album is how I imagine it would be to be that gong.”
If you ever experienced the sound of a full gamelan orchestra you will probably not find this a strange thought at all. The sounds of the gongs, as well as their specific scales and tuning awakens a mysterious awareness on a subconscious level. It is beautiful to listen to, but for western ears it also seems to come from a different, incomprehensible world.
Loren Nerell is capable of connecting these worlds, crossing different cultures and opening the mysteries of the gamelan orchestra for western listeners without denying the culture it originally came from. – Peter van Cooten
Reviews Editor –
A review of the original Amplexus 3″ release from Sequences
Loren Nerell is known for his fondness for gamelan music. You get the idea of his blending of music elements when you see that his latest CD was recorded over the last few years in Bali, Java, and…Los Angeles. Modern ambient drone music melds with ancient tribal cultures to form something entirely new, sounding ages old. As usual with Amplexus limited edition 3″ singles, the packaging is beautiful, featuring a large 3-fold booklet with photography by the label’s Stefano Gentile. Being a single, this is 21 minutes of new music. The journey of musical exploration ends far too soon, but it is very, very good while it lasts. The textures are rich, as drones blend with sparse tribal beats and ancient instruments, such as the crystal clear but other worldly bell tones in Eclipse. Just reading the credits for the instrumentation used is fascinating, as I couldn’t tell you what most of them are. They are fused into a hypnotic mix of soothing sounds, truly transporting you to another place and time. The music is simultaneously dark and yet spiritually uplifting. Within the Cloud is appropriately named, as it is light and delicate, though again with a dark quality that keeps this far from new age realms. This track takes surprisingly smooth musical turns, given I detect at least three distinct movements over its less than four-minute run. The disc is clearly intended to be played at one sitting, as it all runs together as a single piece of music. Ablution begins with flutes, rain, thunder, and a rooster crowing. The spatial effect is amazing, as the rainfall seems to be coming from deep within the speakers. Then, just when I’m fully drawn in, it’s over. More, please. -Phil Derby
Reviews Editor –
A review of the original Amplexus 3″ release from Exposé Magazine, Summer 2000
For those who don’t know, the Italian label Amplexus is a specialized ambient label that was originally based on the photography of Stefano Gentile, and their main line of 3″ CDs comes in special packaging including his photography. This Nerell title is the 12th in the series (which includes names like Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Michael Stearns, Vidna Obmana etc) and continues the high quality of both the visual and aural. Four titles, at just over 20 minutes, Nerell explores the fusion of Indonesian elements and ambient music with success. These include electronics, a number of percussive instruments such as ciblon and gender, and Sasha Bogdanowitsch on suling, a bamboo flute. Dark Horizon includes dark electronics with recordings of vocals and the suling. Eclipse includes recorded ambiance; ciblon; and a variety of Javenese and Balinese instruments, including saron, boning, slenthem, and gender. “Within The Cloud” and Ablution, the EP’s two shortest songs are more silent and mysterious, the former mixing in samples and recordings to a slighty chaotic finish, and the latter a Slow and gentle finale. Very nicely done, and at a limited edition of 1000, You will want to pick this one up soon. Mike McLatchey
Reviews Editor –
A review of the original Amplexus 3″ release from The Raging Consciousness Desk
Years ago while doing a radio show we started receiving cassette tape recordings from an entire underground of inter-connected artists. Many of the artists were forgettable, yet one artist stood out from the rest. Using a new hybrid of music that contained sounds culled from around the globe and possessing a Tribal – Ritualistic sound that blew listeners away, this was a real find! No one heard any more from the artist and we would scour the shelves of every record store visited looking for anything by him – yet never successful. Upon hearing Jorge Reyes first work, a substitute was found to live with until finding the artist that stuck in my head. Years passed and I saw a name on a recording that got my adrenaline going – Loren Nerell! Finally, the music I had searched so hard for was that little bit closer. At last, the labels have heard what talent Nerell possessed and (finally) his music is available.
The newest release from Nerell is a mini-CD and comes from one of (IMHO) one of the world’s finest labels – Italy’s Amplexus. In the fantastic ‘6″ X 9″ post card’ format that Amplexus has made a calling card, the new Nerell is near perfect. The music – an Ambient hybrid of traditional Indonesian, Electronics, and sound effects is spectacular, creative, and a delight to listen. The CD begins with a rooster crow, softly played flute, drone electronics and rain falling gently on the forest – with occasional thunder blasts. Enchanting! Track two with it’s hand percussion and Gamelan orchestra backed by chant, droning electronics and chirping insects make for a powerful nine minutes of highly-inventive music. The sensation the listener comes away with is one of a Sacred Mysterious quality and I found myself wanting more when it ended. This IS NOT similar to the music released by Nerell on the Indonesian Soundscapes recordings. Lilin Dewa – a much stronger piece of music would be comparable, however. Trance-y female voice/chant, wind blown instruments and drones end the CD. Sonically, the CD has a natural timbre combined with a presence lacking in some field-recording releases. For someone with an insatiable appetite for hearing new music 24-7 – I played this CD over three times.
Beautiful package, great sonics, fantastic music, and limited edition of 1000 positively make this one of the most exciting releases of the year. – Glenn Hammett