The Most Unsettling Album on the Internet
by Pad Chennington
What makes an album a truly “unsettling” or “disturbing” piece of art? Furthermore, what makes an “unsettling” or “disturbing” album somehow wonderfully blissful at the same time?
Today, I want to discuss an album you have probably never heard of... “TOWERS”. “TOWERS”, to be blunt, is an album of the dark-ambient or drone genre (I’ll breakdown the genre later in the article as well) found within the depths of the internet. However, I recommend you buckle up right now, because you and I are going to be scavenging this brilliantly disturbing and atmospherically vast album—let us see what we can uncover from it’s shrouding narrative. I want to dive into the music found on the album, the story and the creation of the album with words from the producers themselves, as well as the visual interpretations an album like this creates for myself and others who have happened to stumble upon it. The album presents an incredibly vivid world in your mind while listening to it, a world so three-dimensional that you swear you’ve been there before… and maybe there’s good reason you haven’t returned to that world since. I want you to hold my hand, and do not look up at the windows or who may be falling out of them, and maybe, just maybe, you and I can be at peace within the disturbing world of “TOWERS”.
“TOWERS” was originally created by two producers who go by ImCoPav and Enylobe under the aliases “Corporate Disaster” (a defunct drone side project/concept). The project was eventually left on the back burner for personal reasons and eventually fizzled out, but fast forward 2 - 3 years later where one of the members of the duo, Enylobe, took it upon himself to submit the album to the Geometric Lullaby label where it currently rests waiting for you to visit. Released on the label on April 16th, 2019, the duo, now referring to themselves also by the name “TOWERS”, resides next to some fellow exceptional releases (the Death’s Dynamic Shroud.wmv “Classroom Sexxtape” physicals, “Spirit Realm”, and “The Form of Life is Dead” just to name a few).
The album is constructed in a simple manner—4 songs titled “TOWERS I” to “TOWERS IV”. The contribution from ImCoPav’s end was mostly sampled based and produced through Adobe Audition while the work on Enylobe’s end was almost completely original, ultimately creating a unique blend of the two techniques for the final result.
“Most of the sounds and textures I did consciously, and deliberately made them to feel like a 3D effect. ImCoPav had sent me a bunch of ambient type tracks and I added most of the textures and sounds that kind of spliced and glued it all together... If I can produce the sound im looking for, I try not to sample.” -Enylobe
With each song varying in duration between 12 and 17 minutes, the album ends up being just below an hour of a listen. A worthwhile length for an album falling under the dark ambient genre, “TOWERS” hits that sweet spot where it is not so long it feels overly stretched and tiresome, but just long enough where you can really fall into a trance-like state within the deepest clutches of the album.
So, let us talk about what “dark-ambient” is before we get into discussing what makes this masterclass album so dark, brooding, and haunting. Referred to as “ambient industrial” in the late 1980’s, dark ambient is a genre of post-industrial music home to a blend of elements whose purpose is to create this distant or vast feeling in an atmosphere influenced by gloom and doom. Ominous, dark droning and catacombal sounds make up the life of this genre, and while most times we find the genre to feature electronically generated instruments, dark ambient can also include the sampling of hand-played instruments or other semi-acoustic recording procedures, making the creative toolbox for the style never empty. Found sounds, bellowing frequencies, warped field recordings, over-extended gongs and cymbals, eerie harmonies and distorted voices are just some of the many paths that can make up your go-to dark ambient song.
“TOWERS” definitely has traces of what your go-to dark ambient album can contain, however tends to pepper on a streamlined “cyberpunk” flair that we have seen done a lot these days from music producers lurking in the catacombs of the internet.
“During the process of creating TOWERS, I initially wanted to simply create music that was essentially a soundtrack to cityscapes in general. I've always had a fascination, or perhaps even a fetish, of late night cityscapes; it was a strange, atmospheric aura that the aesthetic had that nearly called out to me... it is sometimes indescribable.” -ImCoPav
The album starts off with a group of hollering emergency sirens, sounds that immediately spark up the initial memories of listening to releases like the legendary “Birth of a New Day”, or any other 2 8 1 4 project for that matter. However, instead of continually dropping tangible sounds like blurry police sirens, car tires rubbing against the late night asphalt, or the clacking of ones shoes on the concrete after leaving a late night at the office, the album becomes way more subjective right off the bat instead of your usual infrastructure smoothie you may hear from a lot of other cyberpunk-inspired dark ambient releases. It is here, right after mere seconds in the album, where “TOWERS” begins to let you interpret the sounds in your own way. There is this beautiful opportunity for your subconscious to begin piecing together this mental image of what the sounds coming out of the album would look like if they were brought to life right in front of you. Where other cyberpunk-inspired dark ambient albums would just drag and drop city sound effects into the mix, “TOWERS” uses a variety of filters to distort those common noises to create a world much more paranormal or sci-fi.
“I personally had a sort of open-ended narrative in mind that the listener could sort of fill in the blanks with their own imagination.” -Enylobe
The sirens at the introduction of the album quickly begin to fade to a halt, implying that this obvious sound of a sign of danger is only a temporary beginning to the story here. What follows next is a series of drawn-out, beautifully enchanted synths that slowly begin to creep up on you. To me, the warbled and gradual tone of these rising synths present the idea of what it could possibly feel like if you were fading from your very own body upon your death and now escalating into an uncharted, spiritual state neglected of feeling you once so accustomed to in the physical world. I can’t help but take the role of the falling man in the album artwork here, as if we have hit the pavement and are slowly beginning to evaporate from the pain and noises around us, transitioning into a more angelic state. Soon, the synths go back and forth between haunting and somber, and the smudgy rainfall trigger this vision of leaving the never-ending world of skyscrapers as you rise higher and higher into the blueish-purple night sky.
One of the first things this album reminded me of immediately upon discovering it is the infamous picture of “The Falling Man”, a photo taken by Richard Drew on September 11th, 2001 of a man falling from the then burning North Tower of the Twin towers. The album’s night-time setting developed a different moment in time for me in my head, a timeline where the tragic events of the day took place late at night instead of early in the day.
“The narrative was meant to serve as a part of the lore I had created for the Corporate Disaster alias, but after much analysis as of recently I decided that it's going to be its own universe. I plan to write a story for the expansion of that project's universe, but I'm keeping the details of it on the down low... Ironically enough, that's the man from MYST, but there wasn't much of a meaning to it other than to set the mood of the listener in a subtle way. But it's open to interpretation.” -ImCoPav
At 10 minutes and 26 seconds into the first track of the album, the sound of a man screaming (and without a doubt, falling at the same time) can be heard, triggered by the effects laid on the tail end of the scream sound effect. “TOWERS” has a really cool way with how they bend obvious sound effects to give those sound effects movement, here specifically with the screaming man falling. Another instance of this happening on the album is when they electronically distort the sound of trickling water from time to time, perplexing the sounds of water to scrape through the hundreds of concrete surfaces or pipes laid throughout the city. This makes the common practice we see time and time again of producers using background water sound effects evolve into something much more mysterious or other worldly, giving the texture of the rain a more sludge feel than smooth or liquidy.
The album also strikes a resounding resemblance to the HKE classic “HK”. While “HK” is more sporadic in its nature compared to the subtle tones of “TOWERS” (The opening track on “HK” straight up sounds like it is possessed), both albums portray this paranormal-city syndrome I could never resist. While both albums also feature a striking resemblance in color pallette and setting, I was surprised to find that the HKE classic release played no influence with the making of the album.
“We are both very aware of HKE and are long time fans of his early works, but the album “HK” was never thought of during the creation of Towers.” -ImCoPav
“Yeah I love HKE's music, but I have never heard that album yet... I will def check it out.” -Enylobe
So alive and lurking at every corner, the unsettling bliss in “TOWERS” resides in its colorful and contrasting nature, a journey from immediate chaos to angelic blur. I can’t recommend this album enough so you too can have your own unique experience in this world where inescapable darkness and endless buildings are all we had ever known.
Much love, ur boi, Pad Chennington.
"Also known as "Youtube's Vaporwave Valedictorian", Pad Chennington is a content creator who has created a substantial following on YouTube for his videos discussing all things Vaporwave. Starting in the Fall of 2017, Pad's videos range from reviews to breakdowns, interviews to unboxings, and much more, always revolving around odd and interesting music genres found throughout the internet. Pad has also recently released an album in February titled "CONTRAST" that is available as a free download via the My Pet Flamingo label."