SLEEP RESEARCH FACILITY  Nostromo  CD   (Cold Spring)   13.98

Sleep Research Facility's debut album Nostromo from 2001 is a classic slab of black ambient, and in the years since has been considered one of the finest examples of the form. The album went out of print for awhile, but was recently reissued by Cold Spring with a previously unreleased bonus track. If you know and love Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien (and why wouldn't you?), you'll recognize the title of this album immediately. The Nostromo is the name of the enormous deep-space freighter ship that serves as the setting for the film, and it's labyrinthine, Gothic atmosphere made it as much a character in the film as the human actors and the Alien itself. The first eight minutes of Alien show the ship moving slowly through space, a massive cathedral like construct drifting through the cosmos, and it is this sequence that serves as the inspiration for this album. With five tracks titled "A-Deck" through "E-Deck", Sleep Research Facility creates vast expanses of ultra deep, pitch black ambience, each subsequent track taking you deeper into the ship and crafting minimalist driftscapes that become more ominous and claustrophobic as the album progresses. The sound is pure ambient drone, impenetrably black sheets of amorphous, whirring low-end and deep bass frequencies, laced with distant streaks of feedback, the eerie crackle of radio static, echoing pulses, cavernous reverb and the thrum of huge, unseen engines. Utterly colossal and ice cold, it's still one of the bleakest pieces of dark isolationist ambience you will ever hear, at the top of the heap of dark ambient/iso-drone masterpieces alongside Lustmord's Heresy, Lull's Cold Summer, and Thomas Köner's Daikan.

The bonus track "Narcissus" will come as a surprise to anyone that has already heard Nostromo, as the closing piece has a different tone than the five lengthy tracks that make up the album proper. That's because the "Narcissus" is a different ship, the small landing craft that the crew of the Nostromo used to land on the planetoid to investigate the mysterious radio signal in the film. The eight minute track is more active than the original album material, a shimmering metallic dronecloud of fluctuating bass-pulse loops, distorted grinding, high-end hiss, and churning droning electronics that kind of sounds like a dark ambient version of K.K. Null's chaotic space-noise.

Absolutely essential.

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