Enigmatic dark ambient producer Emra Grid first emerged last year with his / her highly acclaimed debut album ‘The Same Face’ on cassette, and a swift year on, this follow-up collection ‘Shay’s Vacation House’ arrives on 12” vinyl from Opal Tapes. Given the spooky sleeve art, it seems particularly fitting that this album is getting released on Halloween, but while the fanged ghoul sketch on the cover might suggest the more cartoon-y side of horror, the eight tracks here see Emra Grid building a deep and immersive sense of suspense without ever resorting to sensationalism or gimmicks.
What’s particularly surprising about this album is just how easy it is to listen to, even as it charts stygian depths and what often sounds like the cold blackness of space. Indeed, opening track ‘Land Is’ gently coaxes the listener in as melancholic melodic chords drift against a background sweep of percussion and droning harmonies, the sense of slow motion disrupted occasionally by digital crackles as what sounds like distant orchestration bleeds into the foreground. Whilst definitely eerie, it’s a comparatively gentle start before ‘Replaced’ leads things further down into the dim depths, sending digital bass pulses murmuring back forth against what sounds like distorted rushes of air, the bass pressure of the rumbling electronics almost creating a sense of tonal massage as distorted industrial textures get digitally stretched against ominous ringing harmonics and insectoid flutters.
There’s a strong kinship to be found with the likes of Coil here, with ‘Departure’ conjuring up an atmosphere of cold malevolence as background electronics play out a slow rhythmic pulse against gradually building layers of buzzing noise, sudden reverb-treated noises disrupting the sense of oceanic drift as they arc through the stereo spectrum against fuzzed-out metallic scrapes. As with all of the best dark ambient scores, there’s a constant sense of the threat lurking just slightly out of reach in the darkness, and one of Emra Grid’s greatest tricks here is that we never quite get to see its face.