Empty World by The Void Wanderer (Review)

The Russian composer’s slowly unfurling drones and sonic drift evoke a sense of mystery and wonder.
Empty World - The Void Wanderer

Like so many other dark ambient titles, Empty World’s cover artwork — which depicts an old industrial town nestled deep in some forgotten valley enveloped by thick, impenetrable mist — proves an apt visual metaphor for the music contained therein. But whereas many of his dark ambient peers envision eldritch horrors, abyssal gloom, and slaughterhouse nightmares with their ominous soundscapes, Zaplatkin Fedor Pavlovich — aka The Void Wanderer — opts for a more subdued and elegiac approach that proves just as affecting, if not more so.

This becomes immediately apparent within the first seconds of “In My Restless Dreams,” which opens Empty World with slowly unfurling clouds of drones and pure sonic drift that recall Poemme’s Soft Ice (one of my favorite ambient albums of all time). On any other dark ambient album, songs with titles like “The Fog Here Will Never Disappear” and “Road to Nowhere” would undoubtedly evoke existential dread and/or the sense of helplessness that comes with being trapped in a decaying town beset by otherworldly horrors lurking in the mist. But instead, Pavlovich’s atmopherics evoke a sense of mystery and wonder.

Listening to these seven songs reminds me of those rare mornings when I wake up to my city wreathed in dense fog. No doubt some of my fellow citizens find such mornings bleak and gloomy. But for me, it feels like my city has been transformed. Once familiar streets become uncharted routes and the neighborhoods that I’ve walked through countless times are now unfamiliar terrain. While my rational brain knows what actually lies beneath the mist, my imagination sees an alien territory that I yearn to explore.

I feel that same yearning deep down inside every time I listen to Empty World, which means that The Void Wanderer has already released one of my favorite ambient albums of 2024. And with it, Oregon’s Cryo Chamber continues to maintain their status as one of today’s pre-eminent dark ambient labels

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