Arriving on the esoteric Cold Spring label, Du Y Moroedd (Welsh: “The Black of the Seas”) is the latest document of Benjamin Powell’s Llyn Y Cwn (“Lake of the Dogs”), a long running dark ambient project with a unique collection of albums inspired by the rich and varied geography of Powell’s home country of Wales. True to its title, Du Y Moroedd’s theme is cultivated and constructed by field recordings of Powell’s journeys from the coasts of Wales and Greenland and even to the Arctic Ocean aboard Bangor University’s research vessel Prince Madog.
From the opening seconds of “Trwyn Du,” the record’s oceanic aesthetic is immediately apparent; lapping waves, the periodic tolling of a signal bell and an abyssal drone whisk the listener away to the titular lighthouse. It’s a strong tone setter for the rest of the record, where one evocative soundscape seems to seamlessly meld into the next, so much so that the album is at its best when taken in one singular listen. The aptly titled “Submergence” takes the journey below the sea to envelope the listener with an otherworldly drone, while “Adrift” places one right amidst waves crashing upon the shore of Wales. Of particular interest is “SS Apapa,” which takes the plunge down to the watery grave of the doomed ocean liner of the same name; sonar was used aboard the Prince Madog while researching shipwrecks during the making of this record, and the result is a haunting track that effortlessly captures the horror of the SS Apapa’s destruction at the hands of a German U-Boat. Similarly, “Erebus and Terror” cultivates a cavernous atmosphere to explore the wreckages of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, icebound and sunk during Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Passage.
While Du Y Moroedd is a very competent dark ambient effort removed from such familiarity with the aforementioned events, the history and context certainly invites further study, deepening the intrigue. Assembled with a sure hand and a confidence that comes from such an experienced artist, Du Y Moroedd is a record that conjures a sense of wonder, dread, and above all, fascination.