Taking an inverse approach to ideas that worked their way into The Ocean’s Holocene, band member Peter Voigtmann’s solo work as SHRVL shines in its own right. More minimalistic than progressive, the album’s a response to Voigtmann’s own existential struggles and illnesses. The melancholy of the work bleeds through effusively in its somber tones and its agoraphobia-inducing vastness, but it’s the richness of the works that’s truly impressive. Most ambient electronic acts start to skew into the listless as the albums drag on, but Limbus strikes a balance between understated and engaging that’s difficult to do; one thinks of Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV in terms of its pared-down compositions that nonetheless are fully actualized creations.
Despite the first four pieces being described as “companion pieces to Holocene,” they have a life of their own, especially given the ultimate difference in genre. “Remission” and “Relapse” both have video game-like undertones, the latter more haunting. Shades of Alessandro Cortini bleed through beautifully during bits of Resident Evil-like brooding. “Recovery” is a little more Kid A-ish, sub-bass and sawtooth synths swelling atop eclectic percussion, getting progressively more mournful and poignant as strings start to sing. The closing “Recurrence” is a longform epic; dreamlike in its beginning, the same maudlin energy permutes it as the rest of the album, with Hans Zimmer-like moments – particularly during its astral zone midway – coming to later channel bits of the 28 Days Later soundtrack, ultimately ending with birdcalls dappled in sunlight.
Ultimately, Limbus is a captivating and surprisingly deft oeuvre that vibrates with raw and resigned power. Creating an engaging soundscape while still letting the elements breathe is a difficult balance to strike, and yet Voigtmann has done precisely this; a haunting and beautiful album that is, without a doubt, well worth a listen.