The distorted legends of Shrine

SHRINE: Distorted Legends, pt. 3

Release year: 2021
Label: Corvus Music

You know how people who know shit about something sometimes act like the best experts on something? Why, I don’t know – an unfortunate placement on the Dunning-Kruger curve, a strong belief in their own infallibility, or just a willingness to take the piss, maybe? Well, anyhow, if you’re into that sort of thing, you’re in for a treat because never in my life have I heard Shrine before, and this is the third part in a trilogy so I’m so fucking out of the loop it’s just ludicrous.

This little tidbit I do know, however (because I read it on Shrine’s website): the second part of the Distorted Legends series has never been released. So we’re dealing with part three, the second part of the series. It may be unintentional, but I like the weirdness of that.

Shrine are a project from Bulgaria, who’ve been at it for a long time already. Having started out in 2003, this one-man project is just a year shy of 20 years old. In this time they’ve released (according to Discogs) eight full-length albums and a couple of 7″ records on labels such as Cyclic Law – so it’s definitely my bad I haven’t heard of Shrine before.

Stylistically, Shrine seems usually to be pegged as ambient. I’m somewhat conflicted about this at least when it comes to Distorted Legends, pt. 3. Certainly, there’s is a definite ambient nature to these tracks. But just as certainly, there are far too active elements in the music too. Elements that demand attention and won’t just remain in the background. Well then, it must be dark ambient, I hear you say. Nooooooo, not that either. Sure, again, it’s not totally off the mark, but comparing to just about any dark ambient I’ve ever listened to, this isn’t it. Ultimately, there is too much tranquillity in the ambience.

Of course, it’s not like exact stylistic pigeonholing matters or even necessarily makes sense. Distorted Legends, pt. 3 combines industrial elements with ambience and hints of darkness – so let’s call it industrial ambient, shall we? I would say it’s a fitting descriptor considering the thematic of this 7″: as the cover implies, it deals with the industrial revolution. And as the track on the A-side, Detrimental Revolution implies, Shrine’s take on it is less than positive.

The two tracks on this 7″ are by and large cut from the same cloth: serene, even beautiful synthesizer textures, industrial sounds of rattling chains and clanging metal, complemented with more distant, distorted layers of synths and lower frequency, bassy sounds. The music carries with it vague sensations of loss and fading tranquillity; of a world with beauty passing from view; of an irreversible change that brings with it uncertainty. And, of course, against the backdrop of a bleak take on the industrial revolution, it is easy to see that it’s the smog and pollution of machinery and industry behind which a more innocent world disappears.

To be perfectly frank, this isn’t my preferred type of music. I take my ambient like I take my coffee: half-asleep, in the morning and with two slices of toast. Uh, I mean, dark to the point of black. Still, there are some wonderful atmospherics on this 7″, and the soundscapes and sound design are both obviously full of skill and insight. This release sounds like its themes, which is always a success for instrumental and non-verbal music.

So, whilst not entirely my cup of tea (even though we were just talking about coffee), there’s really no other conclusion possible than for what it is, this is good stuff.

Visit Shrine on their website, Bandcamp or Facebook

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