It's no surprise that the first track on the debut full-length from Deaf Center is entitled "Lobby." Pale Ravine seems to take a lot of influences from the theater, whether it be cinema itself, or the dark and sometimes dusty confines of the old buildings themselves. Following on the heels of last years Neon City EP, the Norwegian duo mixes field recordings with processing and actual played instrumentation (mostly strings and piano) to create dark ambient music that sounds like a cross between Max Richter and David Lynch.
The aforementioned "Lobby" sets the pace gradually, mixing swirls of strings and synths into sort of an amorphous cloud of sound from which only subtle heaves escape. "Thread" follows and is even more crushing, dropping super-low programming under more cinematic swells of strings and some manipulated rustling that sounds like the crumpling of paper magnified to become an overwhelming insect. "White Lake" opens things up ever so slightly, letting expressive piano melodies trickle down over a precise plucked bass and quieter strings and field recordings that open up in places to let everything breath.
Some tracks set the mood even more by using a specific field recording. "The Clearing" recalls the title by using what sounds like a recording from nearby a swamp, but as the sound of flies enters and the music gets more creepy, you wonder if the group is trying to convince you that a dead body is laying nearby. "Loft" compresses space by mixing some woody scrapes and shuffles, as if the listener is blind and stumbling around in a small room, haunted by foreboding music and the things you cannot see.
In places, the swells of strings and nebulous overall atmosphere of the disc sort of blend together, and while the sounds are always fairly intriguing, the group seems to make a stronger case when they have a bit more development to hang on. The gorgeous "Stone Beacon" is a perfect example, blending melodramatic orchestral bleeds with melancholy piano and some shuffling feet in grass feet field recording. Pale Ravine is definitely soundtrack style music, but it works the best when it nudges you just slightly in a particular direction. Fans of the aforementioned or Johann Johannsson take note, this is some nice stuff.