Sunday, November 6, 2016

Noctilucant: Apocalypse Now

Introducing Joseph Mlodik, the 35 year old mastermind behind Dark Ambient/Soundtrack behemoth Noctilucant. After 13 years at the helm of blog Lunar Hypnosis, Joseph decided he'd had enough of writing about music and stepped down from his role in order to have more free time in which to create music he enjoyed.

In September 2015,  the debut of his project Noctilucant ‘Back To The Mud’ the first in a series of apocalypse themed concept albums was released, sending shockwaves throughout the Dark Ambient community.  Almost a year later saw the follow up 'Oblivion To You All which has also been received very well.

You can listen to the album below and read my thoughts on it after this interview....

DMD: What is the meaning behind the name Noctilucant and how did you came by this name?

Joseph Mlodik: Noctilucant is a made up word, which is derived from the words Nocturnal and Applicant. You could almost view the meaning as someone who applies to the night.  Although it hasn’t been revealed in the storyline within the albums just yet, Noctilucant or “The Noctilucant” is a character, a sort of post-apocalyptic vigilante you could say.  My goal is to have him make his first appearance at the end of the next album in a rather dramatic and intense piece.   

DMD: Growing up, what artists/bands left a real mark on you?

JM: So many I wouldn’t honestly know where to start.  I would however say that I discovered “my own” music and tastes around the age of 10 or 11. It all started with stuff that was popular at the time, bands such as; Guns ’N’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth, AC/DC, Slayer, etc… early 90’s we’re talking here.  

My parents had mostly raised me on oldies from the 50’s and 60’s, intermingled with stuff from the 70’s and ongoing 80’s.  So, I guess this was a step of sorts towards more extreme if not weird territory, but alas I ended up spending a lot of time in the 90’s listening to shitty radio and alternative rock like Nirvana, STP, and Bush.  

It wasn’t until the late 90’s/early 00’s and the internet sensation that I discovered the underground music scene, which still to this day is among the best times of my life. The amount of music, culture and ideas I took in at this time was a complete sensory overload.  

I knew I had stumbled across something I had been longing to be a part of for a very, very long time. I had found my place, I guess you could say.  After that anything and everything normal and common in everyday life (music, sports, religion, typical ways of thinking/acting) seemed odd and more or less stupid to me.  

I should also mention that growing up I was also always very fond of the scores found in video games, and an early hobby of mine was recording that music from the TV in our basement by sticking a cheap tape deck next to it and hitting record. 

Again, by the time I had internet I was able to order the Japanese import CDs of all of these soundtracks I adored so much. I truly do miss those days.  Back then I was literally buying stuff from mail orders a couple times a month and was always so excited to get home and see what amazing new music was laying in an envelope on my parents front porch.     

Anyway, looking back to those really early years probably the band that eventually influenced me the most were Pink Floyd. The synthesizers in Pink Floyd’s ‘Welcome to the Machine’ are amongst some of the coolest I’ve ever heard, and as a child listening to this at night totally creeped me, but I knew way back then that I wanted to make music with synthesizers some day in some form.  

DMD: Before Noctilucant, what kind of music were you making/bands were you playing in? and with what instruments?

JM: Absolutely nothing, although the dream was always sort of hanging there.  I had literally wanted to do something musical for well over a decade before Noctilucant, but due to some personal inner struggles I never grabbed life by the balls and went for it.  That is until a few years ago when a friend was moving to Greenland and selling 90% of his possessions. 

One of those items happened to be a very well kept synthesizer, which he offered to me for $200 (he had originally paid $600+ for it).  I couldn’t pass it by.  I immediately began experimenting with ideas, but it wasn’t until a bit later that I had a proper PC to record my ideas and finally start assembling the ideas into songs.  

DMD: What originally inspired you to start making Dark Ambient/Soundtrack?

JM: It was basically just a long running passion for the genre. I first heard Dark Ambient music way back in 1999, and I can’t explain why, but it really clicked with me. It spoke to me in a way no other music had spoke to me, as if it reached deep down inside my soul and coalesced everything together. 

I’m sure my already established love for Video Game music was a factor in my appreciation too, but obviously dark ambient is an entirely different and often darker beast. It was something I used when reading, writing, relaxing, sleeping, driving late at night, etc.  It was a part of me. I was also always very fond of this genre, because not many folks understood it.  That was important!  

It’s still the one genre of music that hasn’t been tainted and made commercial.  Anyway, I knew soon as I heard this music that someday I wanted to create it. I never felt that way about any other music or art form other than DA.  Of course, it took a lot longer than expected, but I’m glad I waited, because it gave me a chance to grow and mature both inside and out. 

If I had started a project ten years ago it probably would have been a very simple dark droning cavernous bullshit project, whereas, with Noctilucant I feel at least, I’ve created a much more interesting and detailed project.

DMD: There are a lot of apocalyptic themes in Noctilucant’s music, is this something you think about often? What are your thoughts about humanity’s future?

JM: I figured this question would eventually come up.  Just for the record, I’m not an armageddon prepper, survivalist or conspiracy theorist that’s terrified that the government's going to knock on my door one day looking to take my guns and toss me in some concentration camp. No.  

Nevertheless, I have read some pretty scary things in the news lately relating to nuclear war or at least World War 3, and it gets you thinking about things. The government in the United States is painfully corrupt, and I do believe that the powers that be, would without question sell this country to save their own ass.  

Everyone has a price, and anyone that thinks our so called government cares about us is just a joke. I’d like to think that humanity has a peaceful future, but unfortunately money, religion and power dominate most of their minds and it will eventually be our downfall.  It could be something entirely different though.  

We’re constantly killing off species of vital insects and other animals.  We live in a fragile ecosystem and it might only take the destruction of one species before all is lost. There’s also the upcoming election with Clinton and Trump, two corrupt, awful, repulsive, evil human beings, and we’re suppose to choose one of them?!  

No matter if Russia suddenly bombs us or civil war breaks out here in the states, the future isn’t a very optimistic one. Will it be a post apocalyptic situation when the dust settles… only time can tell.      
That aside, the post apocalyptic themes in my music are just an expansion of my creativity and my desire to tell a story under a different medium.  It’s influenced by cinema, literature and other post apocalyptic music makers.

DMD: Could you please tell me about your recording gear and how you get your sound?

JM: It’s nothing too special.  Literally just a PC with my synthesizer and microphones hooked up.  I record all of the field recordings via my cell phone, although I’d like to get proper recording equipment for that soon so they come out a bit more clear and detailed.

DMD: Recently 'neath the cerulean abyss' came out on cassette through Grey Matter Productions, how did this come about? Any plans for more physical releases in the future?

JM: Grey Matter got in contact with me first, which was a pleasant surprise because I had considered releasing these two songs the exact same way.  I'm pleased with the release and I'm thrilled to have more of my music available in a physical medium.  

I had considered releasing the latest album, Oblivion to you all, in CD format, but when I started pricing everything together it was simply too much for me to afford.

I'm super proud of that album and it’s my hope that someday a label picks it up for a CD release, but that could be years from now.  Meanwhile, I don't personally have any plans to release anything on my own as digital seems to truly be the format my fans prefer.

DMD: Any plans to take Noctilucant out on the road or will it stay as a studio only project?

JM: At this point I’m about 99% sure Noctilucant will stay a studio project.  Speaking only for myself, Dark Ambient is very introspective music, which I use in a lot of ways.  It requires you to pay attention and lose yourself for a while.  It takes you places, it invigorates the mind, it’s an experience all in itself.  So much of that is lost in the concert.  

Tranquillity is suddenly replaced with drunk dickbags who are talking while you’re playing and completely not paying attention to what’s going on around them or onstage for that matter.  To me playing live would be nothing but a burden.  

Even more so because there are no other dark ambient artists around here to gig with, and I’d end up opening for black metal bands, and I absolutely don’t want anything to do with that scene or be connected to it. 

The other problem is that my tunes are very multi layered.  I’d need multiple synthesizers onstage and multiple people to play each part. It could work, but I honestly don’t want to go through the trouble, because it simply wouldn’t be worth it.

DMD: Please give me your desert island disks

JM: I’m going to keep the theme of Dark Ambient here and just list my favorite DA albums… in no particular order, mind you.

Atrium Carceri - Seishinbyouin
Northaunt - The Ominous Silence
Inanna - Day ov Torment
Sabled Sun - 2146
Halo Manash - Syoma
Verhoren - Death is Safe
Mortiis - Keiser av en dimenensjon ukjent
Svartsinn - Traces of Nothingness
Nothing - The Grey Subaudible

I’m probably forgetting something, I know I am, but my mind is betraying me at the moment.  So, accept this as my list for now.

DMD: What is the music scene like in Wisconsin?

JM: Lots of black metal, death metal, doom metal, grindcore, noise and normal alternative whatever rock bands, I guess.  A few years ago it really felt like the underground scene around here was getting good, but then some of the bands and people involved went onto other projects and new adventures in life and I lost touch of things. The most interesting bands currently going are: Cannabinol Synapse, Conqueror Worm, Khazaddum, Temper, Magma Dragon, Hadak Ura, Devil Met Contention and Asatta.

DMD: You painted the artwork for both ‘..Cerulean Abyss’ and ‘Buried Alive..’ which came first, the album art or the music? Have you always been a painter? Is it a passion or just a hobby?

JM: The paintings came first, and after completing the music I just felt they fit each of those songs.  I had not seen a lot of dark ambient artists using abstract paintings as their cover artwork, so I figured I’d go and change that.  When I was in high school painting and drawing were fun for me, and a serious passion, but basically after that I completely gave up on it. 

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I tried doing it again, unfortunately when you don’t use a skill for over a decade you lose it.  I still get a canvas out here and there and paint, but it’s usually only when I really have nothing else to do.
'Neath The Cerulean Abyss

Buried Alive in Mud

DMD: What does the rest of this year and 2017 hold for Noctilucant?

JM: I want to complete the final single in my 3-part lengthy single series.  This last one will again be about 30 minutes long and I’m trying to create a post apocalyptic world on a cold foggy day.  I’m not using a painting this time around, but rather a photograph I took in 2008 as the cover artwork. 

I’d like to release this by the end of November as most of the music is done, but I just need to fill in more details at this point.  That aside, a few film makers have recently contacted me about using my music or even creating entirely new music for their projects.  

I’d also like to say that I’ve started work on my next full-length album, but I think what I’ve created so far will probably make its way into the single, the films, or even this briefly discussed split album with a project from Russia.  

DMD: Do you have a release date for the final single yet?

JM: No exact release date for that final single, but hopefully sometime in November if all goes well.

DMD:  Apart from music, what else inspires you?

JM: I find a lot of solace in nature and it’s definitely always been an inspiration.  Anytime I can get away from the noisy city and my routine day-to-day existence is a pleasure. Other than that, my girlfriend, friends, family, life’s ups and downs are always going to be inspiring.

DMD: ’Oblivion to You All’ features a few spoken passages, when did you get the idea to include these and how did you come into contact with these people?

JM: It started on the Back to the Mud album actually.  I wanted my music to be as cinematic as possible, but not overdoing it.  Originally, I was going to go down the common path and collect samples from movies, but when I realised I could do better than that I went for more. All of the text for these speeches I wrote myself, nothing is stolen from movies, poems, etc, but in some cases was inspired by such. 

For example, the skit on ‘The Deep Dead Hour’ was inspired by a movie called PontyPool, whereas in ‘Introspective Dissolution’ it came to me after watching a post apocalyptic documentary on YouTube.  The three guest vocalists on ‘Oblivion…’ are all people that I’ve known for a while.  

Kara is my girlfriend, Steve is an old friend from high school who showed interest after I asked for help on my Facebook page, and Michael is a dark ambient enthusiast and zine writer from Maryland who I became good friends with after the release of Back to the Mud.  Since Oblivion to you all’s release a few others have shown interest, and I’m really excited to work with them in the future.

DMD: When you are composing, do things tend to happen in a certain order? 

JM:  Not really.  My music is so multi layered that it’s a little here and a little there kind of thing.  Sometimes I even take parts that I wrote a year ago and fit them into new songs.  

A friend who once had a dark ambient project told me that it’s important to always save anything and every little detail you record, because you never know where it will work later on.  

It might not make sense in the current piece you’re working on, but there’s always possibilities for later.  I really took that advice to heart. Honestly, often when I have a specific idea in mind how I want something to sound I fail.  

Sometimes I think these songs write themselves, because it’s usually when I’m just being casual and having fun that I write my best work.  I do however always add the spoken parts or field recordings last.            

DMD: Anybody you want to give a shout out to?

JM: Thanks to everyone that's either listened, purchased, or supported this project in some way.  I never imagined anyone would really care about my music, but its been quite the opposite and I'm eternally grateful to everyone that's taken notice thus far.  Extra special thanks to my guest musicians, and those that I plan to work with in the near future.

My thoughts on Oblivion To You All

Musically, Oblivion To You All picks up where 'Back to the Mud' left off, but as the opening monologue of track one 'Introspective Dissolution' explains, the album is actually set 3 months after the apocalypse has happened. 

Oblivion… contains an almost ever present cold, doom laden drone that varies in degrees of intensity. The added field recordings and spoken word passages help channel the storyline through the music but aren’t relied upon that frequently, leaving the rest to the imagination of the listener.

'This Day Brings Forth Our Destiny' starts off with the sound of an old-style projector being switched on and turns into quite a calming soundscape, while 'The First Light Of Morning' goes in a more sinister direction allowing the cold drone to emerge, interspersed with sputtering and crumbling textures that delve deeper into a cavernous ambience. 

'Where Snow Remains and Life Fades' continues in a similar fashion but with the use of more prominent field recordings, next up 'The Old Machine Shop' whirs away as the title would suggest, building into an intensely high pitched noise while the cold drone flies out of hearing range.

Despite being primarily a gloom filled atmosphere, Oblivion… does offer some brief moments of tranquility, fittingly on ‘Those Peaceful Days Of Our Past?’ which comes complete with a hooky meditative synth line and the sound of birds singing away happily. No doubt reflecting on happier times prior to the apocalypse.

'Back Into The Hole Where I Was Born' shatters that memory and brings us back to the cold harsh reality that is Oblivion...a myriad of sounds such as footsteps on crunching gravel and coughing all prelude the entrance of another character, who turns pages in a book noisily while he declares 'everything is gone' then puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger.

The title track is probably the weakest point of the album I would say, mainly because it is just a repetition of saying the title with more and more intensity every time. However it does set up the closing track 'And The Far Unlit Unknown' nicely which ends the album on the sounds of tweeting birds and flies buzzing presumably around our character's dead body before the drones whoosh off into the distance.

I will admit that this album does demand a certain amount of attention, I found I had to really focus on it with zero distractions in order to enjoy and become absorbed in it, but if you're already well versed in Dark Ambient music then that shouldn't be a problem. 

Something which I cannot stress enough is to listen to this (and all of Noctilucant's work) with a decent pair of headphones or you will surely miss out on the extra sounds. 

I feel that Joseph has created an interesting musical world and I look forward to hearing what he does next.

All things considered, 'Oblivion To You All' is an immersive release that will suck you in.


Listen to some brand new Noctilucant material here

‘Neath the Cerulean Abyss / Buried alive in Mud was released on cassette via Grey Matter Productions back in August which you can listen to / purchase here

You can read an interview with GMP founder Daniel Cornejo here

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