Cities in Fog
This two-disc set couples Jeff Greinke’s first album, Cities in Fog (1985; never before released on CD), with a new companion disc entitled Cities in Fog 2 (1995; first released with this set). Both albums reflect a similar compositional style, with a foundation drone on each track layered with various electronic treatments ranging from deep bell-like tones to treated “creature” voices and liquid bubblings. The overall dark ambient feel combines the low-end rumblings of Lustmord with the bright, liquid tones of Vidna Obmana, which makes for a disturbingly enjoyable listen.
Of the two, I much prefer the first Cities in Fog, even if it is a little shorter and the sound quality isn’t quite as good as the second. Its opening, “Moving through Fog,” takes full advantage of Greinke’s degree in meteorology to perfectly recreate the muffled, isolated feeling of drifting through deep fog in a small boat tossed by the waves. Bells like distant foghorns sound, and synth washes stream by like lights on shore glimpsed for a moment before the fog swallows them again. The deepening drones and twisted creature calls of “Urban Pasture” feel like watching a Norman Rockwell painting of an old man in a park slowly metamorphose into Richard Upton Pickman’s Ghoul Feeding, while the dark bass rumblings and foreboding synths of “Scud” paint grotesque cloud shapes churning into storm beneath a leering gibbous moon. The original Cities in Fog is a true milestone in the dark ambient genre, and we owe Projekt a huge debt for bringing it back into print.
Unfortunately, Cities in Fog 2 doesn’t quite measure up to the first. Somehow, its songs seem to have less energy and vision, and its oft-repeated sounds lack the originality of those on the first disc. But there are certainly enjoyable tracks here too. “City Light” layers bright tones on an underlying dark drone to echo a night city’s increasing glow as light after light comes on in anonymous windows. “Below” charts a descent into the subterranean realm, with a low drone shifting lower in pitch as you dive deeper, your pick striking sparks from the stone as blind cave creatures scurry away. And beneath a “Low Ceiling” of glowering clouds strange birds squawk past as they disappear into the coming night. Projekt/Darkwave, P.O. Box 146636, Chicago, IL 60614