I’m gonna hit you with two quotes. They’re both interesting and go towards the identity of Seattle’s mysterious Lost Chocolate Lab. The first one is from guitarist Damian Kastbauer of shoegaze band February, who said in a 1998 interview, “…it’s a never-ending quest to discover things about ourselves and other people…” and that’s a very apt way to describe what I feel is the approach that Kastbauer has taken with his new project “Lost Chocolate Lab.”
Here’s the second quote, taken from the Lost Chocolate Lab website–“An Atari 2600/NES channelled through a C64 SID-chip. A Blue Monday game-child of purple-mountain majesty that feasted on guitar noise during the ’90s shoegaze invasion, culminating in a two-tiered pedal board with never enough digits to turn all the knobs. A constant fascination with the dark art of implementation leading to discussions and articles diving into the unknown abyss of technical sound design, game audio podcasts and now the two-volume book series Game Audio: Tales of a Technical Sound Designer. Community to the core. Noise for life. Respect the vibrations.”
If you haven’t heard of Kastbauer and his previous band, February then chances are you aren’t familiar with his current project, Lost Chocolate Lab, which is basically Damian Kastbauer turning knobs, playing guitar and in general creating the most mind-blowing soundscapes in ambient music today. Remember the syndicated radio show “Echoes?” How about “Hearts of Space?” Think that way and maybe veer ever so slightly toward dark ambient, and you have a basic snapshot of what Lost Chocolate Lab are kind of like. But trust me, that doesn’t do the band justice; they must be heard and experienced to really get the full effect.
Lost Landscapes is 80 minutes of meditative-ambient/lunar/cosmic journeys into sound itself that double as both an instrument to create music with and as a musical medium unto itself, co-existing with each other in the same space and time. The record itself was recorded spontaneously over a long weekend in Seattle during the winter of 2017 with base-tracks laid down in digital form in two sessions of single-pass improv. If that wasn’t enough, a second session was held with a second improvised pass of solo guitar atmospherics producing the 10 songs that appear on this album. Lost Landscapes was mastered by Heba Kadry at Timeless Mastering.
Lost Chocolate Lab isn’t your typical band/solo project. This isn’t metal; there’s no loud guitars, no Sunn amps stacked stacked to the ceiling. In fact, the only thing Lost Chocolate Lab has in common with Sunn might be the band Sunn O)) itself. Lost Chocolate Lab is a sonic experience, dare I say on the same or similar level ambient artist Robert Rich is on?
Opening track “Contents Floating” is an exercise in pure meditative, ambient expression. It has an extraterrestrial feel to it, as in, not of this Earth. Hearing and experiencing a track like “Contents Floating” renews my faith that great music is made by artists who aren’t afraid to take chances creatively and be experimental.
The first three songs, “Contents Floating,” “Alien Lands,” and “Squall,” are ambient interludes of pure dreamscape until we reach track four, “Everything is Heavy,” and now, as the name implies, we move slightly away from this realm into a place of guitar distortion and feedback that’s heavy, yes, but not enough to overwhelm and ruin the atmosphere LLC have created up to this point. Rather, these sounds eventually smooth and mesh with the soundscapes we’ve been accustomed to. Fans of stoner lords Sleep will appreciate this track immensely.
The next five songs range from cosmic to a tone of meditative-ambient, finishing the record properly. Lost Landscapes isn’t a rock disc. It’s freestyle; it’s fearless experimentation with sound and vibration, tone, and texture. It’s without parameter and structure. I’m absolutely curious if Damian Kastbauer, the genius behind Lost Chocolate Lab, can recreate this live. If so, it would be stunning. Buy Lost Landscapes, especially if you’re a fan of Lost Chocolate Lab’s 1999 record, Pedall. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll be captivated.