A little break from the Ave Noctum norm this time around. Arktau Ross are a Finnish duo and this pair of odd releases are split between a CD only release and a vinyl release and definitely are my introduction to their world.

First up is Ioh-Maera, which begins with the title piece. This is minimalist, slow and quiet ritual music; gently struck cymbal sounds summon the dark voices and subtle keyboard sounds that gradually fill out the sounds and atmosphere. It is a simple but beautifully effective piece; ominous, occult and perfectly focused by the gentle summoning cymbal. ‘Noxfaros’ followed a similar path, drum beats the focus with keyboard second a little higher in the mix and building to a harsher climax. By the time we reach ‘Otherstone Refraction’ we are deep into dark, sinister ambient that Lustmord might indulge in. Sounds which could be something monstrous breaking trees slowly, far in the distance or the slowed heart of a crackling fire. It moves sedately but with a beautifully disturbing air. ‘Sunken Luminaries’ and ‘Unbinding Kaamos’ with some chanting voices continue this slow, undertow of darkness worth a sure hand. There is a definite tribal quality to some of this, piety too and as exquisitely subtle mood music it is exemplary and rather special. 9/10

The vinyl only part of this brace of releases is not so dark (though that is relative you understand) and bears a little in common with something like Earth around Hex, but without any overt guitar or Amber Asylum twisted toward the ambient. There is a curious arboreal theme too this album which reminds me of the classic Algernon Blackwood story ‘The Willows’. On ‘Black Leaf Gaze’ once more the pace is slow, the atmosphere sombre and the style nicely judged string based minimalism. ‘Cove Of The Seven Winged’ and ‘Geometry Of Emptiness’ are delicate in their features, which brings those variations within into sharper relief. There is still a strong, finely woven veil of atmosphere here that drifts overt the whole. Closing with ‘The Cypress Watcher’ this is still excellent, superbly subtle ambient but a little less compelling than its CD counterpart. 7/10