Movements of Night by Secret Pyramid (Review)

The brevity of Amir Abbey’s haunting ambient pieces belies their emotional effect.
Movements of Night, Secret Pyramid

The thing about a lot of droney/ambient/post-rock music is that it’s just so long, man. Now, I’m all for 30-minute slow-burning compositions packed with field recordings, ominous atmospherics, soaring string arrangements, and enough guitar-and-drum sturm und drang to set the rafters a-rattling. But let’s be honest: it can be a bit much, especially when you realize that Amir Abbey achieves the same emotional effect with songs that are a fraction of that length.

Abbey — who records under the Secret Pyramid moniker — does a lot with a little. The 8 tracks on Movements of Night are replete with haunting atmospherics, shimmering notes, and drones that seem like they could easily stretch on for hours. But with an average length of just under 5 minutes, these songs have no frills and cut right to the heart of things.

“A Descent” begins Movements of Night on a harrowing note, as Abbey sends vast-yet-claustrophobic drones spiraling ever downward behind an increasing wall of noise and distortion. Drums can be heard behind the noise pounding out a faint rhythm, which gives the song a vaguely ritualistic tone.

“Quiet Sky” is gentler in volume and tone compared to its predecessor, though no less harrowing. “To Forget” is the album’s lightest moment; here, Abbey sends wordless vocals and thick slabs of guitar noise straining upwards, which makes for a nice contrast to the depths explored in “A Descent.”

“Move Through Night” begins like a Godpseed You! Black Emperor piece, with a gently strummed guitar echoing forlornly in the void while a sparse piano melody booms in the distance. Abbey slowly increases the track’s volume but keeps its pacing and rhythm glacial. The resulting experience is paradoxical, as Abbey’s building atmospherics threaten to engulf the listener and yet remain distant and remote. It’s both suspenseful and sublime.

“Escape (Fade Out)” brings the album to a contemplative close, as a Labradford-esque Rhodes piano softly loops its way through ghostly sighs and guitar lines that shimmer like the horizon line. It’s a deeply lonesome song, one that you listen to when everyone else is in bed and you have the house to yourself.

Brevity doesn’t seem like a desired trait in atmospheric music. But Amir Abbey dares to shove massive drones into pop song lengths — and succeeds greatly. His (relatively) short pieces are so affecting because, simply put, their gorgeous and haunting textures go silent far too soon. Once Movements of Night ends, one wants to listen to it again immediately, to re-experience Abbey’s incredible soundscapes. Fortunately, with a running time of under 40 minutes, they easily can… again and again and again.