Human Greed's third release finds these Edinburgh artists creating dark, restrained music. Featuring everything from minimal, shimmering electronics to more flushed-out, chamber-style pieces, "Black Hill: Midnight at the Blighted Star" is full of ominous tones and fractured sounds and samples. Altogether, the album is an intense, ghostly mood piece. Seriously, if ever there were an album for a sleepover in a haunted cathedral, this would be it.
Specific song breaks seem largely unimportant (even though there are fifteen of them) as the album rolls along for just over an hour. There are certainly distinctive parts, but they act better as movements in a single piece rather than as their own isolated entities. The album feels like a grand pastiche, with varying instruments and sounds making their appearance whenever the time is right and bleeding from one track to the next. Sometimes, stretches of abstract ambiance are interrupted by full-on guitar, piano, or string parts, which fade out just as subtly as they appeared. Really, some of the best sections, such as the track "Gloaming," feature a deft mix of the group's light electronics with more standard instruments, in this case, cello. Another great entry in this vein is the closer, "The Graces Departing," which utilizes the sounds of a decaying antique piano. In that same spirit, Human Greed is also not afraid to say a lot using very little, as there are moments that border on near silence, save for a few light touches of sound. The opening of the track "Midnight at the Blighted Star," for example, consists of little more than occasional echoing electronics and voice samples, which punctuate an empty background. As you might have guessed, this album is best enjoyed with a good pair of headphones, as there are lots of subtleties that would be missed without their help.
Even at its most spare, Human Greed's music is still extremely powerful and evocative. If nothing else, "Black Hill: Midnight at the Blighted Star" will inspire some dark feelings on even the sunniest day. From the start, the enveloping mood of this album pulls you down into its depths and doesn't let go until the final note. Even if you're the cheery type, it's still a great musical statement worth revisiting for its stunning sound contrasts and amazing arrangements. 8/10 -- Matt Blackall (8 July, 2009)