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CD Feature/ Lull: "Like a Slow River"; Oophoi: "An Aerial View"

img  Tobias
Thanks to a recognisable concept, tireless promotional activities, co-operations with some of the major acts of the genre and a musical language capable of addressing many different scenes, Alessandro Tedeschi’s Glacial Movements imprint has turned into one of the main newcomers in the Ambient segment over the past year and a half. The label’s first compilation, “Cryosphere”, was one of the talked-about items in insider circles at the time, quickly selling out its limited print run and full-length follow-ups have received more than just an appreciative high-five in various Print- and WebZines. Interestingly enough, “Cryosphere”, with its reverbed spaces and cool-burning bell sounds, proved to be the outfit’s most untypical release to date.

Effectively, this was down to the philosophy and aesthetics Tedeschi had been devising in his mind years before concretising them in a record company. Glacial Movements, probably like no other label anywhere else, is steeped in Isolationist Ambient, a music revelling in sensations of perfect solitude. It is the musical cry of the naked individual, exposed to nothing but the bare forces of nature, stripped of the expextations and the support of society. Almost by default, the genre expresses itself best in hermetically sealed-off zones, whose sonic architecture is left to the devices of a single composer.

The twist of the story and the main reason why Glacial Movements has enjoyed such an ethusiastic reception is their conceptual nod towards the frosty beauty of the Antarctic region. Both in terms of cover- and album-design, its publications have explored different trains of thought with regards to these barren, outstretched lands as well as hypothetical journeys through its white infinity. Ambient, forever a “Picture Music” feeding as much from associations and allusions as from the actual arrangements, attains a spiritual acme in terms of focus and imaginative power here.

Clothing the music in lovingly lay-outed Digipacks, Tedeschi has made use of this underlying oscillation to bring out the best in himself and others. On “Morketid”, the solo album he released on Glacial Movements as its second CD, he somewhat distanced himself from anything he had previously scored, engaging in a style which owed as much to William Basinski as it did to Brian Eno. Rapoon’s “Time Frost”, meanwhile, went down a remarkably similar road, defrosting Richard Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” from a centennial slumber. Effectively, these works no longer represent tastefully assembled depressive dirges but an expansive kind of ambient romanticism, taking all the time in the world to let its ardent blood.

On the strength of these records, it no longer comes as a real suprise that Mick Harris, of former Napalm Death- and current Scorn-fame, has chosen Glacial Movements as the home for his first album in four years under the disguise of “Lull”. Vice versa, Tedeschi repays the favour by crowning Harris “the most important representative of ambient isolationist music ever” – which may not necessarily be overstating his achievements for the scene, but slightly underrate the eclecticism and diversity of his ouevre, regardless of the bleak and plaintive outlook it holds in general.

“Like a Slow River”, after all, has turned out anything but a one-tracked release. In opening piece “Whiteout”, Harris delineates the outlines of his territory, allowing his gaze to float over gigantic ice floes and penetrating the core of thick clouds of cold mist. From the initially abstract rumble of howling winds and seismic convulsions, a musical landscape gradually begins to unfold, manifesting itself in deep choral moans and regally shifting drone tectonics. Harris carves out the bass region with special care, creating waves of tummy-punching thrust, which lend his music an immediate physical intensity.

Linearity is pleasantly absent here, as pieces move without a recognisable logic. Th album as a hole, however, adheres to a strict plan: From its undefined and open beginnings, “Like a Slow River” peacemeal develops more recognisable forms, leaning heavily on drones rich in harmonics and inner palpatations. The title track already bases on a gentle pulse of Nordic breaths, billowing and fluctuating, while closing “Illusion of Unbroken Surface” even closes the album with a delicate melodic touch.

Harris maintains a fine and carefully measured balance between stasis and movement, as well as between the frightening and the consoling. As a consequence, “Like a Slow River” has therefore turned out much more than just a dark and ominous chunk of noise. Rather, it weaves a finely woven net of fragile metaphors, resulting in a soundtrack to snowflakes falling from the sky in dream-like slow motion.

As if one label weren’t enough, Glacial Movements has recently given birth to a boy, with the “Würm Series” sub-imprint focussing on imaginary trecks through the icefields of the most recent glaciation era. It is by no means a coincidence that Gianluigi Gasparetti, aka Oophoi, should present Würm’s first emanations, as his musical relationship with Tedeschi has been pivotal in inspiring the latter’s development as an artist in his own right. “Every release of this new series will be a circular, slowly-unfolding and ethereal long-form musical piece, in which the artist will describe this endless Ice Age”, the Glacial Movements website informs us and the continous 65-minute track offered by Gasparetti caters to these demands with poignant precision.

Of course, the task of being visual with music is next to impossible in absolute terms. Oophoi answers this quest with a change in perspective: “An aerial view” soars up high above, choosing the eagle eye’s perspective. Instead of offering an exact morphological descriptions of the glacial topography, it describes a movement, a sensation of serene, divine fluency. It is a tremendously effective psychological trick, especially because the music fits this description perfectly and magically transports its audience back in time and space.

The opening sequence especially is a deeply resonating field, undulating with gentle, minimal and hypnotic melodic tension. For an entire half hour, Gasparetti keeps circling the same tapered axis of calm majesty, building a tension arch by means of timbre and volume. Thanks to its organic musical flow, the piece alludes less to other Ambient isolationists than to early Krautrock releases, reminding of the warm soundscape compositions of Manuel Göttsching in particular.

While environmental noises still provide depth to the sounds in this segment, the second part, which discreetly peels itself off its slender skin, consists of nothing but cool sheets of sound with a tranquil outward movement and complex cycles of inner turbulence. In this silent and endlessly postponed finale, the music comes to complete peace and a near halt, as the final minutes are characterised by a continous fade into the void.

Many have questioned the necessity of this sub-category, unsure about the variation it offers to the regular Glacial Movement releases. With “An aerial View” as its first outing, these doubts no longer seem qualified. The Würm-series is even more about a trance-like state, its obsession with the past implying an approach tending towards the fantastical. Quite possibly, its CDs are even more archetypical than regular Glacial Movements outings -  infused by a naive romanticism irresistibly pulling in everyone willing to submit to it.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Oophoi
Homepage: Lull
Homepage: Glacial Movements Records

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