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Kalte * Jake Muir

Lady's Mantle



Kalte is the abstract ambient project of Deane Hughes and Rik MacLean. According to their discography, Covalencies is their fifth full album, ‘inspired by Kubrickian geometry, abstract forces and cold fusion’. (As  Sub Zero Arts the duo also creates interactive multi-media installations).

The duo uses natural sources that are digitally altered and reassembled. Their interest in ‘chemistry and mathematics and scary sounds designed to give you chills’ is clear from the four tracks on this album: the overall sound is ‘cold’ and somewhat industrial (or arctic, or isolationist – as you please) but a very fascinating deep listen.
After titles like Isomerization, Periglacial Zones and Electronegativities the closing track title sounds a bit odd – but Framheim Station was the name of Roald Amundsen’s base in Antarctica during his quest for the South Pole in 1911/1912.
So yes – definitely ‘arctic’.

Lady's Mantle

JAKE MUIR – LADY’S MANTLE   Also on Spotify

From the arctic cold to the warm beaches of the American West Coast: you probably won’t recognise it it if you don’t know it, but it definitely does determine the atmosphere: Jake Muir took many samples from an (uncredited) American pop group and rendered them  into impressionist ‘abstract half-heard surf rock melodies’.
Merging these samples, stretched and manipulated into unrecognizabilty, with aqueous field recordings from all over the world, he creates a unique sound bearing subliminal marks of the West Coast sound (which Muir knows all too well since he’s from Los Angeles himself).
The result has little in common with the original 60’s surf pop anthems, but it ‘loosely limns a wide sense of space and place with its fading harmonic auroras.’

Lady’s Mantle is available as a digital download as well as a transparent vinyl edition. It is Muir‘s second album under his own name (follow-up of last year’s Acclimation).
Before that, he has also released under the Monadh alias.

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Ugasanie * Northaunt * Eximia

Ugasanie - Ice Breath

Ugasanie - Ice Breath


With a title like Ice Breath Of Antarctica and a release on the Cryo Chamber label you know you’re up for some of the darkest, coldest and most immersive sounds imaginable. So you shouldn’t start this journey unprepared. Visiting an environment where man isn’t meant to survive easily can be enjoyable when it’s imaginary – that’s the joy of ‘isolationist’ ‘arctic’ ambient.

Ugasanie (a one man project of Pavel Malyshkin from Belarus; the word translates as ‘extinction’ or ‘fading’) has spent a lot of time in the Arctic Circle, in the coldest areas of the world, and he is able to evoke the atmosphere of that environment in a captivating way.
The track titles leave no doubt: The Pole Of Absolute Coldness, The Boundless Snows, Approaching Storm, The Desert Of Ice And Loneliness…
Soundscapes move as slow as the melting ice caps, the rumbling low frequencies reminding us that we only see a fraction of it, most of it is hidden. The environment constantly changes, even though we cannot see that.

Northaunt Istid III


Northaunt (Hærleif Langås from Norway) is preparing us for the third Ice Age. Or his third Ice Age, since Istid III is the follow-up of his 2015 release Istid I-II.
The new album found a proper home on the Glacial Movements label, the label specialising in music about ‘places that man has forgotten…icy landscapes…fields of flowers covered eternally with ice… Icebergs colliding amongst themselves…’

Northaunt started his Istid series to imagine a world of silence before man existed. The icy landscapes that Northaunts paints are built from isolationist minimalism. The landscape is cold and frosty but not as desolate and hostile as in Ugasanie’s Ice Breath (mentioned above).

There is some nostalgic beauty in these soundscapes, as well as a ray of hope – as symbolized on the cover by the sunlight breaking through the clouds. Slowly the desolate infinity of the abstract soundscapes changes with the introduction of ‘shy keyboard notes’.
“… we can now imagine man is about to start his lonely quest for meaning in the desolation.”

Eximia Visitors

EXIMIA – VISITORS   Also on Spotify

From the alienated landscapes of the poles to an imaginary landscape invaded by aliens may not be a very big step if you use your imagination.

Eximia (Dominik Ragančík, from Slovakia) pictures the invasion of Earth by alien visitors, and by the look (on the cover) and the sound they are not here to make friendly contact.
Visitors, his debut album on Cryo Chamber, is full of frightening sounds: thunderstorms and lightning upon the descent of ‘our new gods, who came without warning’, dogs barking in panic upon first contact, people crying and screaming in agony upon their extinction.

“Our weapons pointless against these behemoths covered by storm. When I lay my eyes at their divine beauty in all it’s power and destruction, I feel no anger nor sorrow, I feel awe.

Music can hardly be more cinematic than this: close your eyes and you’ll see the movie that goes with it (be sure to use a good speaker setup or a quality headphone set for maximum effect!). Visitors is the musical equivalent of a horror-scifi movie. But unlike most Hollywood productions there is no happy end to this story: the closing track of this album is titled World Without Man.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that is a good or a bad thing.

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FrostbYte (Daniel Blinkhorn) – One Dog Night

Frostbyte - One Dog Night

One look on his website is enough to know that Daniel Blinkhorn (Australia) is an avid collector of ‘ecoacoustic’ fieldrecordings: you’ll find sounds and photos from the Arctic, Africa, Alaska, Amazon, the West Indies and miscellaneous other countries.
Environmental sounds and ecoacoustic composition are his prime medium – but the resulting soundscapes are way beyond ‘manipulated fieldrecordings’:
‘Through the use of varied digital sound manipulation environments, I strive to sculpt a language extant within perception, alteration and diffusion of environmental sound, and the inextricable, organic bonding of place and space within its origins.’

For One Dog Nightthe basic material was recorded throughout the Arctic Region of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) – one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas up north between the mainland of Norway and the Northpole.
And, yes, it’s cold up there: the title One Dog Night ‘refers to an adage once used to describe how cold the temperature could drop at night. If it was a particularly cold night, it may have been appropriate to have one, two, even three of your dogs on the bed with you to help keep you warm as you slept!’

The area ‘is renowned for its visual and cinematic beauty’, but also ‘there’s a great deal of sonic activity, both animal and aqueous, and the FrostbYte cycle of works seeks to portray some of there sonorities in a highly abstracted, yet clearly discernable way.’

The result is highly acousmatic: the sounds are so detached from their origins that they seem to represent an entirely different world.
The FrostbYte Cycle consists of four different pieces: Red Sound (recordings taken from a day at the hut and its surrounds), Chatter (created with open air and hydrophone recordings of iceberg and iceberg fragments as they melt, collide and dissolve), Wildflower (field recordings from the high arctic recordings) and Anthozoa (for prepared piano and a composite recording of coral – the latter recorded in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and off the coast of Barbados in the West Indies).

It’s worth noting that this Audiobulb release is available in different formats: apart from the Bandcamp (stereo) version, which you can hear below, Audiobulb also offers AC3 and PCM high resolution surround versions.
If you have the possibility to listen to the surround versions, I highly recommend choosing these, because Blinkhorn delivers his compositions as full (discrete channel) surround compositions – with amazing sonic result!
You’re definitely a lucky person if you have the possibility to enjoy the surround versions, but that doesn’t mean the stereo versions aren’t worth checking out too!
Just listen for yourself, and discover new, hitherto unexplored, sonic areas!   

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Thomas Köner; Multicast Dynamics; Machinefabriek + Anne Bakker


The controversial Manifesto of Futurism was written by Marinetti over 100 years ago. It’s ‘a rejection of the past and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry’. Parts of it can also be read as a glorification of the purifying violence of war – the only way to cleanse the world – and especially these words take a quite different meaning in current times.

In Thomas Köner‘s work for sound and moving images, fragments of this Manifest are slowly read by a whispering voice over Köner‘s characteristic – but in this case particularly dark and haunting – soundscapes. The images are vague, as is their exact relation to the text. They are assembled from decelerated and superimposed parts from film sources from 1909 and earlier, which brings out the ‘optical unconscious‘ movements and dimensions of reality. 
Which is in a way also what Köner’s music does: it brings out ‘the sonic unconscious’: ‘a Utopia of decelerations in defiance of the cult of ‘ubiquitous speed”. 

Though the atmosphere is darker, more menacing, The Futurist Manifesto  is most related to Köner‘s Les Soeurs Lumière, from Unerforschtes Gebiet (2003). (You’ll probaby recognise some of the bell-like samples).

The Futurist Manifesto  is released as a DVD by Von Archives. Audio-only can be downloaded from Bandcamp.

Multicast Dynamics - Scandinavia

Dutch media artist Samuel van Dijk (a.k.a. Multicast Dynamics) is working on a four-part release set. After the first two releases Scape (dealing with ‘dry land filled with light and streams’) and Aquatic System (about ‘the constantly changing surface of the oceans’), Scandinavia explores ‘a frozen and murky underwater world’. And a mysterious and fascinating world it is!
Van Dijk uses ‘granular synthesis, obscure delay units and rudimentary looping techniques on magnetic tapes’ to create a fascinating array of soundscapes that perfectly match – yet are different from – both earlier releases. The nine tracks explore ‘arctic’ landscapes – ‘the inhospitable surrounding of frost and ice… Layers of hypnotic atmospheres with barely perceptible undercurrents.’
The overall atmosphere is dark and glacial. All sounds are created using electronic processing, but the result sounds remarkably organic.
‘Brooding pulses of bass and tonal patterns lead to the core of the sonic landscape. Gentle radiant layers of light and soil emerge and aquatic echoes expose new paths.’
Scandinavia can of course also be enjoyed as a stand-alone release. But if you enjoy these kind of sounds, I strongly recommend to  also check out the two preceding parts. The last part (‘the arrival in an interstellar space and the cosmos’) will be released in 2016.

Multicast Dynamicss – Kohta


Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt and violinist Anne Bakker have previously worked together on Halfslaap II – a piece that aimed to ‘pull the listener into some sort of dreamstate’.
On Deining (‘heave’, or ‘commotion’), the effect is about the opposite: the listener is increasingly alarmed and forced to stay alert.
For this 26 minute piece, Anne Bakker played a series of upward and downward glissandi:
‘I asked Anne Bakker to bow each string of her instrument while sliding slowly from the lowest note to the highest, for exactly five minutes, as fluent as possible. Anne also recorded the same procedure in reverse, following the strings from the edge of the fingerboard to the top nut of the instrument.’
Rutger then assembled different layers into four sections, each focusing on one string, also adding sine waves and radio static.
The result is as beautiful as it is frightening (or, in Rutger’s own words: ‘the taste is a tad bitter’). A clear demonstration of the effect that a specific arrangements of sounds can have on an emotional level.
It is hypnotizing too, and so it may still pull you into a dream state… but I don’t think anyone be able to sleep quietly with sounds like this playing.
Just as Halfslaap II was the duo’s reworking of Rutger’s original HalfslaapDeining can be seen as a string reincarnation of Stroomtoon Eénon which created the down- and upward glissandi using tone generators.

Edit 12-02-2016:
The Bandcamp page has been updated and now includes a live recording of the striking performance of Deining on the International Film Festival Rotterdan (IFFR) on january, 29.
On this performance, the strings are performed by Anne Bakker (who performs violin solo on the studio recording), together with Lidwine Dam, Saskia Venegas and Pablo Kleinsmann on violin, and Nina Hitz on cello. With Rutger adding the waves and static of course.
If you already ordered/download Deining, you can simply redownload it from your Bandcamp collection to obtain the bonus live recording. And I strongly recommend to do so, because it’s an incredible performance!

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Thomas Köner – Tiento de las Nieves – Cloître

Thomas Köner is perhaps the Jules Verne of ambient-electronic soundscapes: his sounds seem to come from the deepest ocean, the centre of the earth, the vastest spaces imaginable. If you know his work, you will often immediately recognise his sound when you hear it – and maybe feel it before you even hear it.

Knowing his back-catalogue, the choice of a piano as the main instrument for his new album is somewhat surprising. Piano notes are clearly fixed in time, as opposed to the stretched sounds Thomas Köner usually applies. It is, in a way, a bit of a “rigid instrument”.

Köner’s music is often referred to as ‘arctic’. The bright clear white cover of Tiento de las Nieves (“Snow-Tiento”) refers to a bright, untouched, white space, as much as to endless plains of snow.

A Tiento is a free-form keyboard music originating in Spain in the 15th and 16th century. It is “formally extraordinarily diverse, more a set of guidelines than a rigid structural model such as fugue or rondo. Nearly all tientos are imitative to some degree, though not as complex or developed as the fugue.”

At first (and somewhat inattentive) listen, with a headphone while commuting, this 68-minute piece surprised me. Had I not known this was Köner’s new album, I’d have guessed this was a new generative music piece by Brian Eno.
But the Tiento revealed its true nature when played at home, using a decent sound system: no-one can make a piano sound like Köner can! What a sub-level low suddenly appeared!
The piano chords – played by Ivana Neimarevic –  seem randomly placed (hence the reference to Eno’s generative music); the piece stays completely unhurried, even when the piano increasingly interacts with the electronic ‘coloring’ of the background.

“For Thomas Köner the musical score of any of his pieces is a priori meaningless, and receives meaning only by placing the notes and sounds at particular points in time in a way which is forced upon them by their inner logic.
Like atoms in a particular molecule, these notes ought to have a specific distance and order dictated by certain laws, they might have to occur repeatedly, in order for the musical piece to be physically stable and complete, and thus to be able to exist continuously.”

Tiento de las Nieves is an album to put on repeat. It will play a long time and without getting boring.

Thomas Köner – Tiento de las Nieves (Excerpt)


Barely a month before the release of “Tiento de las Nieves”, Touch released a (WAV-only) download performance by Thomas Köner and Jana Winderen.

This 45 minute piece was recorded live at Evreux Cathedral, Normandy, France in june 2014.
The characteristic Köner drones perfectly match with Winderen’s processed environmental sound recordings. Ánd with some live environment sounds, by the way: a faraway emergency siren, some birds, church bells ringing, audience coughs.

The resulting piece is completely absorbing: it must’ve been quite an impressive experience to attend this performance at the square garden between the cathedral and the bishop’s palace.

“That night of June 2014 in Evreux, Normandy, they fashioned together a very discreet and evolutionary soundscape, which included mist, birds, slow – very slow – breathing, celestial humming, rain… all of which integrate a panorama their common music designs, which is not necessarily cold.”

No physical release, unfortunately, which may be a pain for some collectors. But still we should thank Touch for distributing a recording that otherwise would’ve probalby remained unavailable.

Thomas Köner & Jana Winderen – Cloître (Excerpt)

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Yair Elazar Glotman – Northern Gulfs


Glacial Movements – the italian label specializing in “ambient and electronic arctic soundscapes” – is one of those labels where the quality of the releases is so consistently in line with their original mission that they can almost be ordered blindly. Quality glacial music guaranteed!

Northern Gulfs“, the debut release of Yair Elazar Glotman, is no exception to that rule.

The six tracks of this album are “a journey through the arctic gulfs in the north seas”.
Often, the bleak arctic landscapes are an inspiration for a minimalistic approach, but Glotman‘s music is different – and full of surprises.

Studying classical Double-Bass and Electroacoustic Composition at the Jerusalem Music Academy, and the Art and Media program at the Universität der Künste in Berlin, has resulted in a broad-minded musical view, “exploring the gap between sound art and contemporary music”.

Merging electro-acoustic experiments with acoustic instruments and field recordings, Northern Gulfs does not simply enter drone territory, but delivers carefully crafted and adventurous sound sculptures.
Music with many layers, that can be enjoyed on many different levels.

Yair Elazar Glotman – Home Port

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Machinefabriek + Esther Kokmeijer – Stillness


Sometimes, a certain kind of ambient soundscapes are referred to as “glacial”. Often, these are dark, slowly evolving soundscapes that evoke a desolate, solitary, atmosphere that can be associated with the vast arctic landscapes (although the sounds are not necessarily ‘cold’).

Stillness, a multimedia project by Esther Kokmeijer (cinematic landscapes) and Rutger “Machinefabriek” Zuydervelt (music) is literally “glacial”, because it documents Esther Kokmeijer’s journey to Antarctica in january 2013 and to Greenland in june 2013.
The video in 5 parts documenting these trips are subtitled “Millions of Winters, two summers” – with a perfectly fitting musical score performed by Rutger Zuydervelt.

The physical format of this release is the first notable thing: it is a postcard with a small clipped USB-stick attached to it. This USB-stick contains the five (not six as stated) videos in MP4 video format.
Though the 8 Gb stick itself provides more than enough room for it, the sound files are not included; they are provided as a digital download when ordering from Bandcamp.
(Note: there is no audio-download-only version! The limited USB edition (of 100) is selling out quickly, so act fast! At the time of writing, the Bandcamp edition has already sold out; the remaining copies of Stillness can be obtained from Esther Kokmeijer’s site.)

As the trailer demonstrates, the videos are not dark – as some would probably expect for ‘arctic ambient videos’. On the contrary: they are bright, sometimes even sunny, highly detailed (and extremely beautiful) views of drifting ice and arctic water. You can almost see how cold this water must be!

The accompanying score is Machinefabriek at his very best: his tracks support the videos just like a good soundtrack should. There are hints of rhythms, short bass punches and sustained cello chords keeping the drone sounds interesting and dynamic, also when listening without watching the videos. In the closing track, Machinefabriek gets even more melodic than he usually does, introducing a minimalist post-classical cello theme.

The movie and the music are a perfect match.
And apart from that, this project demonstrates this tiny USB-clip is the perfect new medium for releasing multimedia projects like this: it virtually eliminates the dreaded (international) shipping costs!

Stillness (Trailer)

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Yuya Ota – Arctic April Mother


Arctic April Mother

Presenting “glacial and isolationist ambient”, the Glacial Movements label – run and curated by Alessandro Tedeschi – has presented over 15 albums since 2006, from artists like Lull, Rapoon, Francisco López, BvDub, Loscil, Pjusk, Celer and then some.

Different kind of artists, different kind of sounds, but what they have in common here is the “glacial feel and atmosphere” – which is often described as cold and desolate.

Their latest release (digital only this time)is Arctic April Motherby Yuya Ota from Tokyo.

Yuya Ota “is a composer and sound artist, who loves the fusion of classical music with electronic digital music”.

The opening track, “Knife”, effectively demonstrates what this ‘fusion’ means: a slow, introspective, Satie-esque piano track merging into an immersive electronic background.

The nine tracks on this album are described as “watercolor sounds, inspired by the contrast that coldness expresses. Sometimes white, sometimes vivid the piece focuses on the constantly changing times.”

The sequence of tracks is well-balanced and not only presents ‘arctic desolation’ but ‘warm comfort’ as well.

Some (most) are strictly electronic, others have distinct piano or guitar sounds, but all are “in perfect harmony and melody with each other as they describe the poetic vision of the ‘Big Chill’.”



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Thomas Koener – Nunatak – Teimo – Permafrost



It’s not really a shame when you missed these albums when they were originally released in 1990/92/93.
Even though the original label (Barooni) was located in my hometown, I did not notice these releases until they were re-released on Mille Plateaux a few years later

With following album releases, Thomas Köner’s immersive drones found wider attention, and gained more and more recognistion. Albums like Kaamos, Daikan, Unerforschtes Gebiet, Nuuk and, more recently, La Barca) firmly established Köner’s reputation as the absolute master of immersive deep dronescapes.
And thus the interest in his back catalogue also grew.

Recently, Type Records have re-released Köner’s first three albums on vinyl. For those that prefer the CD format, a 3-CD version of these remastered albums is now also available.

So don’t let them pass you by this time: these albums are definitely classics of electronic and drone music!

Nunatak, Teimo and Permafrost are presented in a foldout digipack, with only black and white photograpy of arctic images (Köner’s music is often referred to as “arctic sounds”).
Unfortunately, it lacks any background information about the recording process of these albums.
For his first albums, Köner used all kinds gong sounds, recorded in different conditions and heavily processed. The result is a warm, natural sounding (yet somewhat metallic and alienating ) sound.

The first album of the set, Nunatak (originally called Nunatak Gongamur) is Köner’s debut, and presents an artist exploring new art-forms, searching and experimenting. On the next two albums Köner has obviously established his direction and continues to explore the (previously unexplored) territories of his sound.

No other artist that I know is able to create such deep and deserted sound environments, where time no longer seems to be a dimension (although Eliane Radigue’s Trilogie de la Mort may be one of the exceptions).

Though he always finds new angles to create his music (Daikan, for instance was created using a Japanese large drum; Unerforschtes Gebiet records the grains of dust on movie celluloid), Thomas Köner’s unique sound can easily be recognized. A Master of Drone, indeed.

Listening to Nunatak, Teimo and Permafrost evokes the same sort of feelings as watching the classic Solaris movie (1972). I guess from now on we could refer to Thomas Köner as “the Andrej Tarkovski of electronic music”.

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