Tag: glacial movements

Northaunt – Istid III – Review

Artist: Northaunt
Album: Istid III
Release date:
Label: Glacial Movements

01. Part I
02. Part II
03. Part III
04. Part IV
05. Part V

I’m happy to be reviewing the second Northaunt release in recent months. The last one, Night Paths (which can be read about & heard here), was a compilation of previously unreleased Northaunt material from the last decade. He decided to polish and release those tracks while waiting on the release of this third part of the Istid series, a proper full album of new material.

Northaunt, as many of you may know at this point, has been one of my favorite dark ambient artists since I first discovered the genre. I have a profound love for northern landscapes and, for me, this music most closely defines that in a dark ambient format. Through the various albums we’ve heard a variety of different themes which all fall under the banner of this northern climate and landscape. Though recently, it has been in a more defined form than in the past. With Istid now moving into its third chapter, Hærleif Langås is giving us an extended look at this particular theme.

In the liner notes for Istid I-II, Northaunt tells us of previous ice ages and how quickly they may have came and went, swallowing continents in their wake. This theory has been played out in great detail recently by various scientists and researchers. Particularly to my knowledge, Graham Hancock & Randall Carlson speak of the evidence of previous Ice Age progressions and recessions that were devastating to life on all parts of Earth. The Istid series gives us snapshots of various points in time during these cyclical events.

Especially in the beginning, Northaunt had a style of polar ambient which seemed closer to human emotion. However, as Horizons and Istid I-II came along, humanity was less involved in the vision. But with Istid III, we are starting to hear the return of humanity through various samples of people speaking, mostly in a language I don’t speak, so I can’t comment on that part. But whether it is the woman in “Part II” or the old man in “Part IV” it adds a hazy look at human emotion in a way reminiscent of early Northaunt and also Langås’ newer album Silent Heart by The Human Voice.

Going into the final track there is a thick frigid wind billowing prominently in the background behind some of the best guitar work present in Langås’ repertoire. It sets us in these dark frozen landscapes, gazing across a glaciated horizon with flecks of ice burning our cheeks in a way that many of us rarely or never will experience. This has always been the beauty of Northaunt, the music transports us to these places and shows us their best and their worst aspects.

As I said earlier about Alchymeia by raison d’être (in a recent review here), this is a tour-de-force by Northaunt. Langås has been working these various aspects of his Northaunt sound since the late 90s. Istid III brings the old together with the new in a unique way giving us the best of both worlds. This release is also a step outside the ordinary, as it’s been released through Glacial Movements, a label out of Italy that specializes in various types of polar ambient soundscapes. This should hopefully bring a new group of listeners to the Northaunt sound, as all the die-hard listeners will certainly find their way to his work regardless. My only regret is that I would love to have the Istid III vinyl sitting on my shelf beside the Istid I-II set. But, maybe the release could still find its way to Cyclic Law in the future for a vinyl release, or maybe Glacial Movements will start to head in that direction too, as many labels have opted to in recent years.

Of course, this should be highly recommended to any lovers of dark ambient. Northaunt has had a pretty broad and consistent following since the debut years ago and Istid III is only going to reinforce listeners’ feelings about his music.

Written by: Michael Barnett

nota bene: You can also read a recent interview we conducted with Langås of Northaunt here.

bvdub – Epilogues for the End of the Sky – Review

Artist: bvdub
Album title: Epilogues for the End of the Sky
Release date: 28 April 2017
Label: Glacial Movements

01. On Deaf Hearts Your Prayers They Fall
02. With Broken Wings and Giants Tall
03. Sparkling Legions Turn to Black
04. Your Painted Armor Aches to Crack
05. Clouds Besiege What You Remain
06. Footsteps Fade If Not Your Pain
07. Love is Never Asking Why
08. It All Ends with the Coming Sky

bvdub is Brock Van Wey of San Francisco. Epilogues for the End of the Sky is my first encounter with him, though it seems that he has been creating music through one name or another since the late ’80s. So it is no surprise that when I heard this album the first time it seemed so nuanced and masterfully crafted. Since that first listen, I can barely go a day without hearing it.

bvdub fits somewhere between the space of dark melancholic ambient and deep house music. There are no beats or percussion to speak of, but the format and general aesthetics of the album certainly lead in the direction of some deep house or trance music. The most recognizable element that gives it this tag is the sparing use of vocal sections throughout the album. They will gently creep in and out of the mix, as if part of a DJ’s set. One some tracks like the opener, “On Deaf Hearts Your Prayers They Fall” the vocals are quite subtle, yet others will bring them much closer to the surface.

The piano is used in just such a sparing yet emotive manner as the vocals. Some tracks will barely allow it to surface in the background, while others bring it directly to the forefront, guiding the direction of the track. “Sparkling Legions Turn To Black”, my favorite track on the album, brings these two elements together perfectly. There is a spacey feeling, a sense of some late night deep house set on a beach. But this is only what it suggests, the music itself is deeply melancholic. It seems more a memory of a distant summer in the past, in a time during one’s youth that will never return.

This track, “Sparkling Legions Turn To Black” showcases a lot of the best elements of Epilogues for the End of the Sky. There are sweeping drone elements, deeply relaxing, yet always seeming to have a darker element present. The track starts out with this light droning, before an acoustic guitar enters the mix. Later as these two elements come to an apex the vocal section is presented. This really brings that feeling of a distant memory to the surface. These vocals are barely recognizable at first, but they will boil to the surface bringing an emotional charge along with them. By the eight minute mark, the track drops to almost a silence before the synthesizer elements and vocals take to the forefront. The rest of the eleven-plus minute track is much more direct, and comes the closest to deep-house that we will hear on the album.

All of these elements give a suggestion of something from the electronic dance music scene, but they never arrive at that destination. Which is exactly why the album fits so well on Glacial Movements. The music moves along at that glacial pace, often leading toward a climax which never arrives. This increases those melancholic elements. It gives the album a truly sad feel. Add to this the occasional input of field recordings and we are left with an album that is not the usual sort of dark ambient at all, but it pulls at the emotions of the listener in many of the same ways. When presented with something that is ambient and deep-house with no tempo, but the entirety is vastly melancholic, this seems the perfect recipe for attracting the attentions of dark ambient listeners.

You may need to already have an appreciation for house or trance or some other techno scene to enjoy this album. I’ve always loved those genres, so it seems natural that this depressive take on those styles would feel so perfect for me. Listeners who enjoy taking a step outside the usual formula will find a lot to love here. But if you were never too interested in these mentioned genres or if you prefer your dark ambient to remain orthodox, then this will not be the album for you. But for those of us who do enjoy this stretch, there is a lot here to fall in love with. Epilogues for the End of the Sky feels like a bit of a risk for Glacial Movements, as it moves a little further outside their usual format than one might expect. But the album is truly worthy of attention, and the years of experience behind its creator is obvious from beginning to end.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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