Various Artists: Glacial Movements Cryosphere

[Glacial Movements; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: dark ambient, isolationism, space music, electronic sound art
Others: Biosphere, Thomas Köner, Lustmord, Aphex Twin

For those viewers creeped out by the wintry claustrophobia of films like Kubrick’s The Shining and Carpenter’s The Thing, but unable to effectively recreate the mood by being fortunate enough to track down their ultra-rare corresponding soundtracks, Glacial Movements may just have provided a remedy in the form of their new compilation. The label, which professes to specialize in “glacial and isolationist ambient,” has issued their first release, Cryosphere, a collection of nine lengthy, cold ambient tracks clocking in at almost 80 minutes. The collection is designed to evoke the isolation and bitter chill of winter with these arctic soundscapes that, in keeping with the album’s theme, are suitably icy, wind-blasted, and sure to raise gooseflesh on even the most thick-skinned, jaded listener.

The record’s initial tone is set with two noise-based pieces from Closing The Eternity and Northaunt, respectively. These two tracks, although atmospheric in their own right, are arguably the most abrasive pieces on Cryosphere and establish an appropriately bleak mood with their jarring shards of sound, calling to mind — particularly on the album’s opener, “Pulse of Iceilence” — images of a ship grinding to a full stop as it capsizes against an iceberg. Tho-So-Aa’s “Cryotesk” steers the album into considerably eerier territory with its cavernous, chant-like drones and gentle pulses of electronics struggling to be heard over dense, desolate waves of sound that wax and wane, creating a sense of oppression that intermittently ebbs in intensity. Similarly, Lightwave’s “Proxima Thule” is structured around dark, monolithic drones punctuated with high-end whines of feedback and spooky metallic scrapings echoing forth from the darkness. The shapes and textures of the track shift and modulate to create a sort of deep-sea ambience that suggests the sonar pings and undersea reverberations of a submarine resting on the ocean floor and gradually collapsing in upon itself.

Tuu’s “Silent Writing” is an extraordinary track employing some particularly uneasy, borderline disturbing electronic keyboards that summon forth an ominous, brooding resonance that is truly the stuff of nightmares. Troum’s “Giascei” is another nightmarish track based around digitally manipulated mechanical sounds, resulting in a dourly compelling arrangement. The piece is a frigid, crumbling work suggestive of a windswept, Lovecraftian Antarctic landscape populated by shambling, colossal creatures inching menacingly toward us as our legs remain firmly rooted in the ice, unable to transport us to safety.

Cryosphere’s foreboding aura is offset somewhat by Aidan Baker’s aptly titled “Beneath the Ice,” a track colored with ice-blue submarine hues and replete with aquatic atmospherics. The album’s two closing tracks, Netherworld’s “Kryos” and Oopho’s “Cold Sun,” are fittingly bleak pieces redolent of the deepest cold of space and evoking images of ice-capped planetary surfaces light years away from the nearest heat source. The frozen echoes of “Cold Sun,” for example, suggest a crippled spacecraft adrift in the cosmos for eternity. Cryosphere is a remarkably cohesive and well-sequenced collection of dark-but-diamantine ambient music that is best suited for contemplative headphone settings. Alternating between the cinematic and the claustrophobic, these pieces, if they don’t trigger a mild case of cabin fever, will transport the listener to a vast, otherworldly wilderness of snow and frozen wastes, rich in atmosphere and impressive to behold.

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