So two ambient artists, including one of my current favorites in the genre, went on tour and released a split CD of some of the music they would be doing on that tour. They toured. No, really. They toured Europe, coming nowhere near where i live. These types of artists almost never play Atlanta. Why do they forsake me so????
Fortunately, i have this record to listen to, since i cannot see them perform. They named this release after a strait somewhere up in the far dark cold part of Canada. The name is appropriate because the music here is sparse, calm, and reflective. I think of those frigid places as inspiring such calmness, but since i basically live in a rain forest, i might be wrong on that. Whatever.
There is slightly under half an hour of music here. Half of the songs are by Loscil and half are by Fieldhead. Loscil is the solo project of Scott Morgan, the drummer in Destroyer. I have reviewed several Loscil releases on this site before. Fieldhead is Paul Elam, who is also in The Declining Winter. So, this split release is several EvilSponge interests overlapping.
Please note that both artists make ambient dub. This is slow, mostly electronic music. There are no vocals, and songs kind of wander along with minimal percussion. Not everyone enjoys that sort of thing, but if you do, then read on.
Loscil starts things off with Fury. This is a long drone that builds into a mess of sawing strings and synth tones that travels on for a while, but suddenly ends in a hard stop: a finality to the strings, like they just all stopped at once. Nicely done.
Home is the first Fieldhead track here. A beat clicks and drones wander, then some sort of sample, a swirling noise, like a keyboard sample recorded tinny, comes in, then an ebbing beat. This is really nice.
Helluland is the second Loscil piece. It ebbs and flows like a pipe organ song, but it is made out of deeper tones, a deep bass riff that reverbs alongside slowly changing keyboard drones. Eventually a thudding echoed beat and a deep rumble that sounds kind of like strings, or maybe one note held by a very deep voice, come in, driving the tune to a satisfying conclusion.
Fieldhead's second piece is Northumberland, and it is lovely. He adds in layers of strings grating against one another, and then a nice little melody wanders through... Very pretty. Apparently the strings here are violinists Elaine Reynolds and Sarah Kemp, who are also in the Declining Winter with Elam.
With Northerly Winds is Loscil's closing statement. A deep throb reverbs over a chugging drone, and over this Loscil layers strange clicking sounds. These slightly Autechre-like beats are unusual for Loscil, but accompany the drones nicely.
Finally, the record ends with Hecla by Fieldhead. This is a string heavy piece, Reynolds and Kemp really shining here. Elam pairs their strings with some faint beats and drones, buried under the constant sawing of the violins. It's like a low-key GYBE piece, and is very pretty.
Overall, i am pleased with this record. There is a lot to like here, even if neither artist seems intent on reinventing the ambient genre right now. If you are a fan of that kind of music, this is something to track down. Mind you, i’m still a little annoyed that i could not see this tour in person… But the record is nice.