Review: The North – Glaciers

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(Vinyl LP, Captcha Records, 2013)

Oh dear, oh dear, why on Earth have I been missing out on Captcha Records for so long!? One of the finest experimental/psych labels around and I haven’t checked them out even once. I feel like an asshole now. Time to make up for my ignorance, starting with a stellar new record (very soon to be released on vinyl) by the Norwegian producer Snorre Snøjøst Henriksen working under the very fitting (considering where he’s coming from and the nature of his music) moniker The North. Everything around this release is made out to make the listener feel cold, even the artwork itself, filled with white and blue colors, as well as abstract, jagged shapes made out to look like the surface of a weathered mountain glacier. But despite that, and the heavy atmosphere of music, it’s not that entirely cold.

The blurb on the label’s website brags about the album’s inspiration taken from both krautrock artists and the more modern-age technoid explorers, and I’m inclined more toward the latter group when listening to “Glaciers”. In fact, I’m really reminded abou the output of the UK’s dark techno label Modern Love, especially the work of Andy Stott or Claro Intelecto, althought with a slightly more ambiental – and sometimes, indeed! – kosmische musik edge. The first track, “Serpen’t Tail” is steeped in vast, endlessly reverbing ambience, evolving toward a lethargic, slowed-down techno beat in a glacial pace. Henriksen takes pride in fiddling with textures in moods – the track is alternatively uplifting and full of light, as if the spring sun was shining at the glacier, making it shimmer beautifully; but then the dark clouds come and cut off the sunlight, bathing the music in dark basslines and thumping, cavernous industrial techno aesthetic.

Second side’s “Night Train” begins in a more oldschool, proggy fashion. Some might think of the more synthesizer driven moments of 70’s progressive rock, others’ minds will surely wander towards the oeuvre of John Carpenter. It’s certainly less dark and more dynamic, driven with classical sequencers and rhythmic analog drones, divided into several movements, some being quieter, building up the tension before finally releasing the disco fever of Giorgio Moroder’s glowing moments of fame. It’s a time travel to the past, leaving behind the cracked, icy caves of side A in lieu of hot club nights, although with a bit of darkness and mystery still staying, expressed by reverbed, moaning vocals in the back of the relentless techno beats. It’s way faster than “Serpent’s Tail” and immensely dancefloor-friendly, as if crafted to be played at house and club parties. If the first track gave an impression of an introverted, headphone-based listening experience, the second track will blow that away and make you blast it away through your speakers at top volume.

Despite its name, “Glaciers” is a hot record – at least side B. While side A does exactly what it promises on the cover, freezing the listener and sending shivers through their body with its lethargic tempo and ghostly atmosphere, side B quickly melts all the ice and snow away and raises the temperature bar dangerously quickly. One of the most surprising, and interesting records I’ve heard recently. Highly recommended.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=2862755918/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

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