Netherworld: Alchemy of Ice
Glacial Movements Records

There's something a little odd about a Glacial Movements release appearing during the swelter of summertime, but that's perhaps the only strange thing about the Italian label's latest release. Created by label head Alessandro Tedeschi (aka Netherworld) using the analog sampler Roland VP9000, Alchemy of Ice is a beautifully crafted collection of ambient tracks—though it's maybe misleading to characterize it as such. That's because the six settings are not just static, sonic-tinting soundscapes but instead compositions that evolve through multiple dramatic episodes.

What also distinguishes the recording is that Tedeschi shows great circumspection in his arrangements and in how he assembles his elements—minimal piano figures, synthetic washes, deep rumbles, ambient textures, field recordings (some made in 2003 at underground caves in Lazio, Italy), ample doses of reverb and echo—into entrancing, oft-melancholic wholes (“Hymns to a Melancholic Sunset” an explicit instance). In a typical track, he uses haunting melodic motifs to establish a foundation and then carefully builds upon it by overlaying textures and additional phrases.

As an example, “Polo Nord dell'inaccessibilità” weaves multiple melodic fragments into a complex, softly exhaling mass until a shift into a more melancholy realm occurs during its final third via the emergence of hazy synth textures. “Icepulse” likewise warms its deep-freeze electronic textures with the acoustic glow of a piano, even if it's one drenched in reverb. Yes, Alchemy of Ice is ambient music, and, consistent with the Glacial Movements norm, it's to a large degree isolationist, too. But it also elevates itself above the ambient-electronic norm by its superb sound design and assembly, both of which suggest that Tedeschi invested great care in fashioning the recording's material.

July 2013