Skare: Solstice City
Glacial Movements

Recorded in Stockholm, Sweden in 2006, Solstice City, Skare's contribution to the Glacial Movements catalogue, pursues a clearly-delineated narrative line in its three tracks. Working with field recordings, found sounds, and treated instruments, Mathias Josefson, Per Åhlund, and Fredrik Olofsson—the first two credited with sounds and editing, the latter videos and live visuals—uphold the label's commitment to the “frozen ambient” genre by fashioning an imaginary journey that finds a traveler leaving behind the safe cocoon of the man-made city for uncharted territories.

The three-minute opener, “To The Other Shore,” is dwarfed by the twenty-minute-plus durations of the other tracks but that's by design since it's an overture that sets the stage for the explorations to come. Setting the scene, Skare mixes sounds of people talking with crystalline shimmer and low-pitched rumble, and we even hear the voice of our protagonist clearly seeking direction as he travels by ship from a foreign shore to parts unknown. Natural sounds such as footsteps trudging through the snow and sea gulls are audible during the opening section of “Through Wind And Broken Ice” but it's not long before the adventurer finds himself in a cavernous zone where freezing winds and gaseous vapours dominate. Just when one starts to think that perhaps the explorer may have vanished so far into this netherworld that he won't be able to return, a few tinkles of piano appear and then bird chirps and the hum of a distant car, suggesting that he's managed to rejoin civilization after all. Having survived that episode, he carries on once more, moving slowly through the blinding haze of a whiteout until he reaches “The Snow Angel Factory.” The engine of a distant plane is heard amidst a simmering stream of crackle, after which the material grows increasingly industrial in character (intercom voices, the locomotive churn of factory equipment) until, like the middle track, it too grows progressively more ghostly, even though augmented by subtle piano colourations. Interestingly, the piece comes to an end in a predominantly acoustic manner with piano, subtly augmented by field voices and textures, at the forefront.

Skare deserves credit for opening up the prototypically isolationist “frozen ambient” genre by bringing so many natural and field recording sounds into Solstice City 's mix; doing so humanizes a style that can sometimes seem inhuman in its ice-cold barrenness and as a result difficult to, ahem, warm to.

May 2009