Netherworld :: Over the Summit (Glacial Movements)

Notwithstanding the odd section of auto-pilot sound design, and with the sure hand of his mystic mate, Gigi Gasparetti at the mastering helm, Netherworld does more than enough to ensure the ambitions of his arctic expedition Over the Summit are achieved.

Netherworld 'Over the Summit'

[Listen | Purchase] For nigh on 5 years Glacial Movements has been furthering the cause of glacial and isolationist ambient – a banner consciously aligning it with a sound emerging 15-20 years ago in a triangle formed by the sonic coordinates of Thomas Köner, Lull and Biosphere. Label-head Alessandro Tedeschi has curated this ongoing sonological survey of polar expanses, contributing also as Netherworld, a project first sighted via a series of deep ambient releases on Oöphoi’s Umbra in the mid-2000s, before inaugurating GM in 2007 with Mørketid. Its successor, Over the Summit, in line with previous mission statements, sets out to describe the huge Arctic and Antarctic vastnesses, and all the various elements of coldness. So let’s get chilly with it!

This Roman knows how it goes with ice-floes: a patron to the likes of Lull, Lopez, and Rapoon – and lately Loscil. Tedeschi’s currency, though, differs. Most of these isolationist ambienteers have tended to ply their trade with cavernous bass resonance and heavy-duty drone slabs laced with infusions suggestive of cracking ice etc. (see e.g. Messrs Köner, Rich and Lustmord, and Harris). Netherworld diverges in being possessed of a relatively lighter more harmonic character, with environmental samples and looping classical music grabs commingling with reverberant drones in slow-mo cycles in tracts suggestive of silent glacial vastness.

Title track opener sets the glacial keynote with long attenuated chord-slivers panning across an evacuated soundfield in evocation of wind currents sweeping over arctic desolation; massively effected, it continues its tracking-like motions, increasing in intensity and timbral variation, enhanced by remote drum-thrums. No affair of ice-cold cryogenics, there’s more human warmth to “Aurora performs its last shows” (audio below), the inhuman emptiness broken with filtered radio voices, while maintaining the sonic architecture of micro-variate looping chords. Tedeschi’s space craft is more evident on “Iceblink (Aurora Borealis Mix).” Here the sound design is more refined – maybe something to do with the ‘sounds emitted by the Northern Lights’ apparently sampled by Tedeschi (vision-sound translation intriguingly unexplained) manipulated and melted into the mix; a recursive veiled motif at once magisterial and languorous is orchestrated so as to allow the particulate detail of sonic captures effective release. “Crystalized words” plays out amid arcing vectors of massively effected classical string grabs that arc and tilt around the muffled thump of drums from the abyss. “Thoughts locked in ice” is similarly classically derived, drawing out long trails of reverb-draped string/brass/woodwind progressions, its tenor swaying between isolationism and elegy. The “Iperborea” (legendary land of the extreme north, to which the album is dedicated) deploys ominous synths and eerie singing bowl resonance in an unsettling closure to proceedings – parts previously consonant and harmonic seem devoid, hollow, rendered unpitched, swimming in queasy effects. No human warmth. Hic sunt leones, as the cartographers once had it.

Overall, Tedeschi’s vehicle affords low energy yet by no means torpid transport to arctic isolation, just occasionally falling short, lolling in the doldrums of overstretched loop-ism and musico-poetically inert voice samples. Notwithstanding the odd section of auto-pilot sound design, and with the sure hand of his mystic mate, Gigi Gasparetti at the mastering helm, Netherworld does more than enough to ensure the ambitions of his arctic expedition Over the Summit are achieved.

Over The Summit is out now on Glacial Movements. [Listen | Purchase]

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