With it's opening drone and extended chords Over Ingia sets the tone for an album that is all about landscapes. There is something cold and forbidding about the barren vistas painted here and this record is as much about exploration of self as it is the cinematic glaciers, ice caverns and canyons and deserted, frozen plains that unfold before your very ears. This is a voyage of exploration both external and internal - travelling...without moving. As Over Ingia progresses we hear what could be some lumbering creature: a polar bear? But this is the only company when travelling over tundra, heading out on to a glassy expanse of ice, punctuated by white peaks. Magnificent desolation.
North Scape continues the chilly moods of the opening track. This is like opening a copy of National Geographic, only to be sucked in to the incredible photographs presented. Frosty shimmers suggest the threat of biting cold, as a drone paints a seemingly infinite icescape, blinding white as far as the eyes can see.
While Yakone is another sparse, slowly unfolding track there is a sense of real fear and menace here, the same mixture of beauty and danger that make Biosphere's Substrata and Cirque such compelling listening. It is as if an explorer has discovered a subterranean cave of ice as night falls but what seems like a place of rest may prove to be a frozen final resting place. Tightly packed stalactites of ice slowly drip, as the last light fades in this deserted chamber.
Solitude is at the heart of Saudade in more ways than one. Indeed this could quite easily have served as the album's title track, as the title is perfect for a collection of music that presents a lonely journey for the mind's eye. Very subtle, wistful bassy swells and pretty bleeping electronics convey a landscape so breathtaking that 1,000 words could not convey what the eyes can see or more accurately what the ears can hear. This sensation aptly sums up the experience of listening to this album: there is aching beauty that is impossible to describe; a very personal relationship with place and time that is unshareable. Whilst Solitude is shot through with melancholy there is also heart-melting beauty in this moment of reflection, spent surveying a frozen panorama, both in person and later as a frozen moment in the recesses of the mind.
With echoes of xylophone-like sound and vaguely metallic swells of sound Altesch is an austere slice of minimalism. Chilly and forbidding, yet cinematic and compelling.
Whilst it may not be immediately apparent, John Barry is the key influence behind Ophir Aurora. Indeed imagine this piece scored for orchestra and it is possible to picture an enormous enemy base sweeping slowly into view. As it is, with it's Berlin School sequencer pattern and great sweeps of synthesiser this track perfectly evokes rippling curtains of multi-coloured day-glo magnificence, flickering and dancing in the sky. This is arguably the album's most moving moment and a subtle, fitting tribute to the Bond composer. Barry would surely have approved.
Once again, xylophone-like patterns form the basis for Fall, the album's last track. This offering has the feel of a return to civilisation after a long walk in the wilderness, although the final moments revert to a cold, barren atmosphere. Sensations of saudade?
Saudade is available to order here: