Friday, April 27, 2012

Natural Snow Buildings (Pt 1)

The culprits behind Natural Snow Buildings are French duo Solange Gularte (who records solo as Isengrind) and Mehdi Ameziane (better known as TwinSisterMoon), and using only a handful of instruments - mostly guitar, cello and vocals they seem to open up a whole universe of possibilities, taking in Neil Young-inspired songwriting, Stars Of The Lid / Windy & Carl styled slowcore ambience and blissful instrumentals in the tradition of Rachel's, albeit filtered through a gauzy lo-fi lens.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

6xCD , Students Of Decay, 2008 

Bonus Material:

On the Students Of Decay website, this double-disc opus is referred to as a "monumental masterpiece", "the history of all things", "an epic poem" and perhaps most ostentatiously of all: "perfection defined". Can this record really live up to that sort of hysteria?  Close Enough.  The secret behind holding your attention for its full two-and-a-half hour span, you never know where this album is going to take you next: after a minute or so of faultless melancholy folk in the shape of opener 'Carved Heart', along comes the trance-inducing drone ritual 'Cut joint Sinews & Divided Reincarnation', only for the sublime, wintry eeriness of 'Wisconsin' to arrive a few minutes later. 

The first disc in itself would be enough to conquer the most skeptical of listeners, but of course we're only halfway through, and there's so much more to love here: 'Gary Webb' is a thing of stunning loveliness and emotional gravitas, combining guitar and strings in a cleanly delivered epic of mournful harmonies. Elsewhere, choral drones and kosmische synthesizer sonorities erupt gently from 'All Animals In The Form Of Water' only for 'John Carpenter' to embark on a wonderfully serene tribute to the eponymous filmmaker/soundtrack composer, giving rise to glacial bowed chords and shimmering, frosty atmospherics.  The 25 minute stunner, "Felt Presence, Ghostly Humming"  takes flight and never returns to earth, losing you in the darkness. 

It's desolation will rip your heart out, while putting much drone-based music to shame.

I don't think of this album as an album. In fact, I barely think of this album as music. It's not something that I just throw on and listen to for enjoyment. When I listen to The Dance of the Moon and the Sun, I simply get lost in it. Natural Snow Buildings has created a completely different medium that could barely qualify as music. Everything about this "album", from the artwork and packaging to the content itself looks and sounds and feels like it was created on a planet from a completely different solar system. Listening to it gives you the kind of shocked chills you'd get while listening to a strange recording of some sort of paranormal entity speaking. each new listen is like exploring the universe or circumnavigating the earth. With every new listen there's something new to find and get lost in.

What is so amazing about what Natural Snow Buildings does with their music is they make a fifteen minute ambient track of nothing but guitar drones and a section of percussion evolve so well that it manages to keep your interest throughout. But really, it feels almost pointless to talk about the music itself. Afterall, this isn't music. This is not an album. This is not something that you listen to, it's something that you live with and experience and ponder and get lost in. I barely know half of the song titles. What I have come to accept is that I don't need to know half of the things that I may want to know about this album, or even half of the things that I already know about it. All I need to know about Solange Gularte and Mehdi Ameziane are their names and that they both make music. All I need to know about The Dance and the Moon and the Sun is that it just simply is, and is one of the most beautiful and wonderous and mysterious things that has ever existed.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Snow Bringers Cult

Disc One showcases Gularte’s solo project, Isengrind, then Ameziane’s,TwinSisterMoon. Gularte works with brackish, delicate ambient drones, reminiscent of Popol Vuh, fuzzy ‘90s outriders Flying Saucer Attack and Matt Valentine’s forerunners of the US free folk scene, Tower Recordings. Ameziane, meanwhile, favours brittle folk songs, which he sings in an uncanny whisper that’s close in tone and spirit to that of Vashti Bunyan. On Disc Two, the pair hook up, balancing the two strains of noise and singer-songwriter craft with an elegance that reminds me of PG Six’s early work (an alumnus of Tower Recordings, as it happens).
"The album is composed of two jam-packed discs of brand new material recorded in the final months of 2007, the first being a split between the duo's solo projects: Isengrind (Gularte) and Twinsistermoon (Ameziane). Here, the pair's tendency to occupy the full 80 minute capacity of the CD medium proves ideal, as both solo projects effectively have a full 40 minutes in which to sketch their respective sonic visions. Disc one begins with the exotic ethnodrones of Isengrind, with Gularte transporting us to some blasted bazaar where Eastern strings, haunted vocals and a marvelous universe of shaken and beaten percussion emanates from every dark corner of the windswept streets. "To Ride With Holle" could be a merging of the resonant clatter of "Empty Bell"-era Pelt with the enchanted peaks of the Taj Mahal Travellers' bleary eyed beachside reveries. Elsewhere, Gularte presents us with tribal landscapes that wouldn't be out of place on the most captivating of Sublime Frequencies releases, as is the case on "Wooden False Face." Ever the chameleon, throughout her half of the split Gularte takes us to deep, dark places, such as the barren netherworld of "SunDusk Wand," as well as the bright, blue summits found in her magnificent closing piece "Anima Sola."
Emerging from the ashes of Isengrind's lush soundworlds are Mehdi Ameziane's own solo flights as Twinsistermoon, which begin with the keening, sprawling "Amantsokan," a truly mesmerizing dirge. It is with "The Spears of the Wolf" however, that the course of this split album is wonderfully altered. Here, Ameziane channels the most affecting qualities of 70's British folk music with wondrous, transportive results. Ameziane's take on the folk song is reminiscent of the pastoral diddies of Vashti Bunyan or perhaps some long lost Linda Perhacs or Anne Briggs recording, all plaintive nylon strings and warm, whispered voices. It is thus that the Twinsistermoon half of the split oscillates effortlessly between two seemingly disparate styles: that of the nostalgic, crestfallen folk song ("Spells," Water Barrier," "Kingdom of the Sea") and that of the slow burning drone epic ("Order of the Dreamt," "Bones Memories," "Understars") - no small feat indeed.
For the album's colossal third installment, Ameziane and Gularte join forces under the Natural Snow Buildings moniker for the entirety of disc two. It is here that all of thediversity and compositional prowess evidenced by the pair's solo recordings coheres into the remarkably refined and singular NSB sound. "Resurrect Dead on Planet Six" kicks things off, a horde of screaming, lost specters howling across one thousand endless starry nights. On "Ongon's Rattle," a doomed mass gathers for a ritual processional, with Ameziane and Gularte's moss-laden forest chants floating atop a wistful, rhythmic undertow that is evocative of the best qualities of early Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the rest of the Constellation Records roster. After the sunlit drift of "Inuk's Song," Ameziane and Gularte unleash in the title track what is undoubtedly one of their most compelling compositions to date. A deluge of frenzied woodwind tones gives rise to a blasted sea shanty lament driven forward by collapsing synth lines, booming percussion and increasingly urgent, searing blasts of pure bliss drone guitar. The enigmatic forest dwellers raise their voices again on the shambling, reverent "Gone," and, later, "Salt Signs" continues the beautiful trajectory established by the title track with its impossibly towering summits of synth and string drones that are gradually tempered by kraut-inflected percussion and drifting, rhythmic guitar work. Later still, "The Desert Has Eyes" finds a tribal raga positively eviscerated by blistering sheets of pure whiteout feedback and cascading sine waves. The album ostensibly closes with an ocean of elegiac organ tones woven into a tight coda. However, an emphatic exclamation point to the monster that is "The Snowbringer Cult" occurs with the album's hidden track, wherein an utterly levitating torrent of pounding percussion, hummed vocals and post-Flying Saucer Attack fuzzbox guitar attack scream out into the void."


suscatchavalerra said...

great great blog! greetings :D

Nubban Lama Mipham Chögyal said...

many thanks for the complete upgrade!

cristina said...

Thank you !!

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