Natural Snow Buildings

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

The Winter Ray (2004), 6/10
The Dance of the Moon and the Sun (2006) , 7.5/10
The Centauri Agent (2010), 7/10
Chants Of Niflheim (2011), 6/10
Waves Of The Random Sea (2011), 6/10

Natural Snow Buildings, the French duo of male guitarist Mehdi Ameziane and female cellist Solange Gularte, attempted brainy chamber post-rock (basically without the "rock") on Ghost Folks (2003) and the double-disc The Winter Ray (2004). The thick fluttering electronic drones I Don't Know What Psy War Is set the tone. Dark Side Of Behaviourism adds a slowly-ticking guitar. Micro Chip Little Children modulates the vibration to extract a solemn Buddhist-style melody from it. Counter In Surgency and Experiments On Monkeys are two sides of the same coin: a very intense high-frequency tinkling created by two dueling sources (that sound like a guitar and an organ). The adagio for chamber strings of Places Of Detention lays the groundwork for the album's emotional zenith, the nine-minute Un Manne D'Helicopters And Micro Waves, in which the detached notes of a piano evoke a melancholy aria in the midst of a strong drone that acts like a freezing wind. The album ends not with a bang but with a whimper: Falling Space Laser Nikola Tesla decays into a serene quantum vacuum from which a tender piano and strings adagio rises like the first buds of spring.

The double-disc The Dance of the Moon and the Sun (2006), their masterpiece, alternated brainy chamber post-rock freak-folk interludes, droning psychedelic trips and abstract ambient music. The drilling metallic drone of the 15-minute Cut Joint Sinews & Divided Reincarnation evokes vast empty spaces before it is briefly visited by a tribal dance, and it then morphs into a revolving organism emanating embryonic monk voices. After the languid freak-folk tune Interstate Roads, the 12-minute Wisconsin opens with a gentle, nostalgic guitar meditation that decays into an anemic repetition of simple chords. After the pastoral vignette of Rain Serenade for harmonia, guitar, loud buzz and confused humming, the majestic waves of drones of Dance Of The Moon & The Sun set an unlikely context for its naive folk tune. All of this eclectic zigzag is just an appetizer for the 25-minute Felt Presence Ghostly Humming, a duet between mournful drones and a very slow guitar melody that goes through a number of variations until it is joined by a sitar. In a sense the duet continues in Eu Un Miroir Obscurement, an impressionistic vignette that further "degrades" the gentle languid tones of the album. The whispered anemic tunes peak with the short Wandering Souls, that mixes Indian and medieval overtones. The album is back to its surreal dynamics with A Ten Guardian-Spirits Motherfucker, which starts out in a feverish Indian rhythm suddenly which is then pulverized by a nebula of buzzing voices.
Again and again, however, the album returns to more mundane and rural grounds, and so it is not surprise that Gary Webb ends sounding like a slow-motion version of Leo Kottke's country ditties. All Animals In The Form Of Water goes beyond both the ambient droning world and the freak-folk world with a melancholy Ennio Morricone-esque female hummed melody that floats over a bed of solemn drones.
The eerie dance of the 12-minute John Carpenter ends in waves of of ecstatic "om" to the skies is followed by another dejected chant, Away My Ghosts, like an epilogue. After the loud violent distorted drones of My Bones Are Yours, we are suddenly plunged into the most lively piece, a hare-krishna procession of sorts, Tunneling Into The Structure Until It Falls, that is swallowed in a massive black hole in which distant echoes of a carillon struggle to survive. The album closes with the most hypnotic piece, Remains In The Ditch Of The Dead, a delicate repeating pattern of guitar, voice and electronics, all filtered and blended to become a feeble cosmic radiation.

The prolific duo then flooded the world with hours and hours of recordings, which inevitably was of very poor material. The least worse were the triple-disc Night Coercion Into The Company Of Witches (2008), evenly divided between ritualistic tribal nightmares and abstract white noise, the live Laurie Bird (2008) and Slayer Of The King Of Hell (2008). The quintuple-cassette album Daughter of Darkness (2008) collects droning music.

Shadow Kingdom (2009) includes the 25-minute The Fall of the Shadow Kingdom.

Mehdi Ameziane has also released When Stars Glide Through Solid (2007), Levels and Crossings (2007), Rivers Of Blood Ending In The Sun (2008), The Hollow Mountain (2009), Then Fell The Ashes (Blackest Rainbow, 2010), Bogyrealm Vessels (Handmade Birds, 2012) under the moniker Twinsistermoon.

Solange Gularte has also released Golestan (2007), Modlitewnik (2010) and Night Of Raining Fire (2012) under the moniker Isengrind. The double-disc The Snowbringer Cult (2008) collects music by Snow Buildings and the two solo projects, TwinSisterMoon and Isengrind.

The Centauri Agent (Vulpiano, 2010) is mainly notable for the 41-minute Our Man From Centauri. A tiny chromatic chaos of floating colliding particles grows into a swirling cosmic nebula. A guitar pierces through and intones a simple Buddhist-like melody surrounded by the hissing of galaxies in all directions. Halfway into the piece, the strumming gets delayed and smothered by a rising tide of distortions, like a huge swarm of alien insects. Initially this sounds threatening but soon the circular undercurrents reveal the gentle, warm, shrouding nature of it.
By comparison the other pieces sound like inferior variations or unfinished drafts. The Accidental Remote Viewer offers more of the wavering cosmic drones but doesn't quite have an emotional center. The Storm Of Resurrection offers more of the same galactic hissing, whirring and swirling, although it ends with a fragile lullaby. The fluid and almost aquatic metamorphoses of The Psychic Circle - Uchronia, instead, succeed is first creating and then upsetting an atmosphere, and represent one of their ambient/impressionistic zeniths. Stuttering Probe is a chronicle of the decline of a sound from its magniloquent droning beginning to its feeble guitar strumming ending. On a smaller scale Phantom Twin and Emergency Network Farewell Broadcast are pretty psychological studies. The freak-folk side of things boasts the spaced-out litany Black Holes and little else. The album ends with the touching melody of Memories Found In A Bill From A Small Animal Vet, played by multiple instruments in unison, and with its wake of fluctuations.

Chants Of Niflheim (Blackest Rainbow, 2011) consists of four lengthy suites. In the first Chants Of Niflheim a gentle otherworldy female humming and its sitar companion drown in a sea of loose sounds from which a hari-krishna dance emerges with heavy psychedelic early Pink Floyd-ian overtones. The second Chants Of Niflheim is simply a flow of drones of various intensity and substance. A sitar eventually emerges from the confused whirling nebula of sounds of Templars Ritual and creates a thick lattice, and in it a theremin-like melody is born. When this dies out, solemn and threatening drones replace the sitar ending the first part on a grave note. H Scudder begins as a lo-fi freak-folk tune that is soon swallowed in a colossal swelling shadow of drones and tinkles, that lengthy coda probably being the sonic peak of the album. As usual, there are some intriguing ideas but the implementation is sometimes amateurish and quite a bit of the album feels redundant. Worse: it does sound like several of these pieces are remixes of previous pieces, i.e. there isn't enough change from album to album to justify the deluge of recordings. A lot of their music now sounds like a (simpler) variation on Our Man From Centauri.

Waves Of The Random Sea (2011) represents, first and foremost, a sign of orchestral maturity. An impressive number of instruments take turn at sculpting the ethereal atmosphere of The Waves Of The Random Sea, with the best effect coming from the "Western movie" combination of harmonica and tambourine. This Ice Fortress has the quality of a fairy tale, especially when it embraces a Middle-eastern rhythm evoking caravans in the desert The 18-minute Through Breaches In The Layer Of Fog and Still Desert fall into the usual trap of stretching the ideas without really knowing what to do with them. On the other hand, the way the 20-minute Drift The Water Soul dissolves its melodic leitmotiv into a lattice of celestial notes is quite magic, pure acrobatic reinvention.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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