In my opinion the year 2011 was very good for dark ambient music. There was really plenty of great releases that saw the light of the day. But if I had to choose only one, the best one, I guess that would be “Midnight Sun” by Parhelion from Canada. I contacted Ihor Dawidiuk, the man responsible for this amazing album. Here’s the result of our conversation – we talk about music… and more. Enjoy.
Parhelion… Honestly speaking this is one of rather few examples when the name of the project in 100% completes the music. Where the idea of such moniker for your musical activity came from?
Parhelion refers to an atmospheric phenomena in which bright spots or a halo can be seen around the sun. Though not strictly an arctic phenomena parhelic circles are quite a prominent occurrence within that landscape and hence the association with this project. The name stuck with me and seemed to suit the endevour quite well.
Did you know from the very beginning what particular kind of music you want to create or was that process passing in rather spontaneous way?
No, not really. I think I had an inclination towards doing something in the ambient / experimental vein but essentially the music sort of evolved once I started creating.
The thing I love the most in your music is the feeling of infinite space, it’s this kind of music I wouldn’t say it was made in the studio. I can almost physically feel the wind on my face or the drops of water while standing next to the ocean. Is this the kind of feelings you’d like listeners to experience while listening to ‘Midnight Sun’?
First off, thanks for the compliment. Having someone describe your music as an experience rather than merely a sound is about the best kind of accolade I could hope to receive. And to answer your question, yes, the music is very intimately tied to the landscape so it’s intent is to evoke those type of feelings. At least that is what I hoped to achieve.
“Midnight Sun” is kind of musical summary of your arctic journeys. What aspects of these journeys, these places were the most inspiring for you?
To be honest I’ve never yet visited the arctic. It’s a destination which holds a strong allure for my imagination. I think the idea of that landscape is both intriguing and terrifying. For some reason I have a strong attraction to remote and isolated places, places that are inhospitable and as far removed from humanity as physically possible. Places that are at the end of the world. This is where the inspiration comes from.
These arctic regions of our planet still try to “resist” against mankind, keep their natural independence, I’d say. I wonder for how long though. How do you see the future of these harsh and majestic regions and its interactions with mankind?
The arctic has always had a great allure for men throughout history going, back to the ancient Greeks and probably well before. The fact that the arctic realm is such an inhospitable and vast expanse certainly allows it to maintain its independence through sheer remoteness. It’s interesting because it is also one of the most primitive and undisturbed landscapes, still retaining the same quality and primordial features that characterized it since the last Ice Age. Of course human interference in the eco-system means that even the arctic isn’t fully immune and even now you can see how things like global warming and climate change are affecting the sea ice levels. Of course in the end, regardless of how drastically and irrevocably we alter our planet, nature will remain while we necessarily won’t. In that sense the arctic region will always retain its natural autonomy.
My absolute favourite track on “Midnight Sun” is “A Lament For Whales”. Could you tell me about its origin? What’s the significance of the title, which sounds quite… “ecological”?
It’s basically a requiem. Industrial fishing is scouring the globe and there have been studies which have concluded that 90% of big fish stock have been depleted from the sea since the 1950s. That track is lament for the whales that are being needless murdered, it’s a response, a meditation on our neglect, greed, myopia and ecological irresponsibility, not to mention our inhumanity.
In couple of tracks we can hear almost drone/doom guitar riffs (“Soulitude” is the greatest example) – Are you interested in this kind of music? Why have you decided to place these noisier elements in your rather calm and ethereal musical structure?
Very much so, drone, doom, atmospheric etc… I find a lot of my inspiration in this type of music and tend to listen to a lot of it. I used harsher drone-guitar/noise in an attempt to reflect the harshness of the natural environment of the far north. At some points these sounds help express the idea (or the feeling that is trying to be conveyed) much better. The fact that it clashes with the more ethereal elements is also a something done on purpose as it is reflective of the inherent diachotomy of both the beauty and the hostility found within the arctic.
On the other hand, second half of “Meditation Over Open Waters” reminds me of the most beautiful and dreamy moments of Robert Rich works. I guess you’re familiar with that name, aren’t you? Were you in any way inspired by his music while composing “Midnight Sun”?
I’m familiar with Robert Rich but I haven’t really spent a lot of time with his music so in that sense I can’t say I was in any way inspired by his work. However, with someone who I think is very much on the same aesthetic wavelength as Rich, I can definitely say that Steve Roach was an inspiration. For some reason I totally see a connection between those two artists and in the sense I definitely appreciate the works of Robert Rich.
Which artists inspire you when you compose your music?
I like a lot of music so it really does vary. I definitely have my favourites / major influences. At the moment I’ve been listening to a lot of Inade, Simon Scott, Wolves in the Throne Room, Herbst9, Hjarnidaudi, Deaf Center etc….
I know that you’re also interested in other form of arts. Among others you wrote the music for animated short “The Arctic Circle”. Could you tell me few words about that experience?
It was a really fun project. It was something new for me because I’ve never composed music to an already complete visual sequence. Writing music to fit an animation is different than just composing music on it’s own. You have to try and make it fit each scene and evoke whatever feeling the scene is trying to convey. It was an interesting challenge and I’m glad that the animation did as well as it did.
Would you like to go further that way? Perhaps soundtrack for a feature in the future?
Yes I would. I’ve actually done the soundtrack for another short animation and, if the opportunity ever comes up, I would love to do further soundtrack work.
I know you also have another project called Tunturia. What kind of music and atmospheres you bring to the listeners with Tunturia?
Tunturia is more of an instrumental band. Interestingly enough Parhelion started as a direct offshoot with ideas I originally was pursuing with Tunturia. I realized I would have to create a separate vehicle to further delve into them and hence Parhelion was born. In terms of inspiration they both came from the same place. One just took a more abstract and dark ambient turn.
Did you read ‘Terror’ by Dan Simmons? The reason I ask is because (apart from horror elements) it touches the same subject as the “suggested reading” positions mentioned by you inside “Midnight Sun” digipack.
I have not but it sounds really interesting. A fictionalized story about the Franklin expedition could be quite a good read. I’ll add it to my Amazon wishlist.
You released your debut album in Cyclic Law – how do you find your ‘teammates’? Is there any album released by Frederic you particularly admire?
Pretty much all of them. When I first got into dark ambient most of the artists I really came to admire and that I would list as a big influences on me are in some way connected with that label. The few that immediately come to mind are artists like Northaunt, Gustaf Hildebrand, Kammarheit, New Risen Throne, Svartsinn……. I’m also big fan of the newer guys such as Psychomanteum and Triangular Ascension. I could go on.
Could you shed some light on your musical plans for 2012?
Look for new Parhelion material to be released! I also have a few unrelated collaborative discs in the works and, if all goes well, I hope to start writing and recording again with Tunturia.
Thank you for the interview! Last words are yours.
Thanks for your interest and support!