[Reviewed by vitriol]
Ugasanie is one of Cryo Chamber’s latest discoveries, and the artist behind it, Pavel Malyshkin, hails from Belarus. His previous album, “White Silence”, also released in CC, dealt with the same theme of Arctic landscapes and cold, isolationist ambiences. Vast, desolate tundras, nomadic tribes fishing through holes in the ice, an endless white that hurts the eyes and numbs the brain, temperatures below zero. The thin, rejuvenating – but sometimes lethal – air of the far North. A way of life that seems remote and foreign to most – becoming extinct along with the nature that harbours it. This album is particularly interesting as it deals with a phenomenon named ‘arctic’ or ‘polar hysteria’, or more poetically, ‘the call of the North’ or ‘the call of the Northern star’. According to shamans the individual is possessed by spirits and overtaken by a wild desire to become one with the landscape, often tearing off their clothes, chanting, screaming, shouting, even placing themselves in danger of death. Scientists have tried to produce a rational explanation for it, but the ones presented so far lack conviction or substantial proof.
They are none of our concern anyway, as the artist explores the shamanic perspective of the experience here. His slow, enveloping drones tinged with organic sounds from the surrounding environment simulate the polar winds as they weave their song into the mind of the listener. Harmonic combinations and subtle melodies hint not at a hostile, destructive force but at enchanting, beckoning nymphs with skin as white as the snow, promising to show their secrets. If only one would follow them into the dark, frozen woods.
“Without The Sun” invokes the end of daylight and brings with it an unsettling sense of turbulence. Horn calls, crystal melodies like the twinkling of night stars, drones becoming thicker and darker and more ominous. Night throws her mantle over the world and it changes at her command. “Pulsation” on the other hand is more esoteric, consisting of melodic, ethereal ambient tones and distant chants, emphasizing more on the sense of isolation and the process of introspection, placing the listener – as well as the unnamed hero of this symbolic aural journey – into a meditative state. “Aurora” blends its dramatic, melancholic neoclassical sequences with heavy layers of drones to create a slightly rhythmic, hypnotic effect that evokes numbness and abandonment, simulating the waves of cold seeping through the body, and the sweet surrender of death. The hero is now in the hands of the spirits.
And so in this state, he is able to hear their call. The homonym track is more intense and complex, combining various sound sources such as drones, organic and electronic interference, melodic layers, industrial, even some faint voices somewhere in the background, to display the image of the supernatural manifesting in the physical. The spirits discoursing with the individual. After a considerable decrease in tension in the final segment, we reach “Arctic Hysteria”, the main element of which is a voice recording of a Yakutian shaman (at least he sounds like one to me) going through polar hysteria, made by Yakutian ethnomusicologist Eduard Alekseyev sometime during the 60s. Deep, reverberating drones give the track a regal, hieratic tone and by the time it’s over we can literally see the shaman dressed in his animal skins, extending his arms to the ancient, starless sky, answering to spirits whose voices we are almost able to hear. Sublime.
“In The Waves Of Light” is another meditative track, this time made in a higher pitch, as its shrill, clear ambient tones and ethereal sounds cut like a razorblade through any potential state of confusion. In the end one has the sense of falling into a deep vortex of lucid sleep. With that we reach what I consider as the final segment of the album, namely the two little gems of cold dark ambient, “Freezing” and “Cold Wasteland”, where we promptly abandon any sense of light or elevation, and are pitched deep into the blackest night. Howling, barren gusts of wind entering the lungs and cutting off air in clouds of white, snowy dust. A climate so piercing that it causes physical pain. Depressing, repetitive tunes. Industrial-tinged fuzz. And that last part of “Cold Wasteland”. My god that last part. With that melody that grips at your heart like the cold hand of death, wrapping you in his cloak like a mother does her child. The music carries mourning, but also redemption.
It’s no accident that “Call Of The North” is released during the holiday season, as this is a time when we are all flooded with homey, reassuring imagery of winter landscapes and the North Pole. Nice little country houses with snowy rooftops, frost gleaming on picturesque rivers, beautiful forests dressed in white. I’m sure they exist somewhere, happy families holding corporate beverage bottles, dog and white picket fence included. Away from all the baubles and their consumerist rage, Ugasanie suggests a different kind of hysteria, one that is infinitely more real. To go out in the Arctic tundras, where the line between life and death is as thin as the ice beneath your feet. Where the spirits will hear if you call them.