[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
I read an article recently which stated that too much solitude takes a toll on the mind and isn’t good for one’s health. Whoever wrote that had better steer clear of Northaunt’s new epic in which he chronicles ice ages; now I have to say I’m surprised we got this album, all indications pointed towards him being done with this but happily… from within his lair in the frozen wastes he conjured another one up. There’s no need for concern, this definitely sounds like what he’s done before but the emphasis more than ever is on separation from the world. The more cynical among you will say he’s been working in this area all along, however, it just hasn’t sounded this empty before.
And I do mean empty, wow, ‘Istid I-II’ is a report sent back to us from a place where time no longer exists and the sun is forever a dull, diffused annoyance in the sky. You can walk for hours here along the icy shores watching the glacial advance and not even be aware of your own heartbeat. No other tracks are seen, you’re alone and will remain so until you finally collapse under the weight of this realm and your bleached bones are assimilated into the terrain. Northaunt gives his all to depict a world utterly bereft of color, emotion and humanity. This one’s his longest yet! Usually with this sort of music you can see a beginning, a middle and an end. Not so with ‘Istid I-II’ as it has no boundaries.
In the news there are stories of people deprived of light for weeks -a certain mining disaster in Chile comes to mind here- and when those trapped escape or are rescued the initial images you see of them barely resemble the photos which the media have been bombarding your screen with. They are disoriented, generally out of sync with their surroundings… you might see some of them not even being able to open their eyes. I have often wondered what it is like there cut off from the world with absolutely nothing to define the space you’re in. If a person can’t find the edges of their reality how can they even know that it is?
Haerleif Langas delivers the answer. At long last I know what it is to be in such a place, and though his music is the equivalent of a white out followed by unending blindness in the snow the parallels in sensory deprivation are too strong to ignore. Stay out here long enough and you, too, will become just another disappearance mentioned in passing. Expeditions into this kind of wilderness over the centuries entered into the annals of legend due to the terrible fates their participants met; Northaunt have yet again gone out past the last marker to try and understand what else is out there. His curiosity remains undaunted and having spent nearly ten years composing these pieces it’s a testament to his perseverance and commitment to art that he was ever able to let these go.
In the debilitating, biting tableau of Norway’s harsher regions we’ve found him. Or has he found us? It’s difficult to ascertain what’s going on amidst all this upheaval but don’t be afraid. This place is a choir, if you’ve the right set of ears you can discern all the individual voices playing their part… just don’t freeze to death while doing so.