I recently heard an Australian speaker commenting on tourists. “I love when people come to Australia and say that they’re just passing through. Passing through to where? The South Pole?” In this case, the answer is yes, as this collaborative record was recorded at the Marambio and Esperanza bases in the Antarctic and mixed in Brisbane. It’s about as cold as cold music gets. While Lawrence English‘s recent collaboration with Stephen Vitiello (Fable) was about the transition from summer to fall, his work with Austrian artist Werner Dafedecker is locked in the heart of winter.
An excerpt from a twin projection video (seen below) sets the stage. Antarctica may be frozen, but its howling winds are a source of constant activity: whirling flakes, growing drifts, churning vortices of sound. The singing sands of famous deserts are mocked by the friction of tempests over snow. Travelers search for hints of landscape or light. If nature is revealed, it is only for a short time, soon to be buried again. Frigid water melts, moves, freezes again.
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, sound can say even more. The most active tracks provide the crackling of ice, the opening and closing of doors, and finally the tolling of a bell. The passive tracks rest in stasis, reflecting the glint of sunlight on snow, the slow mist of fine powder, the lost bodies locked in place. Last year satellite readings confirmed what most already knew: that the region’s temperatures are the coldest on earth (-93.2 °C / -135.8 °F). Shadow of the Monolith presents what is difficult to appreciate in person: a richness of timbres, amplified and crisp, as crucial to the ear as survival. Back in Brisbane, one can imagine these artists sipping hot chocolate, remembering the risks, breathing sighs of relief, gazing in wonder at the steam. By reconstituting these raw recordings, they have produced a work of succinct and subtle beauty, an invitation to imagine danger through the lens of safety. (Richard Allen)