Winter music in July? For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this sounds like an odd proposition. Yet when the temperatures get too hot, the humidity too high, this collection of cooled compositions and icy photographs acts as an audio-visual air conditioner.
Lowlands is the third release from IIKII Books, and is released in an edition of 500 books and 500 12″ records, which may be purchased separately or alone. The book is beautiful, as one can see in the video below ~ props to the label for offering a complete preview to let potential purchasers know exactly what they can expect! Ester Vonplon captured the images during a trip to the Arctic last summer (a great way to cool down!), completing a trilogy of exhibitions on white, ice and snow. The most effective photographs demonstrate tonal contrast ~ blue on white, cracks in otherwise smooth surfaces. One can’t help but think of global warming, although the idea is more association than suggestion.
Vonploon’s voyage took place on a three masted sailing vessel, which implies a slow, sedate journey. After all, one never hears of speeding through the Arctic on a jet ski (and let’s hope that such a thing never happens). The multi-media presentation is reminiscent of Esther Kokmeijer + Rutger Zuydervelt’s Stillness (2013), while the music is a clear descendent of Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer‘s In a Place of Such Graceful Shapes (2011). Fans of either of these works ~ or of anything on 12k ~ will find plenty to enjoy here. Gentle piano, wind chimes, bells and thoughtfully plucked guitar chords decorate the atmosphere, along with an occasional warped note, as if from an abraded tape. The pace is relaxed, the timbre surprisingly warm. At this time of year, one might draw comparison between a long, languid, hot and hazy day and a sudden, soft, snow-covered day. Deupree and Fischer call the condition “snow slowed.” The hours stretch invitingly before the listener, with no schedules, no deadlines, no expectations. How often do we live like this?
Precision is needed to provide such a relaxed aura, an irony not lost on the listener. One imagines the careful placement of each sound, from samples of ice melt to pointillist percussion. Neither the composition nor the final product seems rushed. While Deupree and Fischer created this set as a response to Vonplon’s photographs, one can imagine the photographer taking this music on her next cold water sail. As for us, it’s a lovely reminder of a colder clime, a slower pace, and the natural beauty of the world. (Richard Allen)