With Soft Ice, Polar Seas has found an album to match the name of the label. This is our second winter album of the season (hello, Australia!). It’s also a sleep album, specifically designed to operate as an aural pillow. Just listening to “Clouds of Breath” on repeat is enough to inspire a state of deep relaxation. Soft is indeed a key word, as waves of sound wash over the listener, in no hurry to crash on any shore.
Composer Angela Klimek (poemme) was inspired by the long Cleveland winter and visions of Lake Erie. The ice extends beneath the surface, “a vast, frozen desert.” Yet while listening, one can feel the warmth of a parka, mittens, multiple layers. The album reflects a welcome winter, white on white, remembrance on remembrance. “lake effect” refers to the additional snow that sails across the water, a burden to some, a blessing to others. At ten and a half minutes, it’s the album’s longest track, but as part of the overall suite, it operates as an extra blanket. Toward the end of the piece, muted choral voices sing the listener to sleep like a mother calming a restless child.
Klimek invites listeners to appreciate the nuance of nostalgia. Her fondness for her subject matter is apparent in the gentleness of her music. The title of the track “when the sun is a stranger” may imply abandonment, but the music implies the solution: when the sun is a stranger, find comfort in darkness, in stillness, in solitude. On paper, the Cleveland winter (average snowfall 61 inches) is something to be feared. In reality, it offers the opportunity for reflection and rejuvenation. In the middle of the coldest season, few would dream of visiting “the park at night”. But Klimek finds buried treasure there: soft ice, protecting the warmth below. (Richard Allen)