New York has endured five snowstorms in the past month. Berlin has had more snow this spring than it had all winter. New releases from Ugasanie, Araceae and Ian Battenfield Headley explore the transitional period of changeable weather: quoting Sting, it “can be all four seasons in one day.”
Ice Breath of Antarctica is unrelentingly dark. Yet it is also lovely, as shown in the video for “To the Land of Storms and Mists.” The shelf stays intact; the camera angle steady. Lonely white flakes fall against a cool blue background. But after this segment of relative calm, the storm begins. Once the winds begin to howl, one recalls the peace of the opener as well as the warning that in this savage land, conditions can shift without warning. Ugasanie offers a great contrast between storm and stillness, often flattening into thin reeds of sound. In the silence, even the softest sounds can be heard: the fracture of ice, the crunch of a foot. But the latter is rare; there are no permanent inhabitants here, only visitors, and not everyone returns home alive.
Araceae‘s Lunae Semita is the latest release from the wintry label Faint. It’s also a perfect way to unite the territories above, as it includes field recordings from Michigan, Berlin and Amsterdam. Play this album just after Ice Breath of Antarctica, and experience a perfect segue. Soon the dark ambient will become light; the windy drone will be joined by beats. The album eases gently into spring, as reflected in the contrast of the cover. As the tracks fade, the field recordings take center stage, proceeding from one season to the next, soft rain and snow melt eventually joined by laughter, and on “Prelude to Spring,” a hiker and the season’s first bird. The techno aspects grow more prominent as the album progresses, until the new season has fully sprung.
Over the course of a year, New York composer Ian Battenfield Headley has released four EPs, one for each season. The series concluded with the Winter EP a week before spring. It’s the longest of the four entries, as well as the most expressive; the one-two punch of “BlzrdTnz” and “Current” sound like the approach and attack of an ice storm. With these two tracks, Headley breaks the bounds of politeness and makes the listener take notice, like a branch breaking outside one’s home. “Current” is especially effective, a glistening sheen of dissonant tones.
Now that the project is complete, it’s time to fold the year over and begin again in either direction: spring for the northern hemisphere, fall for the southern. Spring is instantly happier and more electronic, returning to ambience in its center; Summer is short and sweet, the synthesized rush of “Tethys” giving way to the darkness of “Marrow to Marrow;” Fall performs the trick in its opener, “Come Evaporate,” tumbling down like the fading light. The artist’s most aggressive track, “Let It Go,” closes the set like a slap or the shock of necessary advice. Together, these EPs sound less like the seasons themselves than their psychological counterparts, a reminder that the cycles of nature are often duplicated in life. We may tumble through all four seasons in one day, or across the span of years, but each is waiting to come around again: our favorite season is always less than a year away. (Richard Allen)