Geographic North ~ Sketch for Winter Series

Is it still winter where you are?  Today is the first day of meteorological spring In the Northern Hemisphere, and in Atlanta, Georgia, the home of Geographic North, it’s cold enough to snow at night and warm enough to wear shorts at noon.  The label’s Sketch for Winter tape series has just released its seventh and eighth installment, with the ninth scheduled for the end of the month.

Winter is a season of suspended animation, hibernation, and cold beauty.  The stars seem sharper and the air can be seen on the breath.  But winter is also a state of mind.  One may have a “mind of winter” even in the warmer months.  Conversely, while gazing at blankets of white, one may claim an “invincible summer.”  The aim of this series is to sound like winter to someone, even if the timbres vary from tape to tape.

Louise Bock‘s Sketch for Winter VII – Abyss: For Cello sounds like a long, oppressive season of harsh conditions, drafty cabins and weighted blankets.  Veteran artist Taralie Peterson has mastered many instruments over the years, but now exclusively relies on cello (although she is joined on one track by Kendra Amalie on guitar).  In this music, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep,” but the traveler is trapped within them, looking for a glimmer of light or the glow of a hearth.  The tracks plod forward, inexorably, uncertain of their destination but prepared for a potential collapse.  The vibrating voice of “Oolite” is the only hint of humanity, but even this is distorted like a frigid phantasm.  The music is far from cheerful, but it manages to mesmerize like the abyss of its title, gazing back at the person caught in winter.  Will either party break the stare?  The answer is unclear, although the sustenance of closing track “Prithee” implies that there is meaning in suffering, if only we can find it through the static.

Aria Rostami and Daniel Blomquist present a different vision of winter, one of wonder and awe.  The tone is instantly distinguishable from that of Bock, although the static of the opening track is a kind continuation of that found on Abyss‘ closing piece.  The swirling electronics suggest snow, while the celestial choir contributes a feeling of safety.  If Bock’s forest hides monsters, Rostami and Blomquist’s forest shelters angels.  There’s little to fear in these trees, save perhaps a friendly fall of snow from the bough.  The electronics suggest footsteps, churches and bells, or to the magically-inclined, pixies and sprites.  The contrast begs the question: which winter are you?  Have you been locked inside a prison of your own anxieties, or are you already halfway to spring?  It takes a while to notice the piano, the base of the third track; in the same way, it often takes a search – or at the very least, a melting – to discover the kernel of truth or wisdom that has been there all along.  After this quietude, the textures reawaken like flora in March.  As Floating Tone fades, the earth starts to soften and shoots poke through the dirt. (Richard Allen)

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