A lock for our year-end Winter Music chart, stars of ice is a gorgeous half hour of samples and loops. The photograph, taken in 1900, suggests that once upon a time, our winters were colder and icier than they are today. The music sparkles like midwinter stars lit by the fullness of the Wolf Moon, the static like distant transmissions in the heart of the night.
As the primary samples begin to leak in, one feels a sense of time folding in on itself. The title of the piece is taken from a Chinese Christmas carol pressed on 7″ vinyl; also sampled is a track titled “snow” from the 78 rpm set songs from the first grade reader. We’re more than a little jealous of Steve Roden‘s record collection. By erasing and abrading selected words, he creates an atmosphere of flickering memories. One remembers old friends and family members, cold winter walks, caroling, hot chocolate. Eventually the words disappear entirely, exposing the sound of a needle in a groove, reminiscent of snowfall’s hush. A banjo player entertains children by the fire as the turntable spins around and around, forgotten, the weary diamond slowly wearing away.
Songs criss-cross in the closing minutes, wandering minstrels who cannot settle on the left speaker or right. The effect is like swirling snow, each six-sided flake seeking a drift to call home. Winter often treats us like this, sets us adrift. The whistles and hums that close the piece suggest a hardy reception: that of the man in the black coat and hat, to whom the massive ice is a winter wonder, like a star of ice fallen to the earth, singing of the skies in which it was formed. (Richard Allen)