Ah, the sounds of nature! Bird song choruses swirl and flutter. The wind elicits pops and swaying creaks from tree limbs. Insects buzz and whir. Thunder booms and lightning crackles. And then there is water. Water has so many voices it's hard to list them all. The whoosh and pitter of rain. The ceaseless growing hush of waves. The liquid applause of a waterfall. We're so used to the various sounds of water, it's hard to imagine life without them. The new cd "Igloo" by Terje Isungset poses the question of what would water sound like if not heard in a passive way, but if used actively as an instrument. The answer is, amazing!
This CD is just a lot of fun. It's a recording made at the annual Ice Hotel in Sweden. Perhaps you've seen it on TV before. It's that hotel that a group of artists and architects carve out of ice and snow for a few weeks in the winter. They light it from the inside so it glows in brilliant yellows and blues. Beds are carved from ice and covered with animal skin rugs. Ice shot glasses are filled with vodka and you sit drinking at a bar and on a barstool made of ice! From what I've seen of it the whole deal just sings out magic and wonder. Now from that same group of artists comes. "Igloo". The cool thing about it is that all of the instruments are also carved out of ice!
So what do instruments carved out of ice sound like? Well, for lack of a better word, they sound watery. They are soft and organic with a surprising warmth. There is a hushed and mysterious quality to this music that is further enhanced by the ethereal, swirling vocals that coo and glide through it. At times the music drifts into Bjork or Sigur Ros territory but it never runs too far from a shimmery and warmly percussive soundscape. The instruments have wonderful names such as Ice Harp, Iceofone and Ice Horn to name a few. It must have been great to be at the Ice Hotel knocking back a few vodkas and listening to this.
As with many conceptual pieces of art this work is best enjoyed as a whole. Certainly there are separate parts that stand out but an entire listen is immersive and engrossing. The CD packaging is both visually and tactilely engaging. It comes in a thick slip cover made from a textured and opaque plastic. The front has 5 strips cut out in the shape of icicles which reveal the icey blue color of the cover. An additional cut is made along the spine which reveals a small vial that contains water! One is tempted to throw the whole thing in the freezer for a few hours, pull it out and start rubbing and scraping it to make some music.
Igloo is a great release both in concept and execution. The sound (produced by minimalist drone-wizard Deathprod) is both surprising and exciting. You come away from it wondering what other music is out there hidden in our everyday lives.