On ice albums

As of this writing it is 9 °F outside. According to weather.com, it “feels like 1°F.” The difference, at least to this author, seems entirely academic. On the bright side, we have only 49° to go until Celsius and Fahrenheit coincide and only 468° to go until the heat death of the universe.

Here are some of my favorite ice albums:

Terje Isungset — Iceman Is

So it probably won’t surprise you to find out that a lot of these albums are from Scandinavia. You know your geography. This one comes from Sweden. The group recorded in a studio carved beneath the famous Ice Hotel of Jukkasjärvi, which is sculpted entirely from ice every year and subsequently melts in the spring. All the instruments used in the recording were made of ice. The studio itself was made of ice. The album sounds like a gloomy pagan moon festival.

Elegi — Varde

Norwegian composer Tommy Jansen uses synthesizers, violins, and field recordings to represent the frigid travails of the first polar explorers. This is one of the bleakest things you may ever hear in your life besides, of course, the death cry your rabbit, Mr. Bingles, uttered when the formerly senescent family dog, Turbo, rediscovered his carnivorous impulses on a throw rug in the living room in 1993. The way Jansen toys with scale is amazing — sometimes you feel stranded amid expansive slurries and floes, other times it’s as if a spoon is tapping on a tin plate within the confines of your own tent.

Thomas Brinkmann — Klick Revolution

This album actually has very little to do with ice. It’s by a German who does peculiar things with turntables, most of which take away any desire you ever had to dance, or otherwise engage in club-related activities. Think of the sounds ice cubes make when you pour tap water on them. Now think of them splayed across a dark matrix of rhythm and radiant knife wounds. N-ice!

Douglas Quin — Antarctica

Quin got a grant from the National Science Foundation in 1996 to go to Antarctica. He used microphones and hydrophones to record Weddell Seals, Emperor Penguins, and the very glaciers themselves. This is a fieldwork of peculiar beauty and intensity. Sounds like ice because it is ice.