Alessandro Tedeschi should be applauded for his bloody-minded pursuit of what is essentially the essence of the earth’s polar regions through sound. His Glacial Movements label is unwavering in its focus, as the interview we conducted with Tedeschi recently testified, but it has meant that some of their releases have overlapped and blended together to increasingly become very much of a muchness. If you’re unaware of the label they employ various renowned sound artists (Bvdub, Loscil, Francisco Lòpez, Pjusk) in an attempt to place on tape what Tedeschi calls “the mythological significance of the Poles” and to “restore the primordial unity between man and nature”.
Retina.it’s Descending Into Crevasse is, happily, one of the most impressive releases I’ve heard from Glacial Movements in some time. Not content to let their music drift on a series of deep, creaking drones as so many of the label’s recent attempts have done, the Italian duo of Lino Monaco and Nicola Buono bring elements into the equation that wouldn’t necessarily be immediately associated with either the label or, most interestingly, the landscapes it obsesses over. The drones and loops are there, of course, but Retina.it build on them with icy piano figures, strings and even guitar that sometimes gives the sound a surprising warmth. Whereas many Glacial Movements releases have struggled to escape the mighty shadow of Thomas Köner’s Nunatak/Teimo/Permafrost trilogy, Retina.it’s background in electronica means they draw far more from Biosphere, especially on subtle pulse-oriented tracks like ‘-32°F Porcelain, Metal & Ice’, which brings a refreshing clarity to the typical isolationist sound that doesn’t usually get much of a look in.
The album’s centrepiece ‘Atrazzione Magnetica’ is the darkest and most threatening of all, and thus the most familiar. Even still, Retina.it manage to pull it off. The great booms that ring out, muffled by the sheer weight of water above and around you, sound like icebergs colliding. At over eleven minutes, ‘Atrazzione Magnetica’ allows the duo the time to build upwards to an all-consuming crescendo, the awesome reverb running into itself and the dainty spindles of guitar evoking minuscule sea creatures fleeing the scene. It’s a technique they return to on the title track – also clocking in at over ten minutes – when the feeling of being submerged returns for one final, crushing time. Sudden, high-pitched orchestral jabs pierce the darkness before they get overwhelmed by almighty gusts of frozen air. By far the most barren-sounding piece of music on the album, it’s also the most punishing. Listened to on headphones, it becomes almost unbearably loud and bleak before it draws to a fade, but it captures perfectly what Tedeschi has been searching for for all these years. As a distillation of the Glacial Movements sound it’s as close to perfect as anyone’s managed to come and it caps off what I think is the best album so far released on the label.