I knew it would not be long before my favourite musical chameleon from Russia Vaarwel was going to be back with some new music but this time he has brought another artist along for the ride. If you are confronted by a disc like this it can take a while before you even get to the music inside as once again the artwork by .Darla is absolutely stunning and it is the sort of imagery that you can lose yourself in for ages. The inner art is equally brilliant taking a closer look at the central focus and zooming in on the bridge unveiling a river running under it. Sumptuous stuff and to musically back it up is not going to be the easiest of tasks.
This is first left to American artist Petrychor a solo act helmed by Tad Piecka to do with an equally atmospherically entitled number ‘Tomorrow It Will Rain Over Bouville’. Pertrychor was a new name to me with an EP and album out prior to this but I quickly found myself falling for this lush, naturistic musical canvas. Starting off quietly you are straining to hear what is happening before some very Americana folk etched fretwork sets up the magnificent melody that is going to course through the piece and the full weight of the musicianship punches in. Blackened howls are heard in the distance but certainly make their mark over the layered instrumentation that is jangling away with a sublime melodic thrust flowing through it. I am reminded of early Drudkh a bit here and there is something that makes this sound like it could be from the Ukrainian forests as much perhaps as the Cascadian mid-west of the USA. Bouville sounds as though it could be part of the Quebecois Canadian quarter too and I found myself looking it up and see it is in French Normandy. That aside it is going to rain and some acoustic parts with some fast strumming guitars give the impression that it has started to pelt it down. The more I listen though the more the acoustic parts remind of Russian or Ukrainian traditional folk music. It could be partly due to the name but I suspect the musician is actually playing something like a Balalaika here, rather than just guitar. Whatever the ideas are behind it all, it is a gloriously atmospheric 13 minute number.
This leaves Frozen Ocean two tracks which start off with the glistening and mesmerizing tones of ‘To Drown In Hoary Grass.’ This has a definite shoegaze feel to it and is in no hurry. Shimmering and twirling riffs again have a large presence as do backing course vocals that are low in pitch and to some extent in the mix although again their presence is easily felt. All of a sudden the mood drops and it is left to more acoustic parts and a gentle vocal harmony to shine through in a very Alcest sort of way. Yes Frozen Ocean have again given us a different sort of style than I have heard from them before. Although it ties in with everything before it, the project is ever evolving and shifting shape. From here ‘Autumn Bridges’ is built on a solid foundation with some riffing that at first made me think of Katatonia and then made me realise that they come from before that time and owe more to the post punk sound of early 80’s The Cure. I kind of found myself waiting for Robert Smith to come in with some vocals but there are none here adding to the intrigue somewhat. Sorry about the pun but it really is the sort of track that you could find yourself getting lost in A Forest to and is the perfect way of wrapping up this excellent but teasingly short EP, which certainly left me hungering for more. Just when you think that things are drawing to a close though Vaarwel throws in some techno sounding keys for a minute just to keep you on your toes; odd, eccentric but more than welcome with it.
(8/10 Pete Woods)