Frozen AokIn the last of these reflections on ambient experimentation, audio seismologist Vaarwel really shakes things up. The 39 minute one track album has a droning sound on a low frequency rumbling through the entire length of the piece. Does it have much more to it is the question though as ethereal underlying sounds do have to be worked for and the best way to experience this is certainly via headphones. Let’s backtrack a little though to the source of the subject matter.  If unlike me you know your geography, especially that which pertains to Japan you may recognise the name of the album Aokigahara which is a forest known as The Sea Of Trees. The 14 square miles of dense trees at the foot of Mount Fuji sounds like a fascinating place and it is one with much in the way of folkloric intrigue with the Japanese, which is possibly one of the reasons that it is a popular place for suicides.

This is summed up in the musical canvas by haunting moans and groans sinisterly emerging through the droning noise which makes me think of tortured souls unable to move on to the next plain, stuck in limbo by their actions to reside for evermore in this dark place of shadows. The cover art again by collaborator Cold Graves sums this up perfectly and also reminded me of both Raimi’s Evil Dead as well as Von Triers Antichrist on first glance.

The music is incredibly sparse and minimalist in fact I did have a hard time with it at first and it was only when the source of inspiration was read up on that I gained any illumination from it. Still it is not music for any occasion that is for sure. As to what occasion it is best for is uncertain too, perhaps for summoning up some sort of terrifying J-Horror spirit, maybe for some form of ritualistic suicide? My imagination is running wild now, and although there is just a constant drone I am imagining whether anyone has listened to this in this Sea Of Trees and what sort of affect it would have? At the very least I would expect the dead to rise as in Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus. A further bit of research found both pictures of corpses pulled out the area as well as the fact that a film Aokigahara has recently been made by director Taku Shinjo (unfortunately it appears to be a drama / romance).  I am not certain whether Vaarwel has actually been to this place, perhaps he has and composed this in some cabin in the woods like a vile necromancer. Like I said my imagination… and despite the heat I cannot help but shiver.

This is not a piece of music for me to describe and identify the sounds that you will hear and at what point, that is a task for you to do for yourself, preferably in complete darkness and uninterrupted isolation. Again this 2011 release was obviously pressed in a very limited edition of 100 but you can experience it here   

If there was a mark given purely for atmosphere this would score very highly but it is not a piece that seriously can be given an overall mark out of 10, it is music that will affect depending on mood and it transcends (if that does not sound too pretentious) a mere score.

This brings this look back at past Frozen Ocean works to an end but it certainly will not be a long time before the creative mind behind the music is back with new material. What shape and form it will take is impossible to guess but I am sure that it will be interesting.

(Pete Woods)