So we have the first but almost certainly not the last release of the year from Russian project Frozen Ocean and as ever it’s an intriguing proposition wondering where the fertile mind of musician Vaarwel is taking us to this time around. Looking at the fantastic cover art here is the first clue but one that pre research was open to some sort of interpretation and guess work leaving it up to the imagination to take over. It looks to me like there is some sort of vast satellite junkyard in space here, full of old technology, perhaps the glowing red source at the centre is a huge furnace stoked by the abandoned remnants of redundant and obsolete gadgets. Yes maybe it is full of vacuum cleaners. Then again that would be a bit daft and on delving deeper it is not and indeed a ‘Dyson Sphere’ is a concept dreamt up by mathematician Matthew Dyson used in the future for collecting energy from the sun when the earth’s natural resources are diminished. This would be a vast structure feeding off the energy from the sun. Further to this a Dyson Swarm consists of a large array of things such as solar power satellites constructed around the star used to transfer energy wirelessly back to earth. Science fiction at the moment but as for the future who knows?
Enough of the techno babble you say, what about the bloody music? Fair point lets go there.
Opener ‘Syzygy’ instantly takes me to the cold dark void of space by some lush melodic keyboard strains that could even be from the realms of old Krautrock. It sounds like the film ‘Gravity’ with Tangerine Dream doing the soundtrack perhaps and it is instantly effective, dreamy and mesmerising with a huge sense of atmosphere (unlike any found in space itself) behind it. ‘CE-4’ expands and opens up the vacuum adding a beat to things and even some vocals which are particularly raspy and harsh in the mix. There is a feel reminding a bit of the electronic work of Jim Plotkin and very loosely the mellowest side of Godflesh here but it is the dark ambience that takes the central presence and again with a real sense of melody albeit one that kind of fills with doom and makes me think some sort of catastrophe is approaching. What sounds like a Theremin comes into play making me think of some very colourful 70’s sci-fi programme. With it I am well and truly lost in space! ‘Sloan Great Wall’ constructs itself and rises and graciously and enigmatically as keyboards symphonically build and drop out leaving a celestial synthesized choir in their wake. Some bleeps and beeps are like a satellite trying to communicate back down to earth and it’s impossible not to try and interpret everything I am hearing.
With all this noise going on in a place that nobody can hear you scream though attention of the unwanted kind could be attracted. ‘SHGbo2+14a’ was a title I simply couldn’t resist looking up and discovering it was a possible SETI (Search For Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) radio source and also explains the beeping noises take up the main mysterious part of the track as they are beamed from the far flung reaches of the galaxy. ‘Exoplanet (HD 85512 b)’ the super – Earth puts a real heavy groove into things and some of the synth effects (for want of a better phrase plinkity-plonkety ones) that made ‘Trollvinter’ sounds so great are used again. The backbone of the song though reminds a hell of a lot of Dutch instru(mental)ists Kongh and this one certainly struts its stuff nicely. The title track comes in with classical piano before going into quite a boppy number with some incredibly low vocal growls occasionally putting their bite in behind the glittering keys and spacey xylophone tinkles. Theres also some clean echoing vocals, the voice of warning perhaps, their message very important. We end up at ‘UDFj-39546284’ a light left by the great old ones, constructors of the universe and that great groove is back as it twists and turns on a space chase to the edges of the cosmos.
The Dyson Swarm is another excellent and diverse release from the ever illuminating Frozen Ocean and one that not only have I taken great pleasure from listening to but have also learned plenty from in the process. If you fancy a trip to a deep dark cosmos it is well worth checking out.
(8/10 Pete Woods)