FrozenWeighThere is a mad scientist burning away the midnight hours in his laboratory and this could be looked at in two ways. The first is Frozen Ocean’s Vaarwel at work making strange sounds and contorting them. ‘Weighing Form’ is another work that has minimalism at its heart, it is an ambient exercise where noises and drones escape from the ether like an experiment, unleashing unexpected results and mutating the human form on exposure. It is here that the second level is found as thematically this is “conceptual work devoted to procedure of gravimetrical analysis in analytic chemistry.” Sorry to anyone who understands exactly what that means but it is something that I am not exactly going to be able to explain in greater depth as scientific boffin I am not and shall leave this review to describe the sounds I hear and the feeling I get from them. The best insight into things for me is the track titles and that lab setting on the cover as well as plenty of imagination gained from listening to this hour long album.

I should point out that whereas last album ‘The Dyson Swarm’ was well represented and promoted this is a different affair and one that I think is much more geared towards the artist’s own sense of fulfilment rather than trying to find a wide audience for it. Indeed the CD run is only 48 of which I was very pleased to receive number 6. As ever Vaarwel has made this available online for “any one feeling close to this kind of stuff” (see links at bottom.)

Starting with what sounds like someone maybe mixing something in a petri dish or test tube we get the only real feeling of human interaction at the start of ‘Sample’ From here on in it is left to the synthesized mechanical sounds to tell the story and now we are left to listen to low sinister and eerie drones and occasional haunting effects. It is ghostly and has a real sense of abandonment about it. I can envisage an experiment gone wrong and escaping; the lab is inhabited by just the skeleton of the scientist who died on exposure to his creation. The question is did it reach outside and is the whole world just one great giant tombstone? There is much more substance to the sound of ‘Homogenous Precipitation’ which has the accompanying noise of what sounds like pressure or maybe steam building up and constantly billowing out with the ambience much more gently throbbing in the background. Could this be the sound of where everything went wrong? As a track it could be looked on as annoying as it does go on for a long time (11 minutes) and the harsher noise could prove a distraction over such a period. It works for me on some levels as a point of intrigue over the whole narrative form but if you were looking to listen to this album as accompaniment to reading, sleeping, meditation it’s a bit of a rude wake up call.

‘Otswald’s Ripening’ as a title fills me with terror and I can’t help thinking about some sort of Cronebergian body horror. It sounds like it should be the name of a film. However it is a proper scientific term (which again goes over my head) and you can look up easily if you want further insight. After the harsher noise that came before it, this is left to crackling which sounds like a needle on a record and low pulsations and droning very much all in the background. I can very quietly hear some sound that could be fluttering, it’s almost insectile, is some new form of life taking shape here? The droning gets louder and a real sense of unease settles in and a piano motif sounding straight out of a supernatural horror film is heard faintly in the background. You can really drift off as ‘Filtration’ takes place as the long droning miasma of sound is kind of numbing it feels as if everything is in stasis, deep sleep even, a metamorphosis could be taking place but it is going to take a long time. Whirring machinery picks up in the dying moments is it all coming to life? It sounds like it has as a massive crashing noise brings in ‘Calcination.’ The numbness has gone replaced by stark terror and panic as this noisy process fills the speakers. Maudlin melody is apparent behind it all as ghostly synthesizers with a cold sound can be heard. Like Homogenous Precipitation’ this is a constant bombardment of unsettling noise and hard to listen to, after initial exposure it sounds like a huge pressure release going off and billowing out clouds of steam. What is going on behind it sounds really mellow in contrast and there is part of me that want’s the noise to stop so I can hear it better. Last part of the six here is ‘Yield’ which is halfway between the album’s quietest and noisiest moments essentially. It’s a rolling type of sound rumbling out the speakers and looping about in a cold and mechanical fashion. There’s something else very faintly there, it almost sounds like it could be snoring, was this all just one giant nightmare?

Considering that there is not a huge amount going on due to the repetitive nature of the sounds here it is still an album that appears to have got me saying plenty about it and that is due to the fact that it has again charged my imagination. Obviously this is music for a very limited amount of people (hell many would not even call it music) but if you tune in with it Weighing Form like other similar Frozen Ocean material will be highly rewarding. Still it is almost impossible to give a mark to and for that reason I am not going to. Deciphering it as part of a chemistry degree could be an interesting exercise, dread to think what I would have scored.

(Pete Woods)