Boomkat Product Review:
Tommy Jansen returns with an album themed around ill-fated Arctic exploration, making explicit reference to the demise of Captain Scott's expedition in the liner notes. The title, Varde, translates as 'cairn' - a pile of stones, which traditionally carries associations pertaining to the marking of graves, and appropriately the whole album sounds like a chilling and uncompromising electroacoustic requiem, evoking a sense of frosty grimness and a funereal feel that's so in-keeping with the Miasmah sound. The opening piece (the album's title track) ominously merges the sounds of shovelling with a stormy wax cylinder crackle - it's as if Deathprod were scoring a gravesside sound installation, but for all the implied doom and gloom, there's not a moment of it goes by that isn't eerily beautiful. Following directly on, the bass-heavy bowed strings of 'Skrugard' demonstrate Jansen's ear for conventional composition setting shivering minor-key harmonics within a blizzard of dark ambient electronic gestures. Cutting through the murk, 'Arvesloev' introduces some stuttering dulcimer-like string plucks while crisp, arrhythmic percussive sounds lend a sense of nervousness. The track starts out with a quiet whirring sound, like the motorised rasp of an old film projector, only further compounding the cinematic feel that permeates the album. After a sequence of deeply textured low-end drone tracts (among them 'Fandens Bre' and 'Drivis') the eloquent neo-classical strains of 'Raak' arrive as a particularly luminous departure, shifting the emphasis from sub-heavy sludge to windswept violins in a seamless and emphatically melodic fashion. On 'Soevnens Kvelertak', Jansen combines loose exchanges between piano and strings (not to mention the odd wolf howl) with an old dusty vinyl recording of some romantic, vaguely creepy orchestral tune, all wafting around in ghostly fashion. Varde is a magnificent piece of work, transcending the conventions of the death ambient genre thanks to an extremely refined compositional approach - as haunting Nordic gloom goes this is right up there with the best output of Miasmah boss Svarte Greiner. Very highly recommended.