Music and film have long been exceptionally empathetic and mutually cross-inspirational bedfellows. So it is no surprise that this duet soundtrack by two guitarists to Roald Amundsen's silent film Ellsworths flyveekspedition 1925 about Amundsen's and Lincoln Ellsworth's adventure in the North Pole works so well, evoking in the aural realm the mysterious, magical and awe-inspiring images of icebound and snow-covered landscapes.
It should be stressed that the five pieces on this release ("Roald Amundsen 1925", "Spitsbergen", "To the North Pole", "No. 25" and "Into the Arctic Dreamtime") are improvisations and not performances of a fully notated score. This approach requires a process that, if it is to work, takes finely attuned and experienced performers. With Ivar Grydeland, that is a given. His career has been all about improvisation and he is a most sensitive guitarist as per use of pedals and sundry other guitar effects, ever the explorer in his own right of sound textures that can be coaxed out of the guitar. The Norwegian plectrist is joined on this project by San Francisco Bay area guitarist and composer Henry Keiser, who, it so happens, is a veteran film composer and a scientific diver in the American Antarctic program to boot.
A key aspect of the aesthetic in this release, which captures music of a very refined, slowly-evolving, minimalist and atmospheric variety, is expressed in the liner notes as follows: "Across the Arctic, traditions of shamanism endure among the Inuit. A vision of the Arctic outside of mundane history, yet common in human polar experience, exists in 'time out of time' or 'everywhen', during which the land is inhabited by figures of heroic proportions." This suspended sense of earthly time is expressed in the gossamer chords and the cool burning static distortions that seem the sound equivalent of aurora borealis or magnetic fields one might associate with polar phenomenon. There is also that large sense of space, of clear, clean open and aesthetically fascinating horizons, as the two guitar voices stretch out over the five pieces of In the Arctic Dreamtime.
This is music of soothing mood and crystalline textures, with a programmatic narrative element that seems deeply in-sync with the images of the frozen top of the world and of the heroic adventure of its protagonists.
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