Thursday, 11 July 2019
Catalogue no: N/A
2. Askablot II
Describing themselves as a Nordic Ritual Folk outfit, I fully expected this to be neo-folk. Instead, what we have is two lengthy pieces of atmospheric ambient created to ‘honour the old Northern Gods and to awaken[ing] the spirit [of] the ancient Nordic culture’. And you know what? I loved it.
In a bit of total irrelevancy, my grandfather once told me our family has Scandinavian/Viking blood running through our veins. Whether it’s true or not this species of Nordic ambient has an ability to seep right through my skin and become completely absorbed into every cell in my body. Listening to both these pieces instantly brings cold Northern wastes, with only a dancing aurora lighting our way and the stars circling around Polaris our sole means of finding our rightful direction home, to mind. The emptiness expressed here is practically tangible; we are in the beating heart of the arctic realms, where we’re surrounded by fields of snow and rugged mountains, and with nothing but the sky over our heads, a place where the light and the dark take turns in reigning over.
But it isn’t just the physical place that the music instantiates, it’s also the spiritual nexus between place and time. This is the realm of gods, trolls, giants, and heroes who are ever-present in the past and who are presently returning to the here and now. This is the time of their reawakening, to bring us back into the arms of the nurturing land and our ancestors. They’re enjoining us to slough off the ways that separate us from our earthly roots and seek out the spirits and guardians of our everyday environment.
It’s that portrayal of emptiness that really gets under one’s skin, just like the biting winds of the northern lands do when they blow. Hidden, mist-bound susurrations sweep majestically as if coming to us from over vast stretches of ice and snow, providing a contextual backdrop, superimposed on which are sparse rhythms and melodies (if I can call them that) – perhaps they’re messages from Valhalla, brought to us via the cascading curtains of auroral light. Perhaps they’re saying “We’re here, come and join our feast”.
Throughout the second track, the glacial tectonics clash noisily, ice grinding against ice. The invitation to enjoy the company of the Gods isn’t something given freely, however: one must earn that right to sit beside Oðinn and Frigg in order to share their food and wine. The completion of the journey, both physical and mental, over ever-shifting ice and through frigid winds and obscuring blizzards, is the price of admission.
This is one of those recordings that can be heard in any season without losing any of its splendour and efficacy but I can guarantee that it’ll be far more effective and more deeply affecting if listened to on either a late autumn or early winter evening, especially from around the time the first stars show their faces. Find a darkened room, plug your earbuds in, lie down, and let the frost crust over you so you can feel the chills.
Psymon Marshall 2019