Saturday, 26 October 2019
RNGMNN - Arctic Interference
Album: Arctic Interference
Catalogue no: N/A
1. Arctic Interference
2. The Cold Ones
3. Dust on Snow
4. Waves of Frost
5. Perceptual Alternation
6. Frozen Magma
7. Icicle Ridge Trail
It’s a cold wet Saturday here in the Midlands of the UK, and RNGMNN’s latest release from Mark O’Shea’s Winter-Light label perfectly matches the general cold dampness of the day. RNGMNN is one of those outfits that I see regularly mentioned online but have never actually listened to before (there’s just so much out there I need to get my ears around) so I grabbed this opportunity to acquaint myself with their output. Let’s just say that, whenever I find the time, I shall be exploring their previous efforts.
My job here though is to assess what this latest opus has to offer and, judging from the opening (and title) track ‘Arctic Interference’, I reckon I may be in for a treat. It opens with lush organ-based drones, swelling and receding, ebbing and flowing, a beat emerging from somewhere indefinable in the mix, the drones eventually becoming more orchestral and ethereal as time goes on. Cold currents, whether of water or air, swirl gently, caressing rather than buffeting, carrying us on a blissful, soothing ride. ‘The Cold Ones’ envelops with a completely different vibe, one that wraps us in chill blankets, freezing us to our cores: we’re treading warily through a sharp-edged landscape, a place of steel-bladed icicles and keenly-honed ice-covered rock. We are aware that perhaps we’re not the only ones here: fog obscures our vision but we can just discern shapes moving within it, but whether they’re real and substantial or merely phantasmagorical illusions is hard to decide. A thrill of danger and alarm shivers palpably through that fog, infecting not just our senses but our physical bodies too, sending our nerves to the edge of overdrive.
That chill vibe continues on track three, ‘Dust on Snow’, as cold, freezing arctic winds presage some kind of movement, perhaps ice breaking up to make our passage even more doubtful and dangerous. However, it feels as if it’s not just a natural phenomenon that’s the main cause of the shifting ice-fields: there’s something else abroad here, a something possessing a baleful and antagonistic intelligence, a consciousness that’s inimical to human life. Perhaps it doesn’t want the stain of our passing to leave any marks here, and ultimately it wishes us to be erased from this land’s memory.
With ‘Waves of Frost’ we’ve now reached the halfway point of our journey through these frozen lands, and somehow we’ve escaped the malign clutches of whatever was stalking us in the previous piece, but it’s also obvious that we’re not out of danger yet. A shrill intensity is apparent through this track, a signal that our further progress is being watched. We have to step lightly here, as well as be mindful of how we make our way through these environs – this land is bigger than we are, and has existed for longer, so our respect of its boundaries and ways is paramount. Perhaps we are neither friend nor foe, but even so if we die or disappear the land and its spirits wouldn’t be in the least concerned. ‘Perceptual Alternation’ somehow feels warmer, but only by the smallest of degrees: those cold winds still blow, while there’s a steady solo beat giving the impression of yet another ‘something’ stalking us. The cold here isn’t just physical – it’s metaphysical as well, speaking of vast open spaces under skies of turbulent clouds, shaded in ever-roiling blacks and greys. In spite of the huge expanse that we find ourselves lost in, even on a clear day, we could never be sure of what lurks out there, carefully and stealthily hiding its presence and just waiting to ambush the unwary. Awareness of surroundings is paramount to survival out in this isolation. ‘Frozen Magma’ – a contradiction surely, as solid rock is itself frozen magma, but in this case could it also mean ice-covered stone? Perhaps the shapes that that magma solidified into, now layered with a white blanket, could be suggestive of ghostly presences, the frozen memories of those who had also been caught out here and gave their warmth away.
‘Icicle Ridge Trail’ is next up, perhaps a signpost to our escape from this be-whited place. Up here, above the low-lying clouds, one can see the choppy sea of mist and fog churning and careening hither and thither below us, dashing themselves against the peaks and ridges peeping up above them. Our path is clear, but it still possesses its own dangers, and we must exercise caution. One false step means tragedy and misfortune, and an icy demise. Finally, we get to safety, but by the time we have all our senses, our bodies, and our emotions have become ‘Numb’ to all. This one soars, travelling somewhere between the darkness and the light, into that liminal zone where it is neither one thing nor the other. It is the end of ordeal, yes, but where does it lead? Perhaps we are just glad that we have survived, and are here to tell the tale, as there will be time enough to embrace what follows.
A darkly beatific album, veering from the upper reaches of the atmosphere and then plunging into the darkest depths, eventually gliding back up to those soaring heights. It is bright and deeply dark, scintillating and shivery. It will both chill you to the bone, and elevate you to a place above the clouds, and it is all done with subtlety and pace. The moods it expounds seep into you, and you are left to absorb them without effort until you find yourself fully immersed. As I averred in the first paragraph, I shall definitely be searching out more material from this project, if this outing is anything to go by.
Available from October 31st from the Winter-Light Bandcamp page, but it can be pre-ordered now:
Psymon Marshall 2019.