I’ve developed a strange habit while listening to new releases for the first time. I press play, wander through the other rooms, and I almost dare it to lure me back into the listening room. In the case of Lyden av Arktis from 2L Recordings in Norway, I thought I might have forgotten to press play. Something was wrong.
In fact, at least six minutes had gone by and I had completely forgotten that I was expecting music. And then I heard it, like a soft swell or sound that’s close to the freezing point, a vast aural landscape of wind and ice, with distant calls from wildlife providing the rhythms until the string orchestra makes its first appearance. All I could think of was watching a great film that, nevertheless, begins with an uninterrupted eight-minute shot of a beautiful winter storm. Now Lyden av Arktis, which translates to “The Sound of the Arctic,” makes perfect sense.
Lyden av Arktis is the latest from composer Lasse Thoresen, an unusually ambitious six-movement piece that celebrates Norway’s most northern regions, using a variety of ensembles from a sinfonietta to just the strings, and finally a full-sized orchestra. That almost silent beginning, which becomes anything but silent when you listen closely, conjures up a “glacial” pace and effectively sets the tone for everything that comes afterward, which is a lot. Thoresen calls this introduction “Pure White,” which he describes as “a huge white landscape stretching out in the half-light.” But this is a work that encapsulates the Arctic, which can also be violent and without mercy.
That sets the mood for the next five movements, which constantly change shape and shift between dramatic, sweeping cinematic scores of some unseen documentary on Finnmark, and the deeply tribal rhythms of Sami folk music. Lyden av Arktis is definitely a composition that you must let wash over you, like a wave, so you can go back and see the whole more clearly. Sit through the wind blowing and the sound of icicles falling to the frozen ground, and wait for a tremendous and adventurous work that’s worth every moment–just be patient.
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