Review: Northaunt – Istid I-II

Northaunt - Istid I-IIIn the absence of humans and animals, what stirs? And why does it stir? Istid stretches back to a time before we existed; when the landscape respired purely through wind and water flow, modulating slowly through plant growth, tectonic event and dramatic shifts in weather. Everything happens for its own sake, yet to be placed under the lens of scientific rationale or even given a name by which to identify it. Wind circulates freely, unblocked by human bodies as both opaque matter and conscious vessels that demand rationale from the natural world. Everything unfolds patiently. Synthesisers recede like ice melting on Nordic rock, pond water hisses as cold gusts of wind skim over it, rocks crumble as gravity and weather erosion dislodge debris from its central mass. The record is two hours long, yet as I’m stranded in amongst Northaunt’s landscapes of rustling wind chimes and drones that catapult deftly over the horizon line, duration melts into the inferences of space. The album is an immeasurable stretch of time. Without humans to place it under metric constraint, Istid rolls out into the infinity that existed before we did.

Melody circumvents the record’s barren spaces, although chord changes occur in gentle nudges that push themselves faintly around the frame. There is nothing to indicate the presence of human cognition. On “The Unseen Earth”, it unfolds at a subtle speed that could accompany a change in wind direction, or the slow retraction of the tide. During the first half, overtones sidle in like sunlight glinting upon water or glacial rock, creating sudden, explicit glimmers of brightness upon an image that otherwise exists in passive swirls of the matte and the pale. In the second half, the same glimmers are blotches of starlight in an environment swamped by the dark. Istid becomes an evocation of blackness and bitter cold, swerving through various shades of deathly twilight without even the nascent promise of a way out. Trees rustle like hostile predators and dissonance traces its fingers upon ragged, tooth-like cliff edges. How on earth did humanity found itself on this?