In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
Even here in Chicago, it’s slowly edging its way toward spring. But inside my headphones, it’s remained the frozen, unforgiving winter of Eric Holm’s Andøya. Holm is an American electronic musician who resides in London, but that minor geographical disconnection has nothing on the methods undertaken for his debut. To make it, Holm traveled to one of the coldest, remotest places on Earth: the Norwegian archipelago Andøya, about 300 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle. There he placed a single contact mic on a large telegraph pole, through which he captured the vibrations of the island’s various military listening stations. Manipulating them into cavernous echoes and metallic grinds, Holm creates an aural picture of loneliness that’s both unsettling and starkly beautiful—and one of the most arresting electronic releases so far this year.
For fans of drone and dark ambient music, there are touch points that may provide an entry to Andøya. Its horror-movie knocks recall The Haxan Cloak. Its frayed, industrial static evokes the snarling machines of Ben Frost. And most immediately, its use of landscape—as well as its inspiration from places that are really fucking cold—recall Thomas Köner’s similar Permafrost and Station Eismitte, which used the sounds of winds and melting glaciers to similarly chilling effect. But Holm’s work is as uniquely situated as its source of inspiration, as heard in “Stave.”
The bursts of rolling distortion recall martial snares, before they’re stopped by a huge, dizzying echo—like an army preparing to march, only to be swallowed by a melting ice canyon. The throbbing, subharmonic bass evokes an endless surrounding space and an infinite number of dangers, with no signs of life for miles. Pictures Of Stave play up the area’s coastal beauty, inviting you to experience its beaches, hot pools, and “puffin safaris.” But inside “Stave,” as in the rest of Andøya, it’s permanent winter. And it’s the only winter I find myself wanting to revisit.