Cinematic Ambient label Cryo Chamber simply can’t help themselves. Despite a rather high tempo as far as releases go, and despite putting out music heavily niched in a genre that often delivers but seldom truly impresses, they’ve managed to both deliver and impress with the vast majority of their releases. Northumbria’s Markland is the latest example, the second installment in a trilogy of albums based on “the Norse discovery of Canada”, and it paints a shadowy but glorious picture of said discovery.
Seemingly impossibly preformed using only guitar, bass and field recordings, the album offers music that is simultaneously typical and atypical Cryo Chamber fare. This is certainly dark ambient, with long attack time drones forming a central part of the overall soundscape. The absence of synthesizers make little difference in this particular regard – though the drones are “cleaner” than many more synth based such, you’ll have to listen for a long time before you locate any string plucking or amplifier feedback anywhere among them (the latter is absent, as far as we can tell).
This is, however, somewhat more minimalist than label-mates like Paleowolf, or the more epic conceptual albums put out by Cryo Chamber. Northumbria still manage very well to paint the picture they set out to paint, and the album is in fact epic in its own way. If Hrafninn flýgur (1984) had been made a little later, and had used a more suitable soundtrack rather than the bizarre (though super cool) synthesizer blip-blop that ended up accompanying it, this would certainly have fit.
Markland is packed with great songs. Lucid “Ostara’s Return” sounds suspiciously organ-like, as it cheats and utilizes a Christian sonic atmosphere to recall the memory of the pagan Easter goddess. “The Shores of the Suffering Wind” sounds like an updated and more ambient version of Cernunnos Woods’ “Occultus Jubelium (Widdershin’s Witches)”, and “Wonderstrands” reminds you, as one of very few tracks, that this is actually preformed with string instruments. There is not one bad track, and if you’re at all into dark ambient or atmospheric music in general, you’re pretty much obliged to get this one.
Markland will be available on beautiful digipak on March 21st, and is already available for pre-order. We should perhaps add that we are in no way sponsored by Cryo Chamber, nor by Northumbria, and that the ridiculous fawning in the review above is absolutely earnestly meant.