Have you ever experienced a truly cold night? I’m not talking about a below freezing night, or a snowy night. I’m talking about a frigid, hurts to breathe, frozen beard kind of night. Those nights that are startlingly clear, with stars shining as bright as sapphires and diamonds in the sky. Those nights were the world is absolutely silent, you can hear the crunch of snow under your boots, you can hear the snow itself falling. Nights like those are rare for me. I lived in Colorado and Montana for a time and was able to experience what a real winter can be, I may have nothing on my compatriots in Russia, Quebec, and Scandinavia, but I know what real winter is supposed to be. It’s beautiful yet it’s deadly. Winter, true polar winter is a bitch. It’s wondrous to behold but when it sets its gaze upon you, run. Despite the fact that winter wants to kill anything and everything, it’s debatable of course but for my purposes in this analysis that’s it, I love it. I love winter. I love the cold and frigid air. As far back as I can remember I would run outside in the snow without a coat, hat, or gloves. My school teachers were angry, horrified, and mystified by my behavior, in response I was annoyed and amused that I was forced to bundle up against the cold. I still remember that feeling. That urge to run out into the cold winter night and be one with the silence and purity of a winter night. As it turns out. I was not alone in my feeling. Many metal bands have tried to capture the spirit and the essence of winter and the cold. Some, like Darkthrone, were able to achieve some manner of success. Some utterly failed. Most weren’t truly able to capture that wild spirit.
Enter the genre of polar ambient. I know what you might be thinking. What the hell? I was a little skeptical at first, having only listened to metal that tried to capture the spirit, to believe that a style of ambient could capture it. Then I became intrigued. What if they could capture it, I would think to myself. Field recordings of frozen nights seemed like an obvious place to start. Too obvious for my three dimensional brain of course. Then comes Ugasanie. Shut it down and go home. Everyone else need not apply. The spirit has been found, the spirit has been captured. Ugasanie has done what I was convinced could never truly be done. I was wrong. I admit it here on this analysis. I was dead wrong. “Border of Worlds” has done what I didn’t think was possible: it recreated the emotions I feel overwhelmed with every time I look out my window during winter, everything to a tee.
Where to begin here, the field recordings. Instead of being a framework, foundation, or background as they are with some many ambient artists, the field recordings for Ugasanie were the fluff, the bulk, the heart of the entire album. Everything produced through Border of Worlds was started with the field recordings. It’s a grand idea, and beautifully captured. I could close my eyes and feel myself transported back to the times when I would stare up into the frozen night sky. I could feel the stars wheeling overhead as the winds and the wolves howled.
The track list of the album suggests a ritual ambient background; the story of the album is indeed a creation myth story. It’s not a story I am well versed in, there comes in that desire to learn something based on music again, but it was a captivating tale of sacrifice, feasting, knowledge, and blood, all taking place at the top of the world, where ice and cold reign supreme and we mortals are merely guests in such inhospitality.
Border of Worlds goes beyond the simple feeling of winter, the feel of the frost on your cheeks. With subtle suggestion and urging, Border of Worlds actually puts the listener inside this world. With little more than manipulated field recordings of winter nights, Ugasanie has pulled of something wonderful. As I was listening to the album I was able to learn something about the traditions and beliefs of the northern people, those people who have a much stronger fortitude than I, I was able to transport myself back to Montana, the place I felt closest to true winter. There are two tales being told within Border of Worlds, whose title really has a duel meaning as I discovered this. One side is the static story of the shaman and his people, the other is my own, a listener-protagonist looking back at my own life. This album is a fixed point were the two intersect, or at least where they come closest to each other. So what am I to make of that? What is my take away from such an experience? What did I learn? That is the point of listening to music right, to enrich oneself? I do believe I have been enriched; I don’t believe I have any tangible connection to the myth and ritual of the shaman but perhaps I have my own ritual and mythology with winter. I heard the tale of one people’s connection to winter and my own was revealed and strengthened. My own creation myth, Ymir and the giants and all that, was born in the ice as well. Perhaps there is something to my theory after all?
Border of Worlds explores a culture while allowing the listener to explore his or her own culture. Winter. What is it to us? What is it to you? Ugasanie is a master of his craft, polar ambient is his genre where he is god and creator, the purveyor of light and frost and Border of Worlds is a testament to his brilliance. This might be my first foray into his work, but I assure you it will not be my last!
Listen and support!