Ulf Lohmann
On Frozen Fields






This 12" release by Ulf Lohmann, one of the founding fathers of Kompakt's Pop Ambient genre, is the famous mixed bag, a technical term that theoretically describes a diverse assortment of genres and a wide array of styles by one artist on one release, but practically leaves a somewhat stale aftertaste oftentimes. Fans ask themselves whether their beloved artist really had to branch off in such a striking way when, lo and behold, everyone could have seen a release like Lohmann's On Frozen Fields coming, for this release functions as an overview in terms of his various styles. The album – or rather the EP – is not meant to be coherent, but features his two ardencies, heavy bassdrum songs for the dancefloor and mellow Ambient songs for the living room, as it is often the case with other Kompakt artists who keep shuttling between both genres all the time. Thankfully for Ambient fans, there are only two bass thumpers, and they are only featured on the A-side, while a whopping amount of 6 short Ambient songs can be found on the B-side. Naturally, these are the ones that attract my attention.


Night's Blood contains, despite its title, a beautiful field recording of bird noises and a whooshing breeze while a Boards of Canada-esque flute-like melody is playing. This melody is further accentuated by warm synth strings in the background. The setup of the song reminds me of a warm spring day in a lively forest. A strong first contender for the brightest song on this EP. Creek Of The Dead picks up the thread of Night's Blood and uses another field recording of a bird nature trail, but introduces jingly wind chimes and a slow loop of inert but dignified strings. This song evokes a tranquil mood and is the counterpart to Night's Blood, which was equally slow-paced, but lively and bright, whereas Creek Of The Dead inherits its bird calls, but calls it a day and keeps things more convivial. At The Stormy Gates is based on a mellowly thumping beat and lush string tercets that create a twofold mood, plaintive for one due to the dark synth beats, but also slightly blithe because of the bright melody. The Dreams You Dread relies on a steady rhythm developed by a short melancholic loop played backwards. Distant hisses rise in the background but are never audible enough to determine their source. Falling Down has an ecclesial feel to it with calm and very placid strings similar to an organ played in a remote church. A very grave, winterly soundscape. The final track and title song On Frozen Fields consists of a 7-second loop that features a bright flute-like synth, again reminiscent to the interludes of Boards of Canada, which is not a bad thing or a shameless rip-off, I might add, for this title song also assimilates utterly beautiful string ensembles that appear time-delayed to the loop.


The title track, On Frozen Fields, could be the best Ambient track on the EP, but all of Lohmann's compositions feature distinct qualities, so there is no clear winner on side B. Thankfully, the continousness of the mood is guaranteed by Lohmann, as all songs feature different synths and ideas, and yet are evenly matched and form well-proportioned parts of a harmonious whole. The vinyl version has long sold out, but the EP is available in digital form on the Kompakt shop. If you have missed this release, go get it and by all means, ignore the first two tracks if you are focusing on Ambient songs only. By the description on the Kompakt website, those two dance tracks are even considered experimental by their standard. Nonetheless, I recommend the B-side, and am glad that for every dance song on this release, Lohmann throws 3 opposing Ambient tracks into the ring. That's more like it!




Ambient Review 016: Ulf Lohmann – On Frozen Fields (2005). Originally published on Dec. 21, 2011 at AmbientExotica.com.