Rhythm Of Snow





Yagya's debut album Rhythm Of Snow of 2002 is still regarded as one of the best Deep House releases ever and finally sees a re-release in form of both CD and vinyl in 2012. Yagya is the moniker of Icelandic musician Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson from Reykjavík. The crystalline hi hats and the incredible deepness of the multilayered synth swirls build a fantastic cocktail that is as icy and glacial as it is dark and abyssial. I thought quite a bit about reviewing this album, for its ambience takes place in the background only, even though the beats on the foreground aren't drowning, but of equal importance. Nevertheless, with the exception of the penultimate track, there is no beatless piece on here, so if this is of any importance to you, you won't probably like Yagya's release. In contrast to a lot of other Deep House releases, Yagya's music isn't likely to be a typical contender in clubs, which is a good sign in terms of the Ambient factor. The recreation of snow wih the sole help of synthesizers has been done before, but Yagya manages to come up with 10 coherently frosty but unexpectedly soothing interpretations of the overarching winter theme which he calls Snowflake 1 till 10. While it seems as if the overall mood of the album is gloomy and winterly, there is not even a glint of melancholy due to the steady beats that keep your pulse pumping. Another peculiarity and most certainly an intended one is the rising warmth of the tracks. While the first half of the album is rather cold, the last 5 tracks add warmer synth pads, and the sound of rain and various crackles are further temperature-related indicators for milder times.


Snowflake 1 starts with pops and crackles and darkly pulsating synth pads all the while coruscating, sustained synth strings are played. A muffled shaker and dubby beats are added. Short bursts of static noise are added as an underlining rhythmical device. The sustained synth strings are a majestic device and add a glimpse of glow to the pulsating darkness. The last 45 seconds are completely beatless and allow to observe the multiple layers better. Snowflake 2 begins with rhythmical claps and clave-like percussion that are a hectical counterpart to the soothing, galactic synth layers and flittering spirals of pristine, crystalline sounds. A steady beat sets in after 2 minutes, but the ethereal pompousness of the synths remains, and when the beats vanish, the listener once more has the possibility to enjoy the swirling atmosphere of utter beauty without any distraction. The beginning of Snowflake 3 with its distinct crackles and the calm, vespertine setup is especially gorgeous. Droning dub bass lines are added in unison with a quick 5-note loop of heavy and incredibly deep synth pads. Brighter echoey backings bring warmth into the track, and yet another layer of coruscating synth strings makes this the most positive track so far. While some of the synths and the beats remain dark and pumping, the iridescence of the glowing strings adds a tranquilizing aura of contentment that is not perceptible on the other tracks. Snowflake 4 is a proper Deep House track and begins in medias res, the beats are already in progress. An enchanting, glitzy 5-note loop and pumping beats is all the track has to offer, but since the atmosphere is so soothing and unsuspectedly bright, this is no weakness. After a few minutes, additional synth pad backings occur, but they merge perfectly with the surrounding layers and can only be spotted when the listener pays attention. Snowflake 5 is fast but starts slowly. Monotonous synth strings with slightly oscillating layers underscore the beats and the gloomy synth bursts effectively. Sizzles and pink noise accompany the setting as the strings are intensified and grow larger. This particular tune has more beats per minute than any other Snowflake, making it perfect for running through winter landscapes.


Snowflake 6 is a cherubic track with beatless synth washes of ethereal polyphony. The chirping of nightbirds and the majestic and peaceful 3-note strings are a remarkable counterpoint to the predominant icyness of all the other tracks. Warm synth pads accompany the graceful setting. A gorgeous, mellufluous centerpiece that views the topic from a romantic, warm angle. The deep and fuzzy drones of Snowflake 7, along with the sound of pouring rain, create a vault-like dripstone cave setting (despite the fact that there‘s no pouring rain in caves). Rapturous quavering synth strings are incisive devices in this blurry but mellow setting while the rain keeps on pouring. Snowflake 8 features dark synth bursts that are loaded with warmth. Rhythmically pulsating synth pads accompany the prevalent 2-note scheme. Soothing crackles can be heard, an there's additional rain or a stream of water in the mix. This is yet another more positive track. The penultimate Snowflake 9 features warm synth pads for the last time and is a proper Ambient track without beats and only soft percussion. With over 9 minutes and 30 seconds, it is also the longest tune which features fuzzy pink noise that is oscillating between several tones and mellow hi hats which accompany the setup without disturbing the warm mood. Since there are no beats, the mood is totally relaxing. A great adjustment that breaks the formula only due to the fact that it's beatless. Snowflake 10 is the final piece. The track consists of echoey synth pads which enclose the listener in heat and happiness. The warmth reaches its peak, and the listener is swallowed by the harmony of crackling rain, soothing synth strings, the bursting synth pads and quietly underlining beats. The track moves to higher but no less content spheres when the synth pads slowly fade out and isolate the picturesque strings which are faded out slowly until the album reaches its end.


Rhythm Of Snow is categorized as a Deep House or Tech House album. I won't question this, but have found a more appropriate term to describe the focus: it's Ambient music with beats. The synthscapes are way too advanced and sophisticated to diminish or reduce the quality of each Snowflake as a dance tune. Even though the beats are always upfront, the darkly oscillating and sustained melodies shimmer through and are, at least for me, the towering main ingredients that make Rhythm Of Snow a successful debut. In fact, the album is so coherent that I simply cannot pinpoint a specific favorite, which is always a good sign, as it shows that this is really a concept album rather than a collection of various tracks. It is also a bad sign for cherry-pickers who want to distill 2 or 3 great tracks and leave the rest behind – this is simply not possible in this case, I believe. Yagya‘s debut reminds me of similar Ambient tunes with beats by Gas who is cited as a major influence by Yagya himself. If you cannot get enough of this kind of a concept album, check out Yagya's third album Rigning, which is Icelandic for rain and which offers a viewpoint of the more liquid representation of the same element. Rhythm Of Snow is wholeheartedly recommended for the cold months of the year, and it is tremendously effective in workout and running playlists when you are in a befitting surrounding.



Further reading:

Yagya's Twitter account is @steiniyagya




Ambient Review 036: Yagya – Rhythm Of Snow (2002). Originally published on Feb. 15, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.