Alex Tiuniaev
Ethereal Winter Ambience





Nowadays, Moscow-based Ambient musician Alex Tiuniaev is known for his minimal Modern Classical piano arrangements which he fuses with violin strings and the occasional synthesizer, as his latest release Blurred of 2012 shows. In 2006, however, he created two Ambient pieces called Ethereal Winter Ambience Part 1 and Part 2 respectively, which have not been released until 2009, when they were added to Darrell Burgan's Earth Mantra label archive as the 85th entry. Ethereal Winter Ambience is available for free and depicts an eternal frost-covered landscape. However, the artist's approach is not as stereotypical or commonplace as you might think, for Tiuniaev's original concept changed over time. While he first envisioned a strictly minimal concept, his focus definitely shifted according to the liner notes: "Despite his intent, for all the cold and icy sounds that are indeed present, the music is uplifting and somehow consoling to the spirit, quite the opposite of his original goal." These mellow, joyful particles turn out to be the actual sources of warmth, for both the melancholy and nostalgia are ubiquitous devices that never wane; a cold wind blows all the time and is the golden thread of this release. Despite the supposedly limited theme, Tiuniaev makes a lot of interesting aesthetic choices that boost the iciness – and lead far away from it. 

Ethereal Winter Ambience Part 1 launches with icy blizzards and howling wind gusts that waft through the fissures and cracks of houses or natural clefts. Sure, you have heard such a setting before, but despite the duration of over 20 minutes, Alex Tiuniaev does not waste any time and unchains astonishingly beautiful synth washes before the thirtieth second already. If you  expected a fragile, Glitch-heavy setting, you won't get it. The synths are poignantly ethereal and deeply seraphic, and around their nucleus swirl flittering freezing slivers. Metallic percussion clangs in unison with polar pulses and a surprisingly swift-shifting melody. This is not your typical Drone record, but more of a resplendent Synth Pop or New Age setup – but of the tasty kind! Even though the synths sound full and vibrant, the cold winds continue to blow in the distance. After more than five minutes, the percussion wanes, makes room of galactic twinkles and allows a closer gaze at the textures before there's nothing else than the gelid storms. When the synthetic construction comes back all of a sudden, the song reaches its second, much more majestic phase, now lacking any sort of percussion in order to fully push the cinematic structure into the foreground. The synth strings gleam warmly, but alas, this phase only lasts for about two minutes. The third phase comprises of snowflake-like crystalline droplets which are then coupled with pads and substituted by the legato of another epic fusion of melancholia and coldness. After more than fifteen minutes, one cannot trust their ears anymore, as Tiuniaev injects an almost eerie vignette. Is it a glacial mirage, an out-of-body-experience as death comes closer? I won't tell you what it is, you have to hear it yourself to be fully immersed! The last phase of Part 1 presents a much more cavernous approach as the listener finds himself in a wondrously iridescent dripstone cave, but full of crystals. There are the slightest scents of cacophony interwoven, and the tonality shifts into darker, more mysterious regions. What remains left is the wind that fades out slowly.

Ethereal Winter Ambience Part 2 reintroduces the harsh winds, but they are pitched down a bit. Otherwise, the focus of this Ambient piece is totally different. It introduces a male choir (!) whose chants are accompanied by the warmest instrument on the whole release – a classic piano. It shows Tiuniaev's roots as an arranger of Classical Music in general and piano arrangements in particular. This doleful setting is augmented by a glistening faux-bell melody and synth strings. It is a huge surprise and an unexpected shift of an heretofore strictly electronic release. After four-and-a-half minutes, the winds are left to themselves as the next phase is about to begin. This time, it is all about rudimentary but bright and joyful piano chords that become a tad gloomier as the song progresses, but not overly much. The sustain of the chords resonates with the hibernal atmosphere, and once the synth strings start to accompany the piano, their loftiness wanes further, but the warmth increases. Once the piano theme fades away, the strings mesh with the wind, but make room for the third phase after nine minutes. Spiraling luminescent synth streams float around a warm piano melody and backing synth strings. Gentle shakers add a rhythmic element to the mood, and if there were a beat to be dropped, this would result in a rather upbeat Deep House track. This does not happen, naturally. But the Deep House namedropping is not too far off, for the synth strings return in full force for the first time, thus resembling the characteristic traits of Ethereal Winter Ambience Part 1. A repetitive piano nexus is added until there's nothing else but the celestial strings and the wind. After 17 minutes, the final phase is reached, with the last presentation of warm classic piano chords together with an icier version played in higher regions. Gentle strings round off the scenery, and the composition ends the way it began, with icy winds and the most humble fade-out of any melodious trace.

Alex Tiuniaev merges his love for two distinct but thankfully easily harmonizing genres: electronic Ambient music and Modern Classical piano arrangements. While Part 1 presents an electronically-driven panorama full of synthetic strings, molecules and snowflakes, Part 2 is much warmer and melancholic thanks to its prominent inclusion of a piano, but also less cinematic. The structures are reduced, and if there were not the blowing winds in the distance, the minimal approach would be blatantly apparent, since the chords would mesh with nothingness – which is exactly what happens in Tiuniaev's later works. On Ethereal Winter Ambience, however, quiescence and silence are camouflaged by omnipresent blizzards. Glitch listeners are used to pink noise or AM radio sine waves, but the artist's winds are more dominant, and since they never stop, they add much to the coldness. But even without them, there is a strong winterly mood attached, more so in Part 1 with its coruscating flakes than in Part 2 with its piano melodies. The short inclusion of the choir is a huge surprise, and I wonder if it is not just the voice of Alex Tiuniaev which is quadrupled here. Likewise, Part 1 offers a rather disturbing vignette near its end, at least in terms of the given context. Though the press text mentions the true nature and reason of its inclusion, it is still alienating enough to cause slight goosebumps and a chilly bewilderment. Ethereal Winter Ambience is a wonderful two-track release. As stated before, it is available for free on the Earth Mantra label's website, so there's no reason for you not to grab it if you're a fan of both synth-heavy and Modern Classical Ambient music.




Ambient Review 158: Alex Tiuniaev – Ethereal Winter Ambience (2009). Originally published on Dec. 12, 2012 at