The Ambient music of Netherworld aka Alessandro Tedeschi is influenced by elemental forces, but in no way driven by them. The Italian artist focuses on aerial or icy phenomena and transcodes them into strikingly warm and cozy synthscapes of the Pop Ambient kind. Instead of multifaceted drone layers, spluttering Glitch molecules or harsh sine waves, Netherworld concentrates on the textures and virtual surfaces of the synths. The result comprises of a sparse melody of only one to three notes, but thanks to a clever amount of processing and filters, this minimal melody or monotony is bolstered, fluffy at worst and utterly tranquilizing at best. This 2007 release on his own Glacial Movements label, called Mørketid, is a Norse term which describes the curious and generally crestfallen timeframe where the sun does not rise and everything in the open nature is covered with ice and snow. One would hence think that Netherworld's release is freezing and utterly cold with many interwoven Glitch elements. Not much could be farther from the truth! Five of its six tracks are surprisingly cozy and languorous thanks to the audible poeticism of this natural phenomenon and its transformation into synth-driven caves. The large amounts of hall and echoes create a dreamlike state, the feeling of being in a crystal-covered cave is a much more fitting depiction than the front artwork can deliver, although the latter is of course not out of place, as the synthetic wind gusts and strong gales are definitely audible, but cannot fight the dense atmosphere of mildness, only lessen or complement it at best. With these assertions in mind, let me try to unravel the glacial parts as well as the secret potion of its warmth.


Dreaming Arctic Expanses – I cannot help myself, but the title of this opener is incredibly poetic, mixing the mellow warmth a dream can inject with the chilling arctic wastelands. And this is exactly what happens in this composition: Alessandro Tedeschi places a distant, eerily echoey recording of a public service announcement or maybe just a private remark whose language is not even decipherable at the beginning. Everything around it remains pitch-black. Soon enough though, exceptionally celestial-gaseous synth choir-accentuated washes float in, increasing the temperature thanks to their thermal heat and their repeated two-tone motif. The mellowness is astonishing, and if it were not for the plinking iridescence of the Glitch-evoking glints that gyrate around the nucleus, this would have been an even cozier track. Additional reverberated frizzles and snugly machine-like drones – or male chants? – round off the synth aorta which is kept alive in this state until the last minute or so when it is decelerated and pitched down, causing a wonky effect that does not degrade the majesty in any way. Dreaming Arctic Expanses is exactly what its auspicious title promises, a remarkable synth-heavy opener with traces of coldness, but huge amounts of shelter. Up next is New Horizons which unleashes an equally magnificent mélange of vault-like synth clouds and coruscating crystalline antrums. Mild bass droplets and whispering voices broaden the wideness of this phantasmagoric place. Netherworld has reached Pop Ambient shores with this concoction, and it is as positively wondrous as it is effectively wonderful. It is hard to pinpoint the mood: it is under no circumstances doleful, nor overly jolly. It is simply mystical and independent of any tries to pinpoint it.


The eponymous Mørketid is the third title, and whereas New Horizons was already delightfully mystical, this tune is outright enigmatic and quite a bit colder: a heavenly stretched, incessantly repeated synth bleb meanders in the background while glacial ice particles provide a blue-tinted luminescence with their twinkling characteristics. Deliberately softened machine-like clangs add an earthen element to the ethereality of a track that skillfully mediates between the gelid overarching theme and a genuinely mollifying atmosphere. Since the mentioned background synth is so essential for this tune, it better be enchanting. No complaints here, Tedeschi knows what he is doing, and I cannot get enough of the oxymoronically glowing pastel colors that are encapsulated in the polyphony caused by the multitude of textures. Mørketid is a gargantuan piece, but be careful, it is camouflaged as a loop-based Ambient dreamscape. That the loop itself is so delicate and enthralling is the biggest achievement, followed by the fizzling galactic slivers. It cannot possibly get any better, so Jøkul drifts back into phantasmagoric climes, creating an arctic mirage (!) with the utmost warmest synth streams of the whole album which are coupled with high frequency sine waves, bass vesicles and cymbals, spectral spoken words and spacey wind gusts. There is not even a melody in place, only the monotonous wave-like swell and downfall of the synth stream.


The boldest sign of life-threatening coldness is delivered in North Pole which fades in ever so slowly together with icy blizzards and whimsical scents of synth accompaniments that seem more like mechanical drones than software-related constructions. The hall and reverb effects are revved up to the maximum, making this a song that almost crosses the barrier to the New Age genre due to its soothing, gently wafting cavity-esque winds and mystified frizzles. The synth work is only accentuating the various wind layers, and while Jøkul previously consisted of one repeated tone, North Pole has no recognizable melody at all, everything sequence-related is tightly embedded in the winds and only insinuated, but never taken to the spotlight. It is the most contemplative piece, and the only track whose intrinsic spectrum refers back to the front artwork and the whole Glacial Movement label 100 percent. The closing track and longest piece of almost 13 minutes is called Virgin Lands, and right from the beginning does the solemn fade-in phase deliver gorgeously thick two-note synth waves bolstered with a fluffy haze and permeated by the oscillating tremolo of glistening chimes. The mood is friendly, but not totally inviting. It is more akin to a fairy tale dreamscape which is completed by droning bass bursts. Divided into two parts, the second one adds sizzling steam noises, additional Glitch bells and eerie, distantly brutish growls in the distance. Mørketid ends on a fitting note, as the mood of its final track is yet again not easy to grasp or describe.


If you trace each melody of all six compositions, you will probably count nine or ten distinct notes in total. Despite these purposeful shortcomings, Mørketid feels vibrant and enchanting thanks to the wideness of its soundscapes, the generous amount of reverberations and echoes, the blurry haze of the embedded cymbals and chimes and the triangle-like pristine clarity of the bells and molecules which spin around their respective synth nuclei. The expanding warmth and silky atmosphere are the surprising inclusions in regard to this work, Netherworld resides in Pop Ambient territories and remains utterly focused on repetition and loops, but boredom is never to be found, since the patterns and surfaces are just too luring and euphonious. Even when a particular synth wave is in its dying stage, rest assured that the occurring fissure is filled with a granular mist, so that the listener is never perturbed by a deep blackness. The many audio logs and announcements are hard to understand due to an applied transistor speaker-evoking filter, but they increase the human aspects of the album, the traces of man in this threatening atmosphere. Then again, the depiction is decidedly silkened, as Alessandro Tedeschi transfigures the arctic landscapes into multicolored dioramas of shimmering cave-like structures. All six tracks are balmy and sources of a transcending heat, even the coldest of them, the New Age-like North Pole. Recommended big time to fans of the Pop Ambient genre, as this is no Drone album and no proper Glitch infusion despite the many sparkling splinters which illuminate the aural caves.




Ambient Review 163: Netherworld – Mørketid (2007). Originally published on Dec. 26, 2012 at