Øystein Jørgensen






“My tracks can be very deep, so good headphones or good speakers work best.” These are the words of the Norse music producer and sound designer Øystein Jørgensen, and words of wisdom they are, especially so in regard to his downright blood-freezing seven-track opus glacius Antarctica, self-released by the artist in February 2012 and available at Bandcamp. Before I dive deeper into the artist’s work who is also recording under names such as Q and Ambient Fabric, I have to drop the name of the somewhat obvious next of kin whose freezing highlights are sure enough an inspiration for many a field recording-oriented Drone musician: Thomas Köner. Be it his whitewashed pink noise wasteland Permafrost (1992), the endless plateaus of ice in Unerforschtes Gebiet (2001) or the gruesome beauty of tripled sub-zero on-site tundras in Novaya Zemlya (2010), all these albums are implicitly reflected here. Jørgensen’s constructions, however, are more versatile, sporting rather playful low frequency blebs – in the given context at least – and even synth-based cores of bliss. And Antarctica is not even the standout work in terms of iciness; many of the Norwegian’s sounds are so glacial that I could feature him every December, his Winter EP (2013) being but only one strikingly obvious artifact that is worth the inclusion in AmbientExotica’s annual Winter Ambient Review Cycle. For now, I am going to risk the trip to Antarctica and describe its dangerous climate.


Talk about a clichéd opening phase, but I have to admit that the eponymous, title-lending prelude triggers all the right synapses and fires on all cylinders, even though fire is the last word that comes to mind in this hazardously glacial wasteland. Antarctica consequently launches with humongous low frequency drones, and if it wasn’t for the adjacent gales, their silkened yet piercing force and the spectrally vaulted exhalations, the tramontane bass formations would be literally heartwarming due to their massaging qualities. Translucent flashes and elasticized wind chimes round off the gray-tinted no man’s land, and it is the task of Ice Drift to build on the opener’s premise. Alkaline electric guitars and enigmatic Inuit vestiges cut through the hollow cavity. Didgeridoo-evoking undertones ameliorate the desolate aloofness of the place further. Since the helical sinews and strings are hands-down vibrant and incisive, their afterglow reverberates all the longer. Ice Drift is a capsule of nonentity in which haunted Norsemen spirits traverse through vestibules. Even the tone sequences themselves are as inaccessible as their perilously polished surfaces. The follow-up Snowstorm then unleashes an eminently whitewashed cloud of gaseous pink noise. Like an unfolding moiré, this ultimate Drone example changes the molecular consistency of its fibers and diffuses before the listening subject’s inner eye, unveiling its nucleus comprised of dark matter. Listen carefully, and the vitreous physiognomy suddenly invokes a seraphic polyphony and traces of euphoria. A gorgeous and meaningful revelation in the given context.


Whereas Snowstorm enshrined ethereal figments, Iceberg is sternly emaciated and freed from any coherent melody. A faux-field recording of abyssal bass inlets, cracking floes and cosmic airflows, Jørgensen is keen on fathoming out the interdependency of the frequency ranges in a seemingly alatoric laissez-faire attempt. Since everything is straighetend and oddly mellowed out, Snowstorm turns out to be the, er, fluffiest, mildest and brightest natural phenomenon of the album. This assessment is all the more poignant with regard to the darkest of all arrangements, the fittingly nocturnal Antarctic Night whose complexion is made up of galactic circular saw coils forcefully cutting through the hauntology-oriented gloominess. The billow-like rise and fall of the synths or processed real-world instruments becomes enmeshed with the insalubriously ashen incandescence of an ignis fatuus. No polar light guides the way in the darkest of all hours. And dark hours there are aplenty, pieced together in an incessant string. Once this location, aura or theory is overcome though, Aurora Australis guides the way and sees Øystein Jørgensen succumb to stupefyingly elysian synth epitheliums. In tandem with the usual suspects of danger and coldness – bass protuberances, frizzling blizzards, faint buzzes – Aurora Australis is the towering monolith. At closer inspection, however, it seems as fragile as ever, for the radiance has to fight the darkness. The simultaneity of the parallax events as well as their final conclusion are open to scrutiny. A bleak, disconsolate outlook is probabilistic, and this portent has a name: Snowstorm (Part 2) strikes back with polylayered drone washes, with blurred whitecaps on top and grating spines as their base. The microtonal patterns are pernicious and ill-natured, the short elation that made up Aurora Australis is farther away than ever as the album comes to a halt.


Antarctica is the coldest, most adamantly relentless of all wintry affairs in my Winter Ambient Review Cycle of 2013. Everything floats and blows, the winds are twirling over the empty lands, the low frequency drones and sudden cinematic eruptions are fantastically vivid, and the perception of being surrounded by – or rather trapped in – the interplay of elemental forces is magnificently initiated, nurtured and maintained throughout the album’s runtime. I could leave it at that, stating that the gargantuan impetus of this humble work makes the observer a sport of fate, a little torch that is about to die out in the tundra. The duo of fellow Norsemen Pjusk, for instance, exalts the aspects of wilderness, rugged coasts, jinxed caverns and secluded chaparrals in their album Tele (Glacial Movements, 2012) via macro-crystalline synth erections and half-tone gyrations, but Antarctica refrains from succumbing to these melody-driven structures and instead tends to worship the gaze upon natural landmarks, unperturbed turbulences, arcane architecture and the walk into the core of the storm. But then there is that certain moment, a figment or phantasm, a mirage caused by the freezing temperatures and the increasing numbness. It happens in Aurora Australis. Its epicenter is a shapeshifting polyfaceted glob of celestial rapture, a looking glass into wraithlike aeriform pipe dreams. Were this track the closer, it would have been the potential hint of one final rise against a pseudo-paradisal death. The harshness of the final Snowstorm 2 is still an equally well-suited closer, exposing the dreamlike state as a gruesome fata morgana. What a cruel winter!



Further listening:

Atarctica can be purchased and fully streamed at Bandcamp



Ambient Review 299: Øystein Jørgensen – Antarctica (2012). Originally published on Dec. 25, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.