MetaDronos & Scott Lawlor
Ancient Glaciers
Of Mars





During the annual Winter Ambient Review Cycle that takes place at AmbientExotica every December, I officially invite artists to submit their works without delineating the concept. This is done on purpose: firstly, there is not much to explain per se when this sequence of words (Winter + Ambient + Review + Cycle) appears. Secondly, it is superfluous to outline the concept of icy or glacial albums to those who create them in the first place. Finally, the opaque approach is in fact inverted, turned upside down more often than not and suddenly becomes as transparent as can be when there are no rules attached. I’m asking for submissions of wintery and cold albums or EP’s, true, but that’s not to say that the aurally depicted locales need to be real, let alone earthbound. Texan synthesist Scott Lawlor and Koszalin, Poland-born patch/stem luminary MetaDronos team up to prove a different kind of winterized hibernation called The Ancient Glaciers Of Mars. Released in November 2014 on Xenomorph Recordings located in Dundee, United Kingdom, and available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp, it encapsulates seven tracks of synthetic Space Ambient. These entities at first deliver what the listener expects: dark matter drones, diffuse diffractions of eclipses and lights, a few distant pulsating blebs and molecular paroxysms. These things do indeed appear, but in a tastefully streamlined form. These viridian glaciers are not so much cinematically pompous and daunting; they rather seem like a primordial soup. What this means for the genre compatibility in general and a winter-related circumambience in particular will be further carved out below, including a powerful cloak-and-dagger coup de main conceived by both artists.


Time and the universe go well together, for a human’s concept of time is tested – detested even – when one is brave enough to let his or her mind ponder the endless vastness of the spatial abyss. As such, the state of the opener Rivers Of Ice Flowing From Mount Sharp is consequentially elasticized, with its opening phase being prolonged for two minutes of slow, cavernous fade-in sequences and hexangular drone cataracts in the distance. Curiously calorific due to the depth of field and increasing voluminosity of the low frequency hydrazine, MetaDronos and Scott Lawlor fathom the quasi-heterodyned epiphany of the differing surfaces: in lieu of histrionic darkness and exogenous percolations, everything flows. Faraway temple bells and ethereal stokehold engines pass by, vitreous flashes of pluvial chimes glitter in the distance. As the seraphic main synth grows and prospers, the endemic photometry turns increasingly glaucous and tends to resemble the human grasp of wintery landscapes much better than before.


Said comprehension is then amplified in Winter In Herbes Chasma whose limewashed haze of alkaloidal swooshes is ennobled by a dangerously iridescent ignis fatuus. Its prolonged sustain is luring and autochthonous at the same time; the amethystine glow is luminous enough to feel like paradise, but the attached contretemps and compunction only let the experiencing subject observe these events from afar. The droning monotony has to be heard to be believed. The light neither flickers nor increases, it is a consistently oneiric source of uneasiness and solace, a dichotomous cotyledon amidst raging storms and thus a classic Space Ambient aureole. Meanwhile, Streams Of Ice In Echus Chasma inherits the streamlined plateau-esque physiognomy but is otherwise willfully tame and remains under the radar. This is actually a great endeavor, as the close inception of the textures’ focal point and compatibility allows for a magnanimous process of senescence. There are laser-like wind gusts in the background, resembling efflorescent sirens, but their appearance aside, the third piece is drowned in a veneered rubicund granuloma, droning on independently regardless of any observation or witty remark. The adjacent Fluvial Channels Of Melas Chasma absorbs the same pattern but sees the collaborating duo multiplex a seraphic-ecclesiastic high-energy drone; its helicoidal viscidity spawns thermal heat and crimson warmth. It has the classical flavor of a finale, a divine apotheosis, but in fact serves as the album’s apex, with three more tracks to come.


The first of that triptych is Icy Echoes Of Valles Marineris where the first-ever intrinsic element penetrates the cosmic epithelium: a spacy potassium crystal pierces its way through an arcane antrum, its haunting mucoid scheme emanating etiolated hoarfrost. In tandem with the frizzling gusts of pink noise and the repellent murkiness of the rufescent drones, coldness has entered MetaDronos’ and Scott Lawlor’s spheroidal braiding, leading to the stupendous Glaciers Of Ius Chasma and their beguiling polyphony of cauterized lanthanoids and perennial tendrils. This droning concoction is as fuzzy and coevally tangible as ever, but sees its synthetic anhydride altered yet again by a new element: a spiky ebow. The darkly energetic power scythes and cuts like a transfigured disk saw. Traversing the mauve-tinted pericarp ad infinitum, it leaves a lasting impression floating into the endpoint Glacial Activity On Aeolis Mons. Clocking in at 18 minutes, this final piece augments a strangely sylvan-sylphlike lightness with the softly clandestine chromaticity of stacked flumes of light. In lieu of brummagem ornaments, the duo ends the album comparatively peacefully, spawning light-resistant expectorations of energy and chlorotic-aeriform jitters. Roaming freely in this languorous ether of coldness, they spend solar solace and annihilate the glacial shape while fading out in a state of benthic fluidity.


No jagged prongs, no jitters, zero lavabos or tramontane protrusions, The Ancient Glaciers Of Mars is a clear-cut Space Ambient affair that focuses on the eruditely celestial and gelidly evocative heritage of the genre. There is a surprising – but entirely refreshing – omission of ornamental helixes such as pulses, quasars or other electric vesicles that grace similarly themed albums. And why should there be such things, given that MetaDronos and Scott Lawlor candidly reveal the concept. Winter on Mars differs from hibernal landscapes on Earth, but the duo never succumbs to an adamant alienation and rather prefers to create transformative aurorae. The album does not sound particularly Mars-like, if such a remark even makes sense. In this regard, the artistic approach seemingly fails, for isn’t this what is promised via the album title and with the help of bold futuristic letters on the front artwork? Aye, but there’s an important supplement to this notion that is more than a mere appendix: both synthesists do not present Mars “as is,” but want the listener to “take a journey through the frozen distant past of Mars.” This, then, is the album’s gimmick and clear-cut embodiment of the oft-cited term retro-futurism. The 70’s vibe is admittedly missing, as is the kind of heroic positivism found in Space Operas, but what The Ancient Glaciers Of Mars – luckily! – lacks in these regards, it gains in the buildup of Mars’ nullspace, an interstice not yet available for human inspection. As such, Winter and Mars are not directly targeted by the soothing sound waves and alluvial circumambience. It is the superimposition of genre markers, conrastive temperature zones and aphorisms that makes this work belong to neither category, caulking even the hindmost expectation with an alloy of mellow contraventions. This proves to be a journey alright!


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 397: MetaDronos & Scott Lawlor – The Ancient Glaciers Of Mars (2014). Originally published on Dec. 3, 2014 at