Cold Island
Winter Storm






Winter Ambient isn’t a genre per se. It’s either a preference or a way of life, and many an artist’s vernal Glitch works do emanate that wintery aura as well. Since Winter Ambient isn’t a style that can be pinpointed, let alone a trend, there are surprises among the way that let listeners nod their head in agreement or shrug their shoulders in disbelief. Winter Storm is such an album that mobs up one’s first impression and turns it around. Self-released in October 2014 and written by Cold Island aka Daniel Ørn Ulfarsson from Reykjavík, Iceland, who now resides in Ørsta, Norway, the seven tracks can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp. Winter Storm is an incidental or even accidental product. In January 2014, after rehearsing a few songs of a band Ulfarsson plays the drums in, he decides to add a melody he constructed a while back. As it turns out, the artist’s skills on the guitar are also more than suitable, and so this little digital-only album came to be. In lieu of synthesizers, the listener is therefore about to encounter riffs, drums and post-processed alluvial soils. The latter is not common in Winter, but that’s what Cold Island creates regardless, as benthic Post-Rock drones lead to stacked Shoegaze patterns and even a few Dream Pop cocoons that deserve to be further inspected in-depth.


Convulsive guitar chords, warm interstices, afterglows of post-verdured remembrances: January captures the quintessence of a Winter’s melancholy for a few moments, as it is comparatively fragile. Its beatless state allows the sustain of each slapped string to conflate with the recondite murkiness. However, this is not a petrifying encapsulation process, for a soft beat comes into play. Realized on a classic drum kit, with softened cymbals to transfigure the fugacity, the aureate hue soon turns into an adamantly polyrhythmic epithelium fueled by cauterized Shoegaze licks, power drones and somnolent superimpositions. Winter is cracked down already, and this is only the opener! And so the grim season strikes back in Winterstorm that spawns a similarly beguiling array of rufescent punctilios, vertiginous hi-hats and an admonitory catalepsy made of alkaloidal riffs of pure electricity. In the aftermath, the cannelure of fizzling strings turns sour and loses the purified metallurgy of the beginning. The centerpiece Somewhere Lost is next; running for over six and a half minutes, Cold Island has more than enough room to contrast the simmering – and benignantly catchy – aureoles with lanthanoid riffs that all of a sudden transmogrify into a segue of aggrandized aggression. The belligerent energy is not aimless, let alone meaningless, as it vaporizes thermal heat qua its decortication. There’s no hoarfrost left when this song is over.


Northernlights meanwhile promises a clandestine technicolor ambience through its title alone, but couldn’t be farther from the archetypal connotation it evokes, as it is a beat-accentuated power ballad made of euphonious chord serrations, uplifting spirits and Ulfarsson’s joyous vocals about drifting into the sky. As stated before, the gap between expectation and realization couldn’t be greater, and in the given context, it is probably the very song that annihilates winter once and for all… although the album still holds an additional triptych of tracks. After the helicopter-like closure of Northernlights, the adjacent As If I Were The Wind offers another focal point. Moody and mephitic, the loneliness is augmented by piano chords before drum-accentuated spectral wind gusts embody the titular photometry. Like an enigmatic veil, these aeriform drones are grafted onto the earthbound guitar rhizomes, making this a dualistic tune that turns out to be the mellowest endemic artifact. King Of Winter then absorbs the piano sparks and injects them into a pluvial Shoegaze cataract whose hexangular rapids serve as plasticizers in order to allow the amicable flowerage of sun-lit melodies, whereas the finale Regele Iernii is the Ambient endpoint loaded with caproic oomph, tangible laid-back beats and anhydride streamlets of desiccate desert drones. Distant blizzards evoke the last rebelling of winter, but it is to no avail: we’re done here.


As is the case with lots of Ambient works and artifacts orbiting in related peripheries that are considered for the Winter Ambient Review Cycle, Cold Island’s Winter Storm must not be interpreted literally, for Daniel Ørn Ulfarsson guides the listener, alters the perception and then transforms the whole setup in order to make it eminently powerful and way less hibernal than its fragile gateway ever hinted at. The idea behind Winter Storm is therefore mercilessly formulaic: there is always a slow build-up comprised of an infancy stage filled with circumambience and dreaminess, followed by a mélange of drums and chords that carries calorific heat before the apotheosis is either mellifluous again or hopelessly in denial due to the turmoil that just happened. Cold Island ventures into the genres or styles of Dream Pop, Shoegaze, Drone and of course Post-Eock, so an alloy of all four markers is probably not what the listener had in mind at all, but the conception, while entirely transparent, is still poised to succeed, that is if the listener shares a certain fondness of staggering noise inclusions still transfigured enough to not harm the balance. There are glacial floes and elements in these seven tracks after all. They are eventually abandoned and besieged by positive thinking and prospering polyphonies, but this is perfectly suitable an endeavor when a Winter’s cruel claws are nigh.


Further listening:

You can purchase and stream Winter Storm at Bandcamp


Ambient Review 401: Cold Island – Winter Storm (2014). Originally published on Dec. 24, 2014 at