Across The Snow
The Valley






One could briefly sum up the seven-track album The Valley by Utah-based quartet Across The Snow as follows: it is a collection of songs about Utah Valley. This is exactly what the band has come up with, an iridescent journey through the surroundings in close proximity to that valley. But there’s more: as it turns out, the valley is visited and absorbed during Winter… which makes it a perfect entry for AmbientExotica’s Winter Ambient Review Cycle. Self-released in January 2014 and available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp, the band unites guitar-driven Drone with pointillistic bonfire elements, but between these styles oscillates a mellow Winter core; slowly meandering, comprising of wave-like structures and emitting blue and whitewashed colors, these elements are the actual stars in the given context. Across The Snow features the talent of Jackson Harden on the guitar, banjo, piano and glockenspiel, Jessica Knight on various classical stringed instruments, Tyler Christensen on the drums, and Aaron Nelson on the euphonium, a brass instrument. Recorded at Cloud Factory Recording, Woodland Hills, Utah, The Valley breathes localism without imposing it on the listener. The track titles remain fuzzy and general enough to let everyone feel welcome. Here, then, is a closer inspection of the album.


The album launches with its eponymous opener which evokes that wintery feeling and augments it to the maximum. We’re not talking about Glitch or ice floes rather than prolonged diaphanous drone washes whose rectilineal crystalline fractures amend to Jackson Harden’s aqueous guitars and Jessica Knight’s cherubic violin tones. They are hued in sanguine-crimson sunset colors, but neither this quilting nor the retrojected guitar granuloma make this a nature-driven tune due to the viscidity of the textures. Once Tyler Christensen’s drums kick in after four minutes, the simmering heat is revved up, but so is the euphony. Up next is Shipwreck, a proper Ambient piece that might have served as the primary inspiration for the group’s sophomore album Ghost Ships. The prelude is yet again wondrously pristine and cajoling. Liquid piano prongs gyre around viridian drone titrations, cautious amounts of static noise and overdriven frequencies amplify the raucous fragility of Winter. The billow-like photometry with its several peaks – and thus valleys – make an amethystine mica out of an already extraordinary sight. Follow-up Tracks feels almost ecclesiastic afterwards, or what else to call its percolating alkaloidal processed guitar drones of contemplation? Hued in euphony and thermal heat, the build-up eventually reaches a drum-backed state where the harmonious retrosternal epithelium remains audible, but is also veneered enough to expose the dualism.


Winter meanwhile is a long-form track of almost nine minutes that is at the same time more recondite and withdrawn than the comparatively verdured state of the first three hibernal tracks. On Winter, the darkness is let in right from the get-go, the sustain and reverb of the guitar vaporizes into the night, and were it not for the screeching jitters and the unexpected banjo aorta, chances are that the nullity would otherwise be devastating. There is a short phase of gelid circumambience embedded during the track’s apex before drums and harder, more piercing guitars function as plasticizers to melt away even the hindmost snowflake. The adjacent Ambient artifact Adrift then enchants with glaucous-orange synthoid drone dioramas made of guitars, serrated helixes of metalization and caproic violin shards whose elasticized state agglutinates the molecules of warmth, therefore making it one of the warmest pieces. With Atmospherers, Across The Snow deliver the late centerpiece of this album. Clocking in at almost ten minutes, the quartet ventures into varied vestibules and pathways to fibrillar superfluids: from the winterly ambience with its plinking icicles and clandestine cello coruscation, over the lactic-oneiric piano arrangement in the middle, to the mephitic drum-based conclusion, several atmospheres are united, enmeshed and intermixed, with the four atmospherers of Across The Snow in the center. The apotheosis of the album is nigh; called Sigh Alone, it is hat archetypal rural-rustic campfire cannelure that foreshadows the first cotyledon of spring. Glockenspiels, banjo punctilios, multiplexed vocals, large-grained shakers or similar devices and aerose polyhedrons round off the finale. It’s wise to absorb the nocturnal field recording at the end: Spring is near after all!


The Valley is what reviewers and marketing buffs call unapologetic. It is a collection of songs dedicated to Utah Valley. It depends on the listener and the surroundings whether he or she likes a particular genre, message, or even art in general. Nothing out of the ordinary is revealed here. This is the most basic assumption to make. However, this is especially true when something of personal value is delivered. Across The Snow have created such an album. Whether you can relate to it because you know Utah, or due to the fact that guitar-based Drone is your elixir of life, or finally because you came across it when you searched for wintery Ambient music, The Valley showcases a certain majesty in all cases. The “best” intended listener is probably the one who knows what corners and landmarks the band has in mind. Then again, there are only wordless vocals attached, so it could be anyone’s guess. This is ultimately the reason to shove aside that heritage for a moment and solely concentrate on the soundscapes themselves. And since they are most definitely lush, they make it worth anyone’s while right from the get-go. But there are two even more important endemic elements that mix perfectly well with exogenous stimulations: the iciness and purified aureoles of the Drone-based ambience. The analog sound quality, the shimmering gradient, the blue tint of the crystalline entities altogether work really well with the recognizable guitars and banjos. It is this distinctive addendum that makes The Valley a joyous Winter Ambient work.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 402: Across The Snow – The Valley (2014). Originally published on Dec. 31, 2014 at