A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Electric guitars become tidal pools, walls of fog, delicate latticeworks of frost and ice on Ice Since Fire, Charlotte Law’s debut album for the lovely Linear Obsessional cassette label.
Electricity makes sound go weird. First, there’s the rather spooky ability to convert acoustic blasts into electrical pulses, which are then etched onto magickal iron tape. This skews the time and place of a sound’s origin, acting as a timewarp, a wormhole, and even a spirit board, in one fell swoop. It also raises the possibility of sounds being shaped and sculpted in what can only be considered an act of acoustic alchemy. How strange it is, after all, for an instrument like the electric guitar to become a french horn, a wounded elephant, or even an environment unto itself.
Simply the possibility of infinite sustain and reproducibility makes electric instruments a kind of proto-synthesizer as well as magic wand for summoning the composer’s surreal imaginations. When you add in the endless array of effects pedals, especially loop and delay pedals, these amplified steel strings can become dense, surreal symphonies that not even Beethoven could have dreamed of.
You’ll not detect much of the sonic origins of Ice Since Fire, the debut album from London-based Icelandic composer/interdisciplinary artist Charlotte Law, which conjures surreal, otherworldly, delicate landscapes solely using a prepared tabletop guitar. Creating landscapes is central to Law’s artistic drive, especially with the electric guitar.
“Artist Charlotte Law first picked up her guitar in 2015 in an attempt to return to the Icelandic Highlands, where during weeks of solitude the ground shifted, its rocks breaking underfoot, and her mind lightened: blown out of the body by the wind. Since then the guitar has become a place to journey, with and through. Played with found and treasured objects (spoons screws swan feathers lump hammers shells stones) and a sense of space expanding: every journey is treasured and no path is the same,” as Linear Obsessional put it on the artist statement on their website.
The Icelandic landscape seems an apt metaphor for Ice Since Fire, mysterious, foggy, remote. The sounds are shrouded in mist, hiding their true faces, as the electric guitar is used to summon sub-tectonic rumbles, eerie whispers, sonar blips, more so than anything resembling music. It’s sonic deconstruction of the highest order, and also some of the best ambient/drone music you’re likely to hear this season.
Ice Since Fire‘s delicacy and subtlety is so refreshing, making this slight cassette hold up exceedingly well to repeat visitations. You’ll find something new each time as Law’s shrouded soundscapes soothe and blanket your nerves like a soporific, like evening falling on a scorching day. When everything in the world seems so stressful, when parts of the world are literally being consumed in flames, these arctic winds and windblown skies are a welcome relief indeed.
Linear Obsessional are quick becoming an obsession of mine, taking up permanent residency in my trusty Walkman as i run errands in a plague ridden world, burning with civil unrest – a constant reminder that beautiful, artful, and magical things still exist. Indeed, it’s what we fight to protect.
Ice Since Fire showcases a composer in full control of their faculties. It’s a beyond-impressive debut, revealing an artist with a fascinating, beguiling inner world and the skills to make those dreams come true.
Ice Since Fire is out now on Linear Obsessional.