Sunday, November 6, 2011

Album Retrospective: Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

Album Rating: A+
Ocarina of Time is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time. All of its aspects from the gameplay to the atmosphere make it unlike any game that has ever been made. For me, Ocarina of Time feels almost mind-expanding, where it makes me think of things completely outside of the game. Almost to the point where it doesn't feel like a game, it feels so otherworldly. It makes Hyrule almost seem like it's a real place on this planet that I could catch a plane to if I wanted to. It might be disturbing to know that I feel this way about a video game, of all things, but it is a feeling unique to any other feeling that I get when playing a video game. The only other thing that has made me think in such a way is Natural Snow Building's self released, understated masterpiece The Dance of the Moon and the Sun.

How does this album relate to Ocarina of Time? To be honest it really doesn't. But it's the only thing that comes to mind evokes a relatively similar kind of thought process. At first glance, The Dance of the Moon and the Sun is probably the most inaccessible album known to man. Two and a half hours of lo-fi folk and drone isn't going to be everybody's cup of tea. But those who embrace it will see it for what it is; an experience.

I don't think of this album as an album. In fact, I barely think of this album as music. It's not something that I just throw on and listen to for enjoyment. When I listen to The Dance of the Moon and the Sun, I simply get lost in it. Natural Snow Buildings has created a completely different medium that could barely qualify as music. Everything about this "album", from the artwork and packaging to the content itself looks and sounds and feels like it was created on a planet from a completely different solar system. Listening to it gives you the kind of shocked chills you'd get while listening to a strange recording of some sort of paranormal entity speaking. each new listen is like exploring the universe or circumnavigating the earth. With every new listen there's something new to find and get lost in.

Another thing that contributes to the unique feel of The Dance and the Moon and the Sun is its mysterious nature. An internet search of the album or even just Natural Snow Buildings will not return many informative results. All of Natural Snow Building's releases are extremely limited and thus copies being sold of The Dance and the Moon and the Sun go for ridiculous prices online. Why are physical copies of this album so scarce? Why does nobody know anything about this album? How come all we know of Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte are their names? Five years after its release, I am still yet to find anybody that has any answers about this album.

The album opens with a very peculiar, minute long track with nothing but Solange's voice and an acoustic guitar. The few tracks that have vocals, such as "Interstate Roads" and the title track, are the only aspects that give this album any human quality to convince us that it wasn't entirely made by extra terrestrials. Immediately after the brief introduction "Carved Heart", the first ambient piece, "Cut Joint Sinews & Divided Reincarnation" beings. What is so amazing about what Natural Snow Buildings does with their music is they make a fifteen minute ambient track of nothing but guitar drones and a section of percussion evolve so well that it manages to keep your interest throughout. None of these huge tracks that may come off as tedious listens are actually unexciting in any way. It's like watching a documentary on outer space from the early 80's on VHS. But everything about it from the information to Carl Sagan's voice keep you interested and waiting for more.

Almost every track on this album I can relate to some sort of experience despite being so alienating, which is another thing that makes it so wondrous and detracts from the foreign feeling. For example, I remember a sleepless winter night, where I sat at my window with my headphones on and did not get a single hour of sleep. With this album playing I put on my coat and dressed warmly, and walked out of my backdoor and into the wide openness of my backyard. The floodlight switched on as soon as the first chord in "Wisconsin" played, and I was standing in the heaviest snow of the season. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed, standing out in the middle of this noiseless yet destructive storm in the wee hours of the morning, while the beautiful echoing chorus of guitar chords sang me and almost lulled me to sleep while I laid in the frozen grass.

But really, it feels almost pointless to talk about the music itself. After all, this isn't music. This is not an album. This is not something that you listen to, it's something that you live with and experience and ponder and get lost in. I barely know half of the song titles. What I have come to accept is that I don't need to know half of the things that I may want to know about this album, or even half of the things that I already know about it. All I need to know about Solange Gularte and Mehdi Ameziane are their names and that they both make music. All I need to know about The Dance and the Moon and the Sun is that it just simply is, and is one of the most beautiful and wondrous and mysterious things that has ever existed.

Disc One
01. Carved Heart
02. Cut Joint Sinews & Divided Reincarnation
03. Interstate Roads
04. Wisconsin
05. Rain Serenade
06. Dance of the Moon & the Sun
07. Felt Presence, Ghostly Humming
08. Breaking Waters
09. Eu Un Miroir, Obscurement
10. The Cover-Up

Disc Two
01. Tupilak
02. Wandering Souls
03. A Ten Guardian-Spirits Motherfucker
04. Mary Brown
05. Gary Webb
06. Whose Eyes Are Flowers
07. The Cursed Bell
08. All Animals in the Form of Water
09. Lie There
10. John Carpenter
11. Away, My Ghosts
12. My Bones Are Yours
13. Search For Me
14. Tunneling Into the Structure Until It Falls
15. Remains in the Ditch of the Dead

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