Since the re-issue of Parhelion’s stunning debut album a few years back, things for the Canadian dark ambient wizard have been pretty quiet. Midnight Sun remains a masterful work that brings together elements of seriously weighty ambience, wind-blasted noise and mournful musical phrasing. With such a large gap in activity the prospect of a new release is a very exciting one.
Temples In Ice, released on Kalpamantra as a free download (with a limited CD run apparently expected soon), picks up pretty much where Midnight Sun left off – thankfully – and continues Ihor Dawidiuk’s lonesome sonic journey through the endangered Arctic climes that form his main point of influence. The fact that there is very little in the way of departure or development from the Cyclic Law re-issue is a welcome one. The material contained on that album could have gone on for twice as long and not fallen below the radar of attention. Such engrossing, intense and beautiful work often has a quality that place it out of the normal constraints of time and place. Temples In Ice is only different in that it is notably shorter. At three mid-length tracks long, this is a cut down introductory window to Parhelion’s tense, shivering world.
Opening track Descending To The Depths is an audio representation of just that. A slow, rumbling chaos spells out geological tumult and forms a rock solid base to the more ethereal drifts that are caught in it’s gravity. Not once opening up to lighter, airier passages, this is Parhelion at his most relentlessly moody. Only the atmospheres conjured by watery field recordings and occasional melodic washes keep this from being a Thomas Köner-esque ordeal of pitch black despair.
Reflections In Ice breaks this oppression up a bit with a greater sense of melody and spaciousness, during a moment near the track's middle to end section even approaching something upliftingly rapturous. A rare glimpse of Parhelion's more magnificent side grows out of the murk to stunning effect. As if to destroy whatever utopian dream this invokes however, the gleam washes away and the track ends with a funeral speed procession of cavernous thuds, a eulogy to the short lived brightness that came before it.
The final track is introduced by an almost brass-like swell, wheezing breath and more rumbling low end. A drone picks up the centre and is flanked by a distant chorus of metallic sparks, intermittent guitar or sytnh pads and shattering thuds. Slowly evolving with the build up of additional washes and instrument cries, the EP is bookended neatly and ends up concluding much how it begun. The last minute or so reveals the most directly recognisable material however, with clear guitar picks forming a melancholic arpeggio against dying winds. It is almost to suggest that beneath (or above) the density of the majority of this release and indeed Parhelion’s music in general, there is a constant reminder of some kind of fragility after all, a notable statement.
Another fantastic piece of work from a true master of dark ambient music then; one is advised to listen to this and move directly onto getting a copy of Midnight Sun. With mentions of further work coming this year, there is hope that Parhelion will soon be exposed to the audience he truly deserves.