This is it — that first release that every person with any kind of label aspirations dreams of. The proverbial cover from which the book is ultimately judged by the first wave of potential audience members. The first impression. And for that ever-important stepping stone, Alexander Toulas chose wisely, opting to go for a solid product in regards to packaging and production, and also a safe one through a split involving his own project in Arctique Circles. Of course, Toulas isn’t the only person behind the music as Juno Galang accompanies him on both pieces found here, the first of which is a My Bloody Valentine cover that should immediately spell out the kind of reverb drench-fest you’re about to face. The second track does go into more of a drone territory though that is fitting from the perspective of the other artist, Baran, whom is another story completely. Baran exists as a quartet of musicians and are largely an instrumental progressive rock project that also — in their outer horizons — utilize both drone and ethereal influences in their music.
Arctique Circle’s half of the split opens up appropriately with a My Bloody Valentine cover in “When you Sleep” that is quite a bit heavier and sounds a bit more straight forward than the original, opting to perform the melodic line that the track is famous for in a more linear fashion and play the track as a whole in less of a rock style. The end of the track fades out into a feedback drone in multiple layers before it cuts out, giving way to the ethereal, crystalline guitar drones of “The Wolves Gather”. Epic shimmering waves of sound paint lucid stars on the skies above vast open landscapes at twilight. Mists are illuminated by the moonlight and drench the land in ethereal dew, shimmering with the stars above them. The music, though synthesized through massive guitar processing, somehow has a wild found about it — something free and as open as the air that hovers between the Earth and Heavens in the images it creates.
For Baran’s side, as mentioned earlier, their music exists both in the drone and the progressive world — but not simultaneously as that would obviously be impossible. It is the outer segments of their music that utilize this — strangely vintage sounding — drone style while the beef of their 11-minute track is highly melodic and ethereal all at the same time as well as opting to utilize a break-beat style of percussion to give the music further character. The label’s biography page for the band puts it pretty clearly when they say “Baran’s music seems to provoke a musical paradox, or at least a contradiction, by being simultaneously minimal and epic, reserved and chaotic.” Indeed, the project manages to exist in both worlds through majestic warm guitar and synth sounds and a style of shoegazing post-rock that shares similar high-end guitar effects to the likes of Yawning Sons. Baran is quite heavy on the piano, however, an instrumental choice that gives them a unique sound — especially in light of their old-school, Pink Floyd-like mixing / production.
The artwork for the packaging is a beautiful farmland landscape complete with subtle windmill, mists and looming, almost mythic forests that remain hidden until a close look is given. Each copy is hand-numbered from a limitation of 300. Overall, Ivory Antler should be stoked that their opening releasing had the quality that they were able to offer here, both through the packaging of the product itself and in the quality performance and compositional effort from both projects within. I don’t say the phrase “must have” very often in my reviews, even through perfects scores, but I’d have a hard time not recommending this split to anyone.
Side A – Arctique Circles:
01) When you Sleep
02) The Wolves Gather
Side B – Baran:
01) This is your God