Hail the Frozen North by Hollydrift (Review)

Mathias Anderson displays considerable talent in creating “experimental” music that’s surprisingly easy to listen to.
Hail the Frozen North - Hollydrift

The very first minute of Hail the Frozen North contains more sound than you’ll find in most songs 3 times it’s size. A dense sonic collage that emanates from your speakers, it sounds like something akin to a giant radio playing a hundred stations at the same time, all of which play old TV themes, movie scores, and orchestral movements… but nothing that’s immediately identifiable. It’s as if the station itself can be barely picked up, and you’re left the ghosts of sounds that you’re not sure you heard or not.

But that opening minute just serves as a tease, if you will, because the entire sound changes quite abruptly soon after. The last remaining minutes of “Smile For Me” take a more minimal, icy approach that combines static-y drones and spoken word. “Lost In Flight” takes a much darker twist. Minimal beats and Third Eye Foundation-lite drones make up the music, while a dry, raspy voice can be heard barely peeking through the sounds. At times, it’s reminiscent of Locust’s early electronic works; dry, barren techno without a hint of humanity or warmth to be found.

“Buried By The Briar” takes the darker elements of “Lost In Flight” and ups the ante. This time, the walls of static, distended vocals, and ominous keyboards don’t have any beats to anchor them down. The result is a roiling cloud of sonic debris that seems very nearly about to collapse in on itself. The interesting thing is that despite such ominous sounds used, the resulting “song” isn’t all that dark. It’s eerie and alien to be sure, but not in a Cold Meat Industries way (now that’s dark).

Hollydrift (aka Mathias Anderson) bases a lot of his “music” around fairly conventional, even mundane sources (e.g., TV static, the sound a fan or furnace). But for such “mundane” sources, the resulting sound is quite deep and convoluted. Does it get unfocused and confusing at times? Well, it’s hard to tell, since Hail the Frozen North only last 15 minutes. But there’s that definite danger. Much of the music contemporary to Hollydrift’s always seems to suffer from the same complex, that being an inordinate belief that making music wierder and more unlistenable somehow makes it deeper and more relevant.

But here, Anderson displays some considerable talent in creating “experimental” music that’s surprisingly easy to listen to. Perhaps “easy to listen to” is the wrong phrase; if you’re tapping your toes to this, you’ve probably got some sort of mental imbalance. Concepts like melody and rhythm don’t carry much weight here. With Hollydrift, it’s all about texture. And when the texture is like the opening moments of “Smile For Me,” it’s a lovely thing.