It’s December and the temperature here in Lincoln, Nebraska is still hovering around the 50s and 60s. We haven’t had any major precipitation, much less snow, in weeks. Aside from it getting dark at 5:30 and the leafless trees all around, there’s really no indication that we’re on the cusp of winter.
If you’re in a similar situation, season-wise, and you’re waiting for Mother Nature to make up her mind, then Poemme’s Soft Ice might be beneficial for you. Angela Klimek recorded these six songs specifically to recapture her memories of winter as a child: “The endless gray skies, the magic of a fresh blanket of snow, and more wonder still once Lake Erie transforms into a vast, frozen desert. The music brings me to my favorite lakeside park, standing with waves of solid ice below and a pale sky above. All is silent but for a flock of geese in the distance, making its way to warmer land…”
Her method of recapturing said wintry memories involves generating billowing clouds of icy atmospherics that drift in from a song’s periphery and slowly unfurl around the listener, morphing and shifting over time into new and beguiling forms. Despite their chilly nature, Klimek’s atmospherics are undeniably lovely, and suffused with a sense of intimacy and nostalgia befitting the album’s themes.
Snippets of melody and strains of musical instruments can occasionally be heard, but they either fade away quickly, or they’re blurred almost beyond recognition by reverb and effects (as if Klimek just ran them through an audio “Gaussian Blur” filter). The resulting ambiguity draws you further into her carefully sculpted sonic worlds.
Indeed, each one of these songs feels like its own little wintry land. On “Southbound Formations,” Klimek takes simple piano notes and reverbs them into infinity; the resulting sonics drift high overhead, perfectly lofty tones for gazing at the clear, crisp November sky and bidding farewell to the geese heading for warmer climes.
“Lake-effect” stretches out for more than 10 minutes, and Klimek uses that time to create dark, majestic drones that suggest a deep dive into frigid waters, the light barely filtering through the thick ice overhead. Finally, Soft Ice closes with “The Park at Night,” which recalls the ambient dub of Strategy and Gas minus the beats; all that’s left are the shimmering atmospherics that grow in beauty with each passing moment, and paint a picture of the titular park, full of mystery and magic, locked forever in a solemn winter’s embrace.
Soft Ice represents some of Klimek’s earliest forays into ambient music, and though she’s released several more titles this year since Soft Ice, these songs don’t feel like amateur compositions at all. Indeed, of all of Poemme’s releases to date, Soft Ice is the one I return to the most, the one I find the most pure and enchanting.
You might find winter oppressive, what with all of the cold and darkness. But Soft Ice may cause you to yearn for it to arrive a little sooner, in the hopes that it’ll be as beautiful and otherworldly as it appears in Klimek’s compositions.