Natural Snow Buildings: An Appreciation

Natural Snow Buildings were (are) an otherworldly duo not conforming to conventions. Today, you can find some of their work on digital platforms. Their album Terror’s Horns is the closest to a traditional release that I encountered. It is an impressive album, but it seemed to signal the end of the DIY/Experimental release phase.  As well as Natural Snow Buildings releases, Solange Gularte releases under the name of Isengrind and Mehdi Ameziane under the name Twinsistermoon. In writing this post, I was pleased to find more information is now available.  I have included links to further reading at the end.  I have tried to avoid duplicating as far as possible what has already been said in these posts.

I concentrate my engagement on my experience of this music, showcasing some of their incredible artwork. If you asked me for my favourite tracks, I couldn’t give you them. What appeals to this listener is the edgy ambient mood the music creates. If I went to see them play live, it wouldn’t be a case of I hope they play this or that track. It would be I hope that I feel this or that way afterwards. They sound very different to Godspeed you!Black Emperor, yet they are a recurrent reference point. They are both post-rock, whatever that means. They both make long tracks and use drones, which I have been hooked on since discovering The Velvet Underground. They both incorporate light and shade, with shafts of hopeful sunlight. In parallel to this, they both incorporate quiet and loud moments (post-rock). Points of difference include Solange’s wonderful haunting voice. She sounds lost and indifferent to modern era preoccupations.  There is a folk sensibility running throughout this music. There are times when the music sounds as if it is from a few hundreds of years ago. A sorrowful lament for what we have lost through the progressive passage of time.

I cannot remember how I stumbled across them, but I am glad that I did.  I think that the band was on a sampler CD, and I thought they sounded fascinating and very different. A bit like The Dead Flag Blues by GY!BE being on a CD sampler on the front of NME, another love affair began. I was lucky that I started following Natural Snow Buildings at just the right moment. They didn’t have a fixed record label or a contact point. They flirted with MySpace for a time, although even then, MySpace had become unfashionable. You searched mainly on the internet for any information fragments to be ahead of others buying the latest release.  Everything seemed sympathetic to the ephemeral quality of the music.  New albums would be released on tiny independent labels, entirely new to me and in different parts of the world. Each release would be minimal, and everything would sell out very quickly. Often releases would take the form of CD-Rs; in later years, they did release vinyl.  Searching and acquiring music became part of the experience. However, each album, despite the limited numbers, seemed to be very carefully crafted. The sound quality was always good. The musicianship always sounded great, and the artwork was out of this world.

As I have been writing this post, I have been listening to The Snowbringer Cult. It’s 2 hours and 35 minutes which takes me to a trippy place. It evokes a ritual.  I have not been invited, and I am not participating in this ritual, but I observe and listen. If you needed to label the band, you could take two or three words from the following to create your label: Indie/Psych/Post-Rock/Folk/Drone/Low-Fi. It is the ritual/pagan elements that work for me.  The original film version of The Wicker Man made a big impression upon me at an impressionable age.  A film which managed somehow to be simultaneously reassuring and troubling.  The dualities of light and shade, good and evil, known and unknown, fascinated me in the film, I hear in this music. 

I wanted to see them live and bought a ticket to see them playing in inner London (Dalston). Sadly, the logistics of an evening trip to London and back proved to be beyond me. Oddly, that concert was featured on one of their cassette releases. I did purchase that cassette, but I have never listened to it.  I may update this post in the future; there is so much more to share. Against the backdrop of phrases such as the ‘music industry’, they offered an inspirational counterpoint, the antithesis of industrialized music production.   If nothing else, I have enjoyed reminiscing about some unconventional musicians making beautiful music.

Further Reading

I found these sites through searching the internet; everything is easier these days. All sites were accessible as of August 2021.

Very comprehensive and informative blog post, with a detailed discography.

https://musicisdyingnow.blogspot.com/2012/06/natural-snow-buildings.html

Ian Maleney 2012 interview with the band, interesting questions and intriguing answers, particularly their relationship with nature.

https://thumped.com/features/interviews/natural-snow-buildings-where-is-the-mothership/

Anthony D’Amico in-depth review of Chants of Niflheim album

Artist biography by Paul Simpson

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/natural-snow-buildings-mn0002540509/biography

All music review by Paul Simpson of Terror’s Horns album

https://www.allmusic.com/album/terrors-horns-mw0002862140

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