Natural Snow Buildings “Daughter of Darkness:” Part One

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Natural Snow Buildings “Daughter of Darkness” (2009, Blackest Rainbow)

Pressing play on “Daughter of Darkness” is like standing at the bottom of a massive summit where the only certainty is how the journey begins.  Clouds flock to the sides of the mountain as if it were sharing great secrets of the Earth long kept to itself.  The top of the mountain is but an abstract concept in our mind.  You wonder if you have the determination to see this through to the end.  To say “Daughter of Darkness” is a staggering piece of work is to denigrate the sheer mystery and majesty of the music held within.

Captured over the course of five cassettes and spanning a mind-bending six hours, “Daughter of Darkness” is likely to be the most daunting piece of music one may hear in 2009.  Emotionally and physically demanding music is not a foreign idea to the prolific French duo that comprise Natural Snow Buildings– they’ve been putting out challenging experimental albums for about a decade now, usually in extremely limited quantities.  As a matter of fact, “Daughter of Darkness” is already long gone.  Only 150 copies were made, and if you’re looking to buy one, be prepared to pay upwards of $100.

I’ve considered different approaches for writing about this album, and have decided that the best method for digesting this titanic release is to break it down tape-by-tape, diving deep into the wintry middle eastern folk dreamworld Natural Snow Buildings have so meticulously crafted.  I would likely lose my sanity had I attempted to condense my thoughts on six hours of music into a 500-word blog post, so I will instead be doing multiple  installments.  Let us continue.

The first tape in the “Daughter of Darkness” box is comprised mainly by the two part “Satanic Demona” suite– 50+ minutes of sprawling psych-drone bliss.  “Part I” is a rigorous ascent to the top of the holy mountain in the midst of a blinding snowstorm– shimmering guitar and tambourine pair with choral sections to form apparitions of false idols rendered opaque by the frozen precipitation.  Gentle drones emerge like sunlight peeking through clouds, the warmth from its rays reducing the icy summit to a vast ocean, beautiful in its perfect stillness.

“Part II” drifts out of the speakers with echoing purple haze guitar emissions and tambourine.  Simple drums join the fray.  The intensity of the percussion gathers and we are brought to a tribal dance section momentarily, only to have its layers stripped away.  Drums, chorus, and jubilation all stripped away, the piece settles into soaring guitar drones.  These drones too fall away in favor of calming woodwind instruments.  Traditional guitar-playing makes its return at the close of “Part II,” a perfect end to a spiraling structure of free-form psychedelia.

Surrounding those two pieces are four smaller pieces including the crackling howl of the title track “Daughters of Darkness” and the rich shoegazing texture of the album’s shortest piece, “Left for Dead.”  On the back end of the two “Satanic Demona” pieces  are “Curare,” which feels like an addendum to the aforementioned epics, and “Carnal Flowers,” which for all I know may be a traditional folk piece.  Its simple, conventional beauty is a welcome respite from the shifting experimentation of the songs that precede it.

The first cassette of “Daughter of Darkness” is a gorgeous fusion of traditional folk sounds and more the progressive approaches of psych and drone music.  Natural Snow Buildings move seamlessly from the familiar to the uniquely stunning, and they do it with grace.

Stay tuned for the second installment!

Download Natural Snow Buildings “Daughter of Darkness” – Cassette One

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~ by theoberlander on March 31, 2009.

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