Straight out of the bat: The Rustle of the Stars is beautiful. The slow way the ambient rolls out like the morning fog in a cold morning by the seaside is akin to the chilling atmosphere that album opener ‘Sleeping land (pt. I)’ lays out. Makes me think of an early morning trip through the very foggy seas near Plymouth a few weeks ago.
This is a collaboration between Richard Knox (a member of ace band Glissando) and Frédéric D. Oberland (who is part of Farewell Poetry, which we reviewed). The Rustle of the Stars tells us a story. One that has unsettling ambient noises and drones as the musical backdrop. A story circling around the Arctic: desolation, failed explorations, the white nothingness.
Made up from brilliant, expansive atmospheres (‘Mist’) and ambient post rock (the utterly chilling ‘Drawing lines to the end of the world’), The Rustle of the Stars is a bleak album. It isn’t dinner party music, more of a “nice meal and port” you eat by yourself while reading an ominous book (went well with Mervyn Peake).
The name of the game is “atmosphere”. All songs have a lot of it, whether by the use of heavy reverb or by little found sounds (sort of Musique Concrète). ‘Sea of bones’ sports a great, sorrowful cello that blends quite well with the apocalyptical sounds laid out by these two musicians. Even in songs where it seems there will be only one instrument (the piano-driven ‘The Divide’ & ‘Le passage du Nord-Ouest’), there are enough effects floating to give it a wall of sound approach without saturating your ears.
‘The wreck of hope’ is simply chilling. The dissonant piano notes and the flicker of an old projector are the constant noises in this dirge, sounding like the last scenes from a film with a bitter ending (getting a Sir John Franklin vibe here – brrr). It’s pretty stark and the ending feels very downbeat (like the whole Dyatlov Pass Incident – double brrr). ‘Sleeping land (pt II)’ could be the end credits of our non-existent film that I just pulled out of thin air, with the backdrop of those blue chunks of ice reminding us that we might be technologically superior but Nature gets the final word.
It’s of note that a big chunk of the whole process consisted on Richard and Frédéric sending musical ideas back and forth while being apart (Leeds and Paris). The physical distance between proved no match to the fact that both were on the same wavelength and shot right on target on the sounds of a white, unforgiving desolation that took the lives of many a foolhardy explorer.
The Rustle of the Stars is out now on beautiful vinyl via Gizeh Records.