Switched On – NETHERWORLD: Algida Bellezza (Glacial Movements)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

There is a deeply personal story behind the composition of Algida Bellezza. The man behind NETHERWORLD is the founder of Glacial Movements, Alessandro Tedeschi, and he wrote the core music of the album, which loosely translates as ‘frozen beauty’, in 2015. Each of the five ‘movements’ were born – literally – as he cradled his new daughter. In June 2019 the music was mixed and mastered by Tedeschi’s good friend, sound engineer Matteo Spinazzè Savaris – and the completed album ready for release.

As the cover would suggest it is a great example of Tedeschi’s chilly ambience, which this time takes the all-important Greenland sled dog as its principal focus. The titles of the five tracks all relate to a prominent species of the area – respectively Vulpes lagopus (Arctic Fox), Somniosus microcephalus (Greenland Shark), Orcinus orca (Orca), Monodon monoceros (Narwhal) and Ursus maritimus (Polar Bear).

What’s the music like?

Tedeschi has a way of working that is both ambient but incredibly intense too. The five soundscapes here are characterised by thick textures that resemble weather systems, each putting forward prominent melodic features that work in slowly orbiting loops.

Vulpes lagopus is large in scope, the arctic fox taking very slow, recurring musical breaths, establishing ‘D’ as a tonal base but allowing for other thoughts too. Somniosus microcephalus is almost claustrophobic, its profile like that of a big ocean liner or an incredibly dense cloud with small musical points of reference to hang on to. It effectively wraps the listener in a comforting swathe of cotton wool.

Orcinus orca captures the good and the bad of the killer whale, the passage of a large body expertly portrayed but also its foreboding and potentially inflammatory nature. Monodon monoceros – like the narwhal it portrays – is slower and gentler, the music dominated by soft minor key chords.

Finally Ursus maritimus matches the white of the polar bear, with a lovely sound the listener can really dive into. Tedeschi uses a big bass drum and cymbal effect akin to large waves crashing in the near foreground, before the music settles onto a long sustained note and ultimately settles to rest – even hibernation.

Does it all work?

Yes. Tedeschi brings remarkable depth to his compositions, a blend of easy on the ear ambience and cautionary harmonies that imply everything on the surface is not as comfortable as it seems. This is cold, wintry music that moves slowly, best summarised in visual terms like an icebreaker in the Antarctic – but also managing to portray the five different species in the track titles.

Knowing of Tedeschi’s connection to his little girl only heightens the emotional impact of the music.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Despite its difficult title, Algida Bellezza is typical of Glacial Movements’ output. It works for listeners approaching it from the electronic side but also the classical, where listeners will appreciate the natural, stately development of its ideas. Crucially it is also incredibly ambient and immersive!

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