Without fail, the first time the freeze lands on the group each year, I find myself looking toward the music in my collection that’s droning and ambient and a bit austere. I’ve already spent some quality time with Stars Of The Lid and Brian Eno, but with very little warning, I realized a couple weeks back that the excellent Type Records had gone and re-released 3 of Thomas Köner’s very out-of-print albums in one specially-priced box set.
Originally released roughly two decades ago (Nunatak is the oldest, coming out in 1990), the three albums by Köner are glacial and incredibly deep sounding, and in this newest editions, they’ve even been remastered. Nunatak, Teimo, Permafrost brings the three albums together on a 3CD set, clocking in at just about 2 hours worth of chill-inducing sound.
Of the three, Nunatak is easily the most frosty and haunting. Most of the sounds on the 11 untitled tracks of the release were created by gongs (in various environments, including underwater), and home made wind instruments. In places (such as “Untitled 5”), it’s almost completely extended drones, with slowly reverberating tones that just sort of melt away, while on other tracks (like the downright creepy “Untitled 3”), one can hear disembodied voices (mumbling through the wind instruments), shrieks, and fitful clattering. The short punctuations are made even more powerful by the longer, more steady tonal pieces, but it all adds up to a nearly 50-minute album that sounds like it could have easily been pulled from the mind of an early David Lynch film.
“Untitled 3” – Thomas Köner
Teimo and Permafrost (released in 1992 and 1993, respectively) aren’t quite as bleak, but that’s sort of like saying that the South Pole is less bleak than the North Pole. There’s a little more melody in each album, but nothing even close to a hummable melody. Instead, it’s all about barren landscapes, mixing spectral washes and incredible sub-bass in equal parts.
“Teimo” – Thomas Köner
Sure, there have been a hundred artists who have done similar things since these albums came out, but they still manage to stand the test of time and definitely were the forefathers to artists like Xela, Deaf Center, and others that currently reside on the Type Records label. In that case, it’s a perfect fit for this remastered boxset, and the reasonable price (especially considering what copies were selling for) makes it even more of a deal.