In 1914, Sir Shackleton embarked on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with his crew aboard a ship called Endurance. This journey – considered the last in the age of Antarctic exploration – did not end upon some triumphant return to their motherland, but rather in the sinking of Endurance and the fatal stranding of its survivors on the very sheets of ice that destroyed it.
Over a century later, a group of international friends (having all met via their respective inclusions in Swiss label Luce Sia’s catalogue) worked to pay homage to the tragedy by writing a sweeping ambient/drone/noise masterpiece aptly named after the doomed vessel.
While all three projects (Mulo Muto [Attila Folklor and Joel Gilardini – out of Switzlerland], meanwhile.in.texas [Angelo Guido – out of Italy], and Skag Arcade [Paolo Colavita – out of California]) dwell in the same realm of genre, each lends a distinctive sonic interpretation of the events that inspired Endurance.
In “Tales of a Lonely Icebreaker Dreaming of Steam Engines and Enduring Frost” (damn, that’s an awesome title), Mulo Muto harnesses the power of soft distortion and expansive drones to simulate the onward chugging of Endurance – ultimately tapping into the mechanical soul of the ship itself. In “Dome Argus”, Skag Arcade and meanwhile.in.texas explore the more human aspect of the expedition – their collaborative track laden with not-only their signature styles of shimmering ambience/processed field recordings/abrasive noise but also with samples of frightened sailors warning each other of impending disaster. Album opener and title track “Endurance” features work by each contributor – the result being what I feel is the most sprawling and emotive segment of the sixty-seven minute album. The depth of field alone surely places the listener thousands of miles away, enveloped in pulverizing cold and an unimaginable vastness. Add to that each artist’s respective creative vision, and you have the closest alternative to time travel available in this very tumultuous year of 2020.
Fully fleshed-out concepts are, unfortunately, not the norm when it comes to the sub-genres that define Endurance. But this is not a normal album – mostly due to the fact that these artists represent the pinnacle of excellence when it comes to hybrid ambient/noise music. Just as the fearless explorers of the Imperial Trans-Atlantic Expedition deserve their inclusion in history, so do Mulo Muto, meanwhile.in.texas and Skag Aracade – the lot of them fearless explorers of sound and texture in their own right.