“The Dyson Swarm”, an interesting discovery regarding the Ambient Music, is an album in which mastermind Vaarwel has been able to combine Metal and Post-Rock guitar lines with Electronic Music as a way to recreate the deepness and the majesty of the space. Enchanted by this record, Hypnos Webzine has taken the opportunity to know a very interesting and educated musician and deepen the scientific themes described in “The Dyson Swarm”.
Hail Vaarwel! Thanks a lot for making this interview with Hypnos Webzine possible! Just to break the ice, as I’ve written on my review, “The Dyson Swarm” is a release that has an impressive capability to describe immense spatial scenarios. How have you obtained this incredible final result? What we listen in this record is exactly what you had in your mind at the moment of the composition?
Vaarwel: Hello, thank you for the interest in my works. Well, the whole thing began from a failed collaboration, as, I think, often happens with large-scale works. Nearly one and a half years ago I talked with a german guy named Michael who runs the underground label Schattenkult Produktionen. He offerred me to participate in his own project Torcularis Septemtrionalis inspired by space themes, preferentially by extraterrestrials, UFOs and related. I made a draft of track (it was “Exoplanet (HD 85512 b)”) and sent it to him, but he told that it was not the thing he implied. Thus we left the idea of collaboration, but I was so inspired by possibility of creation a space devoted music work based on fusion of Ambient, midtempo electronics and Dark Metal, that couldn’t leave such a prospect. Further this conception expanded to one of a space journey, sort of cosmic panopticum. Looking back, it is exactly what I carved in music and so I intended to picture initially.
Let’s start from the title of the record, “The Dyson Swarm”. Why did you choose a title derived from a physical theory? What is the aspect that most of all struck your imagination?
Vaarwel: Dyson sphere conception could be considered not only from the point of view of search for extraterrestral life and intelligence, which surely is quite interesting and inspiring, but also as a possible future of all our race. The future of humanity was observed many times and everywhere from art to mass media, and its forecasts are mostly pessimistic in eschatological sense. I mean that, following these forecasts, humanity will perish for some reasons, either natural or supernatural, and both of these scenarios are unsatisfactory. The Dyson sphere conception represents as a trial to do something extremely global for our future with our own means, without relying on god and other imaginary superheroes, and this is a conception worth to respect. And although I consider the majority of our race as a cattle unable for creative activity, being concerned of future is quite better that being idle.
In the description of the release written on your website, you consider the entire album as a journey through the cosmos. How did you conceive this kind of journey? What were your principal source of inspiration?
Vaarwel: Universe seems to be infinite from our small planet in small star system in a galactic arm of usual spiral galaxy. Thus the variety of things you could face when you leave this backwater disctrict is beyond all imagination, and this is quite breathtaking. Space brings us a lot of phenomena that we can hardly embrace with our mind just owing to inability of comparing it with something common and present in our life – things that are extremely big, extremely far, extremely hot or cold whatever. As theory of relativity is quite ruthless, and for now we see no close prospective to effectively leave even our star system, not to mention the galaxy, the imagination based on astronomical and astrophysical data remains the only spaceship we have to investigate the cosmos. On the other hand, our own small planet and star system contain a lot of inspiring things itself, so we should start such a journey right from here.
Speaking about the music, what I like at most about the release is your ability to create sonorous pictures, working on a stratification created with a standard instrumentation. Although your music can be labeled as Ambient Music, I consider that the sound of your guitars are totally Metal, avoinding in this way to be trapped in the classic synth-driven Ambient and resulting in a very personal sound. So, what do you consider as a distinction factor of your music?
Vaarwel: As I told somewhere before, Metal and Electronic styles are just means here, means to create a wide picture of space that was not generally implied in music previously. According to the conception, this album was not intended as a tale of coldness, darkness and horror of space voids, as Darkspace mentioned cosmos on their albums, neither with any metaphysical interconnetions with something spiritual and supernatural, like occultism whatever: the conceptial was quite materialistic. Also I considered making of usual space drone ambient unsuitable as well. Therefore I decided that traditional means of metal (in particular, Black and Dark Metal) and electronic music wouldn’t be quite suitable here and intended to bring something new and original (as it is possible nowadays) as an approach. In my opinion, you can hardly portray scientific picture of cosmos avoiding all relations with electronics, so exactly electronics were the base of this approach, as breakbeat scaffolding and synth melodic constructions. The role of guitar works (both metal and post-rockish ones) here was to add an epicness and vastness that I didn’t see in pure electronic work of that kind. So that was the way the whole work was designed.
“Sloan Great Wall” is my favourite track of the record and I totally lost myself during its listening. How this huge cosmic structure made of an unnumbered galaxies inspired you? What do you think you were able to pour in your music of this astronomic observation?
Vaarwel: Well, when you learn about something incomparable with your usual circle of things, it is extremely inspiring in all ways (at least I think it should be). There is even something Lovecraftian in it, as his favourite sense of facing something you cannot embrace with your humble human mind. But while in Lovecraft’s stories you lose your mind after facing things of that kind, here we have just extreme expansion of your mental outlook. The Sloan Great Wall was the biggest distinctive object in the whole Universe till recently (now this rank belongs to Hercules-Corona Borealis great wall) excepting the whole Universe, but while the whole Universe itself is particularly a philosophical notion, a wall made of metagalaxies is quite specific and solid, and this boggles all imagination during only a trial to conceive it.
“The Dyson Swarm” contains a lot of references about astronomic observation, astrophysic theories and a concrete influence from the sci-fi literature. This comes from some kind of interest or have you made precise studies to prepare this release?
Vaarwel: As I consider myself a well educated person, and science (although not astrophysics) is my profession, I knew a lot things about space even before I started working on “The Dyson Swarm”. But of course some things came to me during special investigation, for instance, I found UDFj-39546284 to be the the furthest galaxy even noticed, literally the known edge of Universe. So for me this experience of producing the album was also a chance to expand my own knowledge horizon, and I hope that the listener has that feeling too.
Giving a look to your discography, it seems that you like to shuffle the cards about your music, moving from Raw Black Metal to pure Electronic Music. Why this continuous stylistic changes? If you want to suggest a record of yours to a new listener, which would you choose?
Vaarwel: Stylistic changes are the inherent feature of Frozen Ocean as a musical project. Within each particular release I embody a distinctive idea or conception, and all of the means used depends on this idea. For example, “Norse” trilogy was an homage to early days of Norwegian black metal and some significant personalities of it, hence I had need to use necessary kind of black metal sound to represent the things in the most proper way. Or taking “Aokigahara” into consideration, I wanted to picture a place “where even light dies”: humid, darkened with everlasting twilight and soaked with scent of cadavers and death itself, and chose the droning ambient as the most perfect tool. So every Frozen Ocean release should be considered as a kind of serendipity, and it would’t be perceived properly without comprehension of its main idea, although music makes its own work and gives emotional impression. Some musicians make different projects for playing music in different styles while these projects are being consisted of the same musician; I can’t take this practice as suitable for me, because Frozen Ocean is everything I would like to tell, and style of music is no matter in this case. For my current and potential listeners, I always write the album style in its description on official website, so you can choose anything you would like to listen. And for the new listeners I can recommend “Trollvinter”, “Autumn Bridges”, “Natt Over Meg” and, of course, “The Dyson Swarm”. These works make an impression of the whole Frozen Ocean palette, so after them the new listener could continue the deeper investigation.
Are you involved only in Frozen Ocean, or do you have other musical projects or some kind of collaboration with other bands?
Vaarwel: First of all, I had another project (with some other people helping me) that plays Avantgarde/Grindcore, but as long as it is Russian-speaking, it could hardly have any international exposure. I took a session participation in several bands too. I also joined Russian project Goatpsalm as full participant player on the recording of its new album “Downstream”.
You are a very prolific musician, so, even if “The Dyson Swarm” has been released only three months ago, I think that something new can be released in short time. Can you gives us some preview about future releases?
Vaarwel: As it was announced recently, new release is coming soon via italian label Bylec-Tum Productions. It’ll be a compilation of the whole “Norse” trilogy: “Likegyldig Raseri”, “Vanviddsanger” and “Natt Over Meg” on one tape. Also a conceptual Noise/Ambient full-length album will appear a bit later, it will be very limited release.
So, that was the last question for the interview! Thanks again for your time and feel free to conclude in the way you prefer.
Vaarwel: Thank you for your interest and for very judicious questions. Take care.