For their first collaboration on an original audio-visual artefact, Ali M. Demirel and Anthony Linell have developed a stunning and unsettling work that studies the Icelandic landscape as a motor of mythology. Titled Winter Ashes, our senses search for logical order and signifiers with which to measure our relation to both the visual and aural elements, and by detailing the inhuman scale and structure of the region in this way, a hypnotic ambivalence regarding our place unerringly haunts the work. This edition is a snapshot of Linell's musical contribution at a moment of reflection in the project's enduring evolution. Far from being an acoustic summation of the collaboration, Linell has derived these pieces from his work with Demirel, retaining the name of the activity through which the album has arisen.
The nucleus of Winter Ashes is the relationship between landscape and mythology, a snare that binds us in contradiction. In its most common usage landscape refers to the visual indicators of any given terrain over and above any innate material properties. In its verb form it typically describes the agreeable construction and reconfiguration of terrain by the human hand. Our aesthetic preferences are from the outset privileged in the concept of landscape; our eyes are obeyed first. This is in distinction to mythology in which allegory upon analogy tells of but does not show the gods. Making sense of this nexus is to train our visual faculties towards seeing what is concealed, if not to merely search for an interaction with what is completely and surely unobservable.
Iceland's unearthly appearance is something else. It is conspicuously suited to the complexities of a task such as that which Winter Ashes imaginatively demands of it. It readily inclines toward the quality of the sublime. Situating this demand historically, Winter Ashes is inspired by the long and fragmented history of recording and retrieving Norse mythology, just as it is the mythology itself. The Codex Regius, a compendium of Old Norse poems that has been dated to the 13th century, and the Edda, a collective term for two volumes of medieval Icelandic literary works to which the Codex Regius is connected, both serve as points of reference. All were lost for periods of time throughout the centuries, and sections of each remain lost forever. As promptly as these documents tell the stories of Norse mythology, they register how easily they recede from written form back into the landscape. Though persistently morphing, it seems truer to look to the latter over the former as the eternal, volatile setting for these stories. Winter Ashes makes this ambiguous task its point of departure.
Words by Patrick Quick.
released March 19, 2021
Recorded by Anthony Linell in Gotland, Kebnekaise, Iceland and Stockholm 2019-2020.
Photographies by Ali M. Demirel in Iceland 2019.
Mastered by Neel at EnissLab, Rome.