The barren, Godforsaken Northern Siberian archipelago of Novaya Zemlya is a wasteland of radioactive slurry. The islands were emptied of their inhabitants during the Cold War and used for some of the largest nuclear tests ever carried out. German ambient artist Thomas Köner has captured the bleakness and menace of Arctic and harsh domains before, on stunning albums such as Teimo and Permafrost, but Novaya Zemlya is his best and most environmentally reflective work yet.
Industrial trembles, muted rumblings and crumbling ice-shelves of noise communicate Novaya Zemlya’s perilous, poisonous terrain. Remote drones, chilling silences and crackles of radio signals bring the hazard and isolation to the fore. The trilogy of tracks is a breathtaking array of subterranean creaks and pulses, and Köner’s washed-out frequencies and gelid electronics are as sublime as they are forbidding. An apt reflection of the ruinous impact of human beings on our environment, Novaya Zemlya is desolate, but not inhospitable. A tenuous thread of melody lies within, as fragile as nature’s own battle to survive.