The snow shovels heard at the beginning of the album are both carving out a path and digging a grave. The voyage is doomed.
What is it about out information-saturated, overpopulated, and ever-conflicting globalized intersociety that has made us produce so many works in recent years about the aesthetic enticement of aggressively desolate self-imposed isolation? Elegi’s Varde is hardly a reactionary piece, but it is a lonely island unto itself. The work is a sonic travelogue of the 1912 voyage of Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole. Polar expeditions of this sort were likely funded by imperialists looking for resources to exploit using adventurers looking to further the scope of human civilization, but one has to wonder why some one would voluntarily participate in such a treacherous mission. Regardless of the purpose of the trip, to go further or to get richer, what Scott found is vividly and bleakly represented in the dank gloom of this album.
Elegi’s Tommy Jansen uses 20th century avant-garde modalities and a surrealist Foley’s touch in the production studio to carve out the soundtrack. Rote, simplistic piano and elegiac violins dominate amidst drones of mysterious organs, but it’s the shivering winds, distant screams, Morse code bleeps, Inuit chants, squeals, squeaks, and buried phonographs, which evoke the Caretaker, that address the hinterland at its barren core. That Scott’s trip was a failure in every regard- the southernmost pole had been marked months before Scott arrived and his entire group froze to death before returning home- strips the album of any pretense of a dramatic arch or the hope of a weathered survival. Hence, the album does not swell or surge as traditional albums do. It simply drifts, and drifts some more, into the eternal loneliness of hell. Varde is a horrifying panorama that manipulates the ears like the emptiness of ice must deceive the mind.