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Ildjarn-Nidhogg > Hardangervidda part 2 > Reviews > BM_DM
Ildjarn-Nidhogg - Hardangervidda part 2

Ambient music that irritates rather than relaxes - 30%

BM_DM, January 2nd, 2008

I always admired Ildjarn's contrarian spirit: originally the epitome of lo-fi black metal noise, he ended his project's active tenure with the two 'Hardangervidda' ambient keyboard-only works. A number of posthumous releases followed, gathering together unreleased tracks and collecting other hard-to-find rarieties, but the ambient works effectively marked the end of Ildjarn's recording career.

'Hardangervidda Part 2' begins with two brief overture pieces that neither marry, nor complement each other. Both are under a minute long. The first is a wash of spacey synth strings that stops abruptly and jarringly, whilst the second 'breathes' in and out. Both feature similar synth voices for all parts, and whilst it could be argued that this is to the benefit of ambient pieces rather than their detriment, the fact that one halts so quickly completely destroys any effect along these lines that may have been intended. The overarching impression that these introductions leave the listener with is that the release would have been better served by choosing either overture, extending it by a minute or so, and junking the other. 'Highlands, part 1' is the longest track on this brief work at a shade over six and a half minutes, and is probably its most engaging element. A piece of evocative mood music, its held chords are built over a slow-moving bass part, with a gentle, lilting melody line meandering up and down the clef. The subsequent track, ostensibly the previous work's second part, is short and underdeveloped.

The fifth track, 'Spring', features a sprightly, echoing clean guitar refrain built around echo and reverb-drenched picked chords. I note that this release is billed as being keyboard-only, and therefore assume that this is a guitar voice on a synthesizer, although it really doesn't sound like a digital instrument. Either way, its technical precision is noteworthy. If the track really is keyboard-only, then the exactness of the digital synth’s voice is an amusing jest on Ildjarn's part in view of the tone adopted in his analogue black metal recordings. Conversely, if the piece does feature real guitar work, then it is further evidence that Ildjarn adopted the slouching style associated with his black metal releases for aesthetic reasons alone.

'The Troll Dome' is the only track on the release to feature any sort of percussion, namely a single bass pedal triplet, repeated metronomically, with one or two cymbal hits. A number of objectionable elements mar this track. It is built around a single sustained single synth chord, heavily flanged to add some variety, which quickly becomes irritating. A trance-like bass break heralds the arrival of a bass line which to me is totally out of place in the context of the release as a whole. The track is topped off with a melody line that has been treated so heavily that it sounds like a steel drum. The whole thing is no more than an ugly excrescence that blights the entire release. 'Hardangervidda Part 2' ends with a brief track featuring a descending chord pattern on a prominent church organ voice with a few synthesizer washes over the top.

'Hardangervidda Part 2' was billed as an Ildjarn-Nidhogg collaboration, but the listener can only speculate as to who contributed what. It is possible that both musicians recorded elements of this release as live improvisation, which would be in keeping with much of the work's lack of structure, but I have never read whether this was indeed the case.

It has always interested me that black metal bands who record ambient releases are usually indulged by their listeners, with such releases generally attracting more tolerant or indifferent reactions than scornful ones. Such works can indeed offer a refreshing counterpoint to the aural assault of the other entries in their oeuvres, and the mollifying symbolic force of nature within the genre is as worthy of acknowledgement as its violent one. 'Hardangervidda Part 2', however, is a pretty shoddy release. If you take away 'Highlands Part 1' and 'Spring', you are left with four brief musical doodles and the piece of fetid refuse that is 'The Troll Dome'. Even Ildjarn completists will wonder why they bothered seeking out when they listen to it.