5 February 2008

An homage to NATO?

Icebreaker International (somtimes they are called Icebreaker) have made two concept albums, "Distant Early Warning" and "Trein Maersk: A Report to the NATOarts Board of Directors". DEW is an homage to the "distant early warning system". During the cold war, radar stations along the coast of Canada and Alaska were set up to protect the North American continent from Soviet missiles and (later) to monitor Soviet air activity. Some of the stations were decommissioned after the cold war but others are still functioning.

Being an album about the cold war and the arctic surroundings of the Alaskan coast, the music of DEW is stripped-down, icy, droning electronica/post-rock (don't worry, it's not of the GSYBE! proportion). Some songs are dominated by the mere humming sound of, supposedly, radar signals, while other compositions contain a various assortment of instrument. The music is abstract without being boring and the theme is very well developed and illustrated by the sonic world of the album.

The second album, "Trein Maersk", is, according to this site, the result of the two members' trip on the container ship Trein Maersk to various international sea ports. From the website (NATOarts): "Their mission, as specified by the NATOarts Board of Directors, was to produce an audio report that would promote free international trade." Is this a joke? Are they leftists trying to depict the sound of a global economy? Take a look at the web site and there's no doubt about it. "Trein Maersk" is a more diverse record than the first, more upbeat as well. Some songs even express a frenzy delirious state. It's hard to explain why I actually like this band. The music, especially on "Trein Maersk" is somewhat repulsive, but for me that repulsiveness is suitable for making something of the theme - free trade and the global economy. I was returning to Turku after Christmas, killing time on the horrendous Viking Line. Trying to get some sleep, in the state of half-drunkenness, I was listening to "Trein Maersk" in headphones. That was a great experience. (I'm being phenomenological again.)

"Mr. Break and Mr. Perls hope that this document [Trein Maersk] will serve as a tool to open national markets to free and unfettered global exchange." (From NATOarts) And:

"NATOarts is an international arts organization which seeks to promote global security and stability through the exhibition of works of conceptual art. It is governed by a nineteen-member board of directors, with representation from each of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states."

My immediate reaction when reading this is that the current ideology of international free trade is compared to the rhetoric of the cold war, with the effect of parody. The point here is perhaps that the "free trade" frenzy is no less ideological than anti-soviet propaganda during the height of the cold war.

No comments: