By: Ginnia Cheng

Tunturia | website | facebook |   soundcloud |

Released on September 22, 2014 via Oxide Tones

There are few bands that have historically fit into the category of “ambient post-rock” as perfectly as Canadian musical collective Tunturia.

Known for having a traditional post-rock line-up that differentiates themselves from the reams of Explosions in the Sky copycats through their occasional use of distortion and noise, Tunturia first stormed the scene in 2007 with their ambitious undertaking Maps. A 10 song album aiming to explore the cultural, historical and social issues of different world regions, Maps put Tunturia on critics’ lists of post-rock artists to watch. Their next album, the six-tracked ambience-filled Invisible City, gained Tunturia somewhat of a loyal cult following despite being met with mixed reviews.

After three years, the band has returned with their shortest record yet – Halls of Sky.  A departure from their pure ambient post-rock samples, this five-track album marks their most complex release to date, incorporating vocals for the first time on top of their instrumental base. Fans who are worried this will fundamentally change Tunturia’s essence needn’t be – the band weaves vocals into the music as if it were just another instrument. The album’s title track follows the band’s traditional sound, as does ‘And There Goes A Child Of The Universe, No Less Than The Trees’ – both filled with melodic post-rock riffs and ambient samples.

However, the band has also turned up its use of experimental noise. Heavy distortion and overdrive marks the climaxes of the album’s first track ‘Ritual’ and ‘Is It For All Time This Feeling of Joy’, and the closing ‘Dark Summer Dawn’ even ventures into metal/prog territory with both the guitars and vocals adding layers of grit to the band’s ambient roots. Ending the whole album with a growling whisper and forceful, jarring guitar riffs, it’s almost as if Tunturia are sending listeners a message that they’re moving on from what their identity stood for, and they’re doing so proudly.

Tunturia’s hardcore following will no doubt laud this album as an impressive feat showing the band’s growth. Unfortunately, the album as a whole feels like it’s lacking in purpose and direction. One could argue that given Tunturia describes themselves as purveyors of the “exploration of sound”, to that end, they’ve absolutely achieved what they set out to do. But perhaps because Maps was such an incredible undertaking, and as the lengths of their albums grow shorter and shorter, it feels like Tunturia are moving backwards in their musical journey. While Halls of Sky is still a beautiful, haunting album, the band’s previous work seems to contain much more depth and evocation despite being instrumentally less complex.

The record deserves a listen and is certainly not one to be disappointed in if you’re an existing Tunturia fan. But for those who weren’t already, I’m not sure this is the album that will turn you into one.

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