Elegi's follow-up to Sistereis is the polar exploration-themed Varde, a gorgeous dark ambient gem focused around the failures of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and other explorers. Improving on the style set forth on Sistereis in every way, Varde is a cinematically poignant trip through pristine and barren lands.
Noticeably less heavy than the waterlogged Sistereis, Varde brings a crisp new sound full of brittle footsteps and wide-open ice shelves. The compositions have been fine-tuned with a greater sense of direction, progressing smoothly despite the crackling layers that build up. Piano and violin diffuse quickly in the chill atmosphere, disappearing over glaciatic groans. Leather and metal creak under strain; landscapes slide past in a shimmering haze. It's a delicate vision fraught with unease. Take the track "Angekok" and its slurring, reversed gasps - struggling and crying, a failed explorer, a lost child-cub blunders desperately in frigid, desolate conditions. Or "Rak," with its mourning violins set to the drumbeat of splitting ice. Each song is unique and fascinating, perfectly aligned with the others yet still memorable. Nothing on this album breaks the mood.
While the feel is certainty different, this would go excellently alongside some Northaunt if you really want to feel the chill. Driven by a purposeful calm, Varde is a nigh flawless album; powerful yet tranquil, full of the majesty found in extreme cold. Elegi has set the bar high for ambient material this year.
Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]