1 Welcome to the White Lands
2 Aurora Mirabilis
3 If Snow Could Sing, It Would Sing of the Sky
4 Bergs on Parade
5 Deep Dreams at the End of the Earth
6 Slow Sunrise
7 Echoes of Snowsong
Hyperaurea – Ghosts of the Ice
2 Endurance in Monochrome
3 Melting Mountains
4 Ghosts of the South
6 Deep Weather (for the Oceans under the Ice)
Hyperaurea – Southern Stars
1 Polaris Australis
Genres: Ambient, Electronic, Environmental
RIYL: Brian Eno, Goldmund, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Patrick O’Hearn
In February 2017, theAdelaidean travelled on an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship to Casey Research Station, four thousand kilometres south of Perth, Australia. There, he engaged with the people and places that make the Far South one of the most unique environments on Earth. Under his real name (writer Sean Williams), he responded in words to the intense emotional, physical and spiritual experiences gained there.
With Hyperaurea he reaches beyond words to expand on those accounts. Using ambient sounds – piano, drones, and textures evoking weather and human activities – theAdelaidean evokes the timeless, dreamlike nature of life and death on the ice.
Across almost four hours, Hyperaurea charts a course through the ice, sky, water, weather and rock of a precious and hostile landscape that few people ever visit. Antarctica is a vast source of creativity, where the visual palette is naturally limited to whites, blacks and blues: colours that this musical tribute evokes through a similarly spare assemblage of sound.
Hyperaurea is broken into three expansive chapters: Echoes of Antarctica, Ghosts of the Ice, and Southern Stars. Each musical exploration maps its own response to different aspects of the last frontier on Earth: human and non-human phenomena; a pervasive sense of transience and mortality; and the constellations that unite the continent under a single, infinite sky.
At times warm and human, at other times angular and alien, Hyperaurea responds: through pulsing, layered chords to slow seasonal change in a land where there are no trees or flowers; to the confines of an outpost surrounded by vast tracks of nature rarely seen by human eyes by subtle inversions and reversals in pitch and tone; to rhythms of station life that can be thrown at any moment into chaos by weather; to the extremes of endless day and endless night swept by freezing winds over ice that never melts; and to the haunted memories of those who came before. Half-glimpsed melodies and motifs emerge from and fade back into harmonies and soundscapes that are themselves elusive, creating a lingering account of theAdelaidean’s voyage through a land that exists in a precarious relationship with people—who have walked its changing vistas for barely a century and even from afar, through global climate change, threaten its existence.
As explained in more detail in the accompanying 23-page booklet, which includes photos taken during theAdelaidean’s expedition, the word “hyper-aurea” means “beyond south”, hinting at spaces over the lip of the conventional world. This is the soundtrack of theAdelaidean’s exploration of those spaces.
For forty years, as theAdelaidean and under his own name, bestselling author Sean Williams has undertaken deeply personal aural explorations that, following the great spiral of life, draw heavily on sources and techniques that inspired him in his youth. Alongside his 10 albums for Projekt Records, he composed original music for the multi-artform dance work Bárbaros which debuted in 2023 as part of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s 50th anniversary program.
Cover art: Katie Cavanagh
Reviews Editor –
From Dave Aftandilian (at Bandcamp):
Crystalline, fragile, and moving portrait of both the peace and peril found in Antarctica. Often the music expresses a sense of hushed awe and wonder at the breathtaking icy landscape. I feel like I am floating suspended between sky and sea in a realm of perpetual becoming. There is also a wonderful slowness here that we can learn from ice: a patient waiting that allows us to witness each moment and the evolving changes from one to the next fully.
Reviews Editor –
Joint review of In the Key of Sleep and Hyperaurea
Because of its calming and relaxing nature, much of the music that is available in the floating ambient genre is wonderfully suited as accompaniment for slumber. As a practitioner of this for a good 25 years now, I even find it difficult to reach the sleep plateau without those most gentle slowly-evolving sounds emanating from a nearby device, be it a stereo, computer, or even an open window on a warm summer night — a throwback to when I was a teenager living in the deserts of southern Callifornia — those singing crickets at night are positively hypnotic. Throughout the years, we have reviewed numerous releases where the composer has outright stated that the intention of their piece is to help the listener reach the sleep plane. Among these are Brannan Lane’s Sleep Cycle, any of a number of long-form pieces by Steve Roach (Darkest Before Dawn comes to mind immediately), and perhaps best known of all are those pieces by Robert Rich like Somnium and Perpetual, pieces that are so long (hours and hours) that they require a DVD or Blu-Ray to house the music on physical media. TheAdelaidean now offers his best effort with In the Key of Sleep, the title track which is one 65 minute long form piece of gentle electronic minimalism, plus five shorter pieces which are re-imaginings and remixes of portions of the the longer title track, with titles like “Floating,” “Falling,” “Flying,” “Free,” and “Flux” that could be played in that order or shuffled up any way you like. The important thing is that this music gets the job done, calming the nerves and clearing the mind; if it doesn’t then you’ve probably had too many espressos.
The more recent release is Hyperaurea: Echoes of Antarctica, effectively a near-four hour program (although it seems it will only be available as a download for the time being), and it too is a floating ambient construction, maybe a little more gritty than In the Key of Sleep, and punctuated with more what might be termed distractions, but for the slumber-seeker, these three ‘discs’ will likely do the trick as well. The album’s three ‘discs’ are subtitled Echoes of Antarctica (seven tracks), Ghosts of the Ice (seven more tracks), and Southern Stars (one extended long-form piece, a little over an hour in length), fifteen cuts in all if one listens to them sequentially. The back story of this album is even more interesting: In early 2017 Sean Williams (who is theAdelaidean) travelled to Antarctica on an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship to Casey Research Station. Being one of the most unique and desolate environments on the planet, he wrote of the intense emotional, physical and spiritual experiences he gained during his time there. With Hyperaurea, he translates his experiences into ambient sounds using electronic drones, textures, and occasional piano to convey the sparse, dreamlike nature of life and death on a frozen world of ice. Definitely a unique experience to draw inspiration from, one that few recording artists might ever get a chance to know. The accompanying booklet (24 pages in pdf) contains a volume of information and photos, with stories and notes related to each track. Stark, extreme, and beautiful as it may be, Hyperaurea is a unique sonic experience. -Peter Thelen