Navel – Im Norden
11.13.2023 by Ryan Masteller
Astral ambient folk duo Navel has been around longer than you probably realize, dropping a self-released CDr called Neill back in 1998, when most of you were still wearing short pants and stumbling over your stumpy toddler legs. (I was in college.) Of course, all that time’s just allowed them to marinate and perfect their imaginative stargazey meditations, and in 2023 we’re lucky to have a new tape, Im Norden, out on the massively excellent Stuttgart label Cosmic Winnetou, run by one of my favorite ambient artists going, Günter Schlienz. And while “Gage” and “Floyd” are the driving forces behind Navel’s guitar/piano/synth krautrock experiments, decidedly on the mellow tip, those aren’t their real names. Without spoiling the secret, I’ll give you a hint about one of them: Im Norden is out on Cosmic Winnetou. The rest is up to you.
Navel itself had taken a little break, with its last releases Ambient 2 (2019) and Gnome’s Pond (2018) predating the pandemic. The time, then, for Navel is NOW. And it couldn’t have come at a better moment for me, personally, as I needed the great reminder that I could throw on a pair of headphones and get lost in something whose motto is “there’s more space in northern nights, you can even see it in the flaring lights.” I don’t know what that means, but I love it! The keywords, surely optimized for search engines – “space,” “north,” “night,” “light” – strike all the right epic post-band chords, predicting the cavernous sounds and extended notes Navel traffic in. Take “Tune Into the Nautical Dawn,” for instance, a fully ambient-ized atmospheric creation with wooden creaks and staticky spoken samples interrupting hazy tonal drift prior to light breaking in the predawn east.
I sank most completely into side B, whose “Point Sirius Observatory at Mornings” – seriously, the language of the track titles! – pairs energizing synth billows with strummed acoustic guitar to fully encapsulate the exact aural accompaniment to anything called “Point Sirius Observatory at Mornings.” And observe I did, my own mind and aura, as “The Lighthouse Fair” and “Tenebris Lux” (darkness light) expanded upon these feelings and transcended me to somewhere I could only float, touch nothing, and expand from within. It had me thinking to myself stuff like, “Ah, of course, breathing is easy!” as if I’d never put that concept together before in my life. I don’t even think about breathing normally!
Chalk it up then as another win for Navel, as another slam dunk for Cosmic Winnetou, as another grand slam for my soul. Ferro tape, home-dubbed in real time, edition of 50.