A nice surprise in the post yesterday, when a big box full of their beautiful CDs, records and cassettes turned up from Natural Snow Buildings. Seeing these actual objects for the first time – as opposed to just hearing their rapturous music – confirmed that they were as beautiful as their reputation suggested, further proving the meticulous craft and care with which Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte go about their work.

A nice surprise in the post yesterday, when a big box full of their beautiful CDs, records and cassettes turned up from Natural Snow Buildings. Seeing these actual objects for the first time – as opposed to just hearing their rapturous music – confirmed that they were as beautiful as their reputation suggested, further proving the meticulous craft and care with which Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte go about their work.



It also reminded me that I ought to post the piece I wrote for the magazine a couple of months ago, since I’ve never blogged properly about this extraordinary band. Here goes:

A little before Christmas, a Bristol friend visited London to see a French duo who were supporting Fennesz and Grouper. The duo went under the name of Natural Snow Buildings and, to be honest, I’d never heard of them before. This wasn’t entirely surprising. Natural Snow Buildings may have released a formidable number of albums (way into double figures) over the past decade. But most of their albums have only surfaced in tiny numbers: “The Winter Ray” was reputedly limited to just 15 copies; “Daughters Of Darkness”, a set of cassette tapes totalling six hours of music (heartily recommended by a correspondent here, incidentally) ran to 150.

Even for a small cult band, this sort of behaviour looks on the surface like bloody-minded elitism. Maybe, though, Natural Snow Buildings are pioneering a newish model of disseminating music, where an obsessive few can purchase (by all accounts) exquisite, hand-crafted limited editions, and the rest of us are implicitly permitted to hunt down free downloads of the music. It’s not a business model that will guarantee a young band a lucrative career comparable to, say, that of The Pigeon Detectives. But for a generation of underground musicians content to let their work spread organically and discreetly, who have a realistic understanding that they’re not going to make fortunes by pursuing their music, it must start looking both artful and pragmatic.

That said, after having been furnished with a dozen or so Natural Snow Buildings albums, I’d be very happy to see them receive some more publicity and acclaim, because large tranches of their catalogue sound quite gorgeous. This great, fragile avalanche of music has a cumulative impact, and it might not be until you’ve worked your way through a few of their records that their charm really emerges. My current favourite, “The Snowbringer Cult” (a 2CD set on Students Of Decay from 2008, extending to an unimaginably profligate 1,000 copies), is a fine example of what the couple – Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte – do.

Disc One showcases Gularte’s solo project, Isengrind, then Ameziane’s, TwinSisterMoon. Gularte works with brackish, delicate ambient drones, reminiscent of Popol Vuh, fuzzy ‘90s outriders Flying Saucer Attack and Matt Valentine’s forerunners of the US free folk scene, Tower Recordings. Ameziane, meanwhile, favours brittle folk songs, which he sings in an uncanny whisper that’s close in tone and spirit to that of Vashti Bunyan. On Disc Two, the pair hook up, balancing the two strains of noise and singer-songwriter craft with an elegance that reminds me of PG Six’s early work (an alumnus of Tower Recordings, as it happens).

As you’ve probably intuited, an ineffable air of preciousness hovers around Natural Snow Buildings, compounded by their song titles – “The Bones Of A Raven’s Meal”, “The Spears Of The Wolfe”, “Slayer Of The King Of Hell”, “Ghost Pathway Toward Midgard” – which suggest Gularte and Ameziane learned English from a libraryful of lurid, sub-Tolkien fantasy novels. Amazingly, though, a plausible mystique endures, too – and not just because original copies of their albums are as rare as sacred artefacts. Have a look around for their music, and let me know what you think.