I really think Radio Massacre International is simply one of the finest electronic acts since Tangerine Dream in their glory days. Frozen North is RMI's debut, from 1995, and I wondered why these guys passed my radar scope for all these years? It wasn't until 2007 when I discovered these guys, when I heard how their music was described, and purchased Emissaries (2005) and was not one bit disappointed. So of course, I had to purchase many of their CDs and CD-Rs. I would have probably had a much easier time purchasing their back catalog had I knew them since Frozen North came out in late '95.
How did RMI pull off such a great debut? Simple: they already had over a decade and a half experience. In the 1980s, the group was previously called DAS, without the guitar input of Gary Houghton (DAS stood for Duncan and Steve, that is Duncan Goddard and Steve Dinsdale). With the probable exception of a privately issued cassette in 1980 called Earthdeath, no other DAS material surfaced at the time, although some of their stuff did surface on the occasional RMI release, like much of the first disc of the Lost in Space CD-R box set and the last cut on Zabriskie Point. So the group was more than prepared when they came up with Frozen North.
The group wasn't exactly the most modest of guys out there. They often had a habit of doing extended compositions that can last up to nearly an hour long. And for a debut, it was a double CD, but they had enough great material to warrant such a thing. They obviously took full advantage of the CD, something TD obviously couldn't do back in the '70s, since CDs didn't exist, so they had to stick to the time constraint of the vinyl LP, meaning many of their compositions like that of Rubycon were interrupted by Part One and Part Two for each side of the LP. RMI rarely had to worry about having to cut a composition short thanks to the CD. They are certain to please every fan of electronic music who felt this kind of music really went off the tracks by going all New Age on us by the mid '80s. RMI took matters into their own hands, seeing as a group like Tangerine Dream was more interested in dishing out albums like Underwater Sunlight (where a decade before they were giving us tons of great classics like Phaedra, Rubycon, and Ricochet). Steve Dinsdale and Duncan Goddard handled the keyboard duties, and between the two, they used lots of analog gear, including the Mellotron! Not to mention the sequencers, which they put to great use on many of the cuts here. And play it safe New Age this is not! And I shouldn't forget Gary Houghton, whose guitar playing was obviously inspired by Edgar Froese, but more interesting than Froese's in my opinion (I thought Froese did much more interesting Mellotron work than guitar). A lot of the music tends to have that sinister feel, something that New Age acts would simply shy away. The first disc has relatively shorter cuts, with two cuts around 20 minutes, and three around the 7-8 minute range. You get treated with lots of sinister sounding ambient passages with lots of great synths and Mellotron (including the choir), then the sequencers kick in, giving reminders of Tangerine Dream during their mid '70s glory. The second disc consists of two extended cuts, one over 28 minutes, the other being over 40 minutes. Now this stuff is more typical of many of their CD-R's, such as 1997's Burned & Frozen, with a much more ambient feel, although the sequencers still kick in, it's nowhere as dominate as the shorter pieces on the first disc.
I nearly forgot to mention, not too long after this two CD set came out, RMI appeared on MTV's Party Zone. I was just wondering how on Earth they got on that program? Much of MTV's audience has a very short attention span, and RMI's music is hardly recommended for those with short attention spans (given the lengthy compositions, and the fact the band never had the idea of Top 40 in their minds). I'm accustomed to the mindless fluff that MTV usually pushes, so I can imagine quite a few bewildered teenagers when RMI appeared on the show and became the only group on that program to perform without a discernible beat, not to mention the very trippy sound, the heavy use of Mellotron, and often sinister atmosphere they conjured. That proved right away they were never to bend to MTV even if they appeared on that channel. And they proved that time and time again with all those following CDs and CD-Rs, not to mention in more recent times signing up with Cuneiform Records, which is hardly a label with commercial inclinations (not with all the prog rock, RIO, Canterbury, and experimental albums they issued).
Frozen North is such an amazing CD that you're going to want many of their other releases. I haven't heard everything they done, but I do highly recommend Republic (1996, their followup to Frozen North), Diabolica (1997, their second CD-R, consisting largely of Frozen North outtakes), Hog Wild (2005), Emissaries (2005), Septentrional (2006, their collaboration with Ian Boddy), and their most recent CD-R, Blacker (2007). Also recommended, although very different from what they usually do is Rain Falls in Grey (2007), where they do a space rock album (and succeed big time), dominated by guitar, in honor of Syd Barrett.
Really, if you can get a hold of Frozen North, I suggest you do so, that CD, as well as many of their other releases I mentioned are simply some of the finest electronic music of recent times you'll ever hear!