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Distant Early Warning


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Album Review

Simon Break and Alexander Perls' first geopolitical concept record names itself after the system of radars located in northern Canada and Alaska that were built during the cold war to alert NATO countries of Soviet nuclear strikes. This instrumental song cycle assembled from keyboards, organs, pianos, and a series of drones most resembles the chilled eeriness of Broadcast's most atmospheric side, Steve Reich, or even Brian Eno. Icebreaker are excellent at making such an isolated, barren landscape seem so warm and lulling, placing haunting melodies every so often enough amid the cavernous drones to make the record go down more as an ambient pop record than one that merely fades into the background with whatever incidental noises fill out a room — passing vehicles, chirping birds, creaking floors, appliance hum. "Melody for NATO" — originally found on a split 7" with former associates Piano Magic for Debut — is the disc's opener and the most involving of the eight tracks, built on a fragile, rolling melody that constantly shifts above sensitive percussion. The track gradually dims the way a room does when daylight dissipates, with the melodic tones warping into scratchy AM-interference territory. The duo also knows a thing or two about minimalism. The title track bridges the first and second halves of the record together with a simple one-two piano plod and creepy ambience, like walking through one of the unmanned stations depicted on the cover of the record; "The Track North" places a sickly organ tone upfront while another swirls in the background (sounds like Jon Lord's napping on the keys). Another repetitive keyboard organ hook dominates the closing "Listening Station," which shows what Stereolab could do if they lost the motorik chug and went for a darker sound. Great concept, great record.

Customer Reviews


This is one the best albums ever. Epic but understated. Truly remarkable.


as the previous reviewer wrote this album has its understated moments but beneath lies a tension that not only hints at but explains the chaos of our early 21st-century psychospace. an absolute gem.

a masterpiece!!!

Icebreaker's first album is truly a work of pure tonal art. With the concept of soundscaping music for NATO unmanned early warning radar stations, they have created a feeling and a pesonality for each. One of my fav concept albums ever, this gem far outweighs the second overly produced and gimmicy icebreaker album by lightyears.


Formed: 1996

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

New Yorker Alexander Perls and Londoner Simon Break met each other while Perls was attending school in London, eventually joining up with Glen Johnson in Piano Magic. After leaving the Piano Magic stable, Perls and Break formed the highly conceptual electro-acoustic duo Icebreaker. With funding provided by the NATOarts board of directors, Distant Early Warning was released in September of 1999 through Aesthetics. Like the Rush song of the same name, the record took its name from (and was inspired...
Full Bio
Distant Early Warning, Icebreaker
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