With this icy and ambient debut, Calufrax lives up to the "mean little planet" of its name.
So we’re going to get really, really nerdy for a moment here. In a 1978 Doctor Who serial called “The Pirate Planet” (you were warned), space pirates have become interested in a cold, uninhabited planet called Calufrax because of its deposits of extremely rare minerals (voolium and madranite one-five). The Doctor becomes involved when the planet turns out to be one of the fragments of the Key of Time, cloaked and disguised as a featureless and lifeless world. The wetness, iciness, and general nastiness of the world’s environment cause the Doctor to refer to it as a “mean little planet.”
Calufrax, the ambient black metal band from Toronto that’s taken the planet’s name for its own, has much in common with this small, chilly, and infinitely valuable world. Its origins are similarly unexpected: while the band was founded in 2010, it has no previous releases and no web presence to speak of beyond a Bandcamp page with a single, full-length record, available for PWYC donation. A note indicates that the album was recorded between 2010 and 2013; aside from that, not even the band members are listed.
Despite coming out of nowhere and existing in an online vacuum, The Stolen Earth is a shockingly good record. The balance of distorted feedback and abrasion with melodic structures and shivering moments of clarity is impeccable. The tracks, which are numbered rather than named, are characterized by looping, elliptical patterns that repeat and evolve, giving the record an organic, post-metal feel. The tones and textures, though, are the real stars here, smooth and coarse aural layers that create moments of sublimity through their friction and juxtaposition.
A lonely, lovely musical planet, gliding through its own orbit and possessing a surprisingly strong gravitational pull, The Stolen Earth features exactly the kind of unexplored musical topography that is deeply exciting to discover.