This is not to say, of course, that I find this in the least unappealing—quite the contrary. As anyone who has ever looked at photographs of Arctic landscapes can attest, there is a stark beauty present in such regions. The same can quite clearly be said about the music of Thisquietarmy. Despite superficial impressions of a near-insubstantial fragility about this, there is nevertheless a pervasive frisson of menace and danger lurking within. Therein, I would tout, lies the very source of both its surprisingly radiant beauty and hidden strength, that inherent ability to mesmerise and transfix while simultaneously over-awing and intimidating. It is a delicate balancing act to be sure, but Quach never makes the mistake of letting one element override the other. Each has an important role to play, and it is the careful interplay and co-operation of these elements that ultimately contributes to the final success of the whole.
Unlike a lot of similar guitar-, effects-, and sample-based shoegazing ambient drone music, the music on Unconquered is never allowed to become boring or self-indulgent. No long stretches of static drone here—instead layers of sound ebb and flow, just like ice-floes floating serenely on a gently lapping Arctic sea. Sounds emerge slowly and shyly into the light and eventually supersede, resulting in new textures and colors coming to the fore. However, the feeling of frigid isolation under a vast hemisphere of unblemished azure never leaves. The weight of unbearable loneliness has very rarely been portrayed so accurately in sound.
Quach, aided by the guitar of Aidan Baker, declares his manifesto with the opener “Immobilization.” Drifting in almost gently from left-field to hover above the untrammelled icescape, it eventually becomes a seething blizzard of deadly cold presaging the intensity of that freezing isolationism hinted at above. Horizons bounded by snow and ice can easily be envisaged, the crushing grind of glaciers, and the pinprick sharpness of the unpolluted star-studded night sky. Above all, I get the feeling of substantial weight and physical solidity bearing down, ready to crush and destroy. “The Sun Destroyers” weaves a tapestry of a twilit world of half-seen and fuzzy shapes in an uncertain landscape, reflecting and echoing an uncertainty of whether they represent danger or not. Mid-tempo percussion amid sweeping, swirling fuzztones broadcast shivers to the receiver that was my spine.
This is a deeply meditative, holistic album, giving color, shape, and substance to a world caught in the margin between the light and the darkness. Ranging over a wide spectrum of sonic textures, from pure dronefields to acoustic strumming, and from fuzzed-out harmonic blankets to shimmering hazes augmented by the ethereal vocals of Meryem Yildiz, Unconquered represents a veritable cornucopia of riches. That it is the vision of one man heightens the experience all the more.