Arctic Fever (Full Album)

by Katie Metcalfe / Crown Of Asteria

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1.
Our Circle Is Contaminated This is not our ice. This is not our weather. Our circle is contaminated. We eat meat needled with toxins, breathe air infected with heat. In the spirit world, the ice is thick again and clean. The drums, dances and stories which held the ice together, have fallen silent. Waves are changing shape. I can no longer draw a map from memory, for the land changes faster than I can blink. At night the ocean screams. We sit up, afraid to fall asleep, afraid we'll wake with water where our lungs should be. Three moons ago, I came face to face with Nanuq, as the last light thumbed its way across the sky. I could smell his rotting teeth. His eyes were all fear. He lay down before me and died. The old ways disappeared with his final breath. I left him there, rocking gently on melting ice, black water licking at his nose.
2.
Mother Ice Bear Mother ice bear has never betrayed the North. Yet we curse her, push her towards a dark unknown of open water. The seals have oil in their eyes. She can see their souls are departing. They smell of decay, not sustenance, not life. Mother keeps her cubs herded close, barks when then try to explore a trembling ice floe off the shore. She chases an Arctic fox. He's been following them for months. She loses him to the sea. There is more noise in the arctic now, icebergs cracking, the sea roaring when it ought to be whispering. Mother would walk with authority across the ice, now she moves with apprehension. She is weighted with sadness, can't ignore how thin their shadows are on the snow. They haven't seen blood in days. Her cubs are the first ice bear cubs to feel rain on their tongues They are moving less now, sleeping more while tiny wild flowers grow.
3.
01:44
Moon Whale In the time before the warming, when snow and ice and cold defined us. When seals blood was not dense with poison. Before men who'd never been freezing created precise boundaries. Before it rained during summer. Before Christian names. Before our Shaman had to keep stories hidden. Before whisky, before smokes, before children committed suicide. Before we stopped pinching the hearts of birds. Before we stopped wiping our children clean with our hair, Before Nanook left the land that had forever belonged to him, there lived the moon whale. As long as three men, heavy as two ice bears. My father could make the same special whistles, clicks and knocks. Now the moon whale rots on the sea bed, a memory of a magic this world was too weak for.
4.
People Who Change Nature Do you know what we are afraid of, white man? Do you know what makes us shake in our mothers arms? We're afraid of your power, it pulses like a light too bright. We're afraid of how you attack the portrait of a land like it has always been yours and yours only. We're afraid that the maps we've memorised will have changed so much it'll take more than one generation to memorise new inlets and coves. We're afraid because you've silenced our shaman. Now he looks at the land like he's never before seen it. We're afraid of your separation from the animal world. You people who change nature, your separation is all too complete. There is no going back for you. The north will not be on your side again.
5.
Inuit Teachings The far north is no wasteland. Its ice is all heart, dancing in summer coming together in winter to sleep. Polar bear liver is poisonous but walrus liver is delicious enough to fight over. If you wish to save the feathers of a bird, you'd pinch its heart until it stopped. It takes six seal skins to make a parka for a man. Snow doesn't stick to wolf fur and a drum can be made out of the lung of a whale. When hunting seals, look for shadows in the water. True wisdom is only to be found away from people. The cold effects how you breathe, how you think. If someone's hands become frozen, cut open one of your dogs, shove their hands into the stomach until their fingers can feel again. Remember to allow vulnerability to strengthen your heart and backbone.
6.
Powerful Echo The night you decided not to come back from sleep, I knew. I didn't close my eyes. Instead, I remembered all you had taught me. To turn the polar bear's head to the sun, so he can find his way home. How to keep my chin and cheeks from getting blackened by cold. How to find the base of my grief, manage it with company of friends, my dogs and narwhal meat. You had a smile for death. I heard no gasp of sadness, no struggle, no unwillingness to let go. You went as quietly as a seal from its breathing hole. You taught me that to make a tattoo I would need a bone needle, thread blackened in the soot of a stone oil lamp. You taught me that during pregnancy, a woman should not eat caribou tongue, marrow or innards, nor the front paws of an animal. When I was a child, you recollected how my mother sliced through my umbilical cord with a slither of ice, then licked me clean. How I cried out, demanding a name. You swallowed worlds, regurgitated them as stories, when the sea froze, the days started to get dark and another kind of cold. It has been almost a year since I took the white man's liquorice out from your pockets and shared it with the children. Almost a year since we dressed you in your most beautiful winter garments, carefully placed stones across your body. I have come to you, nearly every day, to talk, softly, about the people, our village. My wife's belly is tight with child. I put my head close, and can hear the powerful echo as he turns. He will have your name.
7.
02:50
Beluga The white whale is hauled ashore, his heavy body leaving deep, blood stained passages in damp shale. I thank this slow swimmer for coming to the coast, for not leaving when the rest of family made for the open sea. As his body relaxes into the sand, the ripped flesh around his open wound flutters. I think of how our organs and skeletons are so similar. I stand and watch my father and grandfather cut into our beached friend. Blood, organs and thick intestines spill into the churning shallows. The dogs bray for the meaty soup, pulling themselves back on their hind legs, their mouths all teeth and dripping gums. This beluga is long, healthy and fat. Plenty will come from his carcass. Anticipation swings about our heads like bear hides drying in the brisk north wind. We are all impatient to eat. I crave the oily taste, its chewy texture the satisfaction that I have been fed by the sea. My father and grandfather work fast. Their knives are sharp, the blades slip soundlessly through the blubber, until all that is left is a memory of a white whale in blood diluted with sea water. We stock the fire with fat, chew cubes of blubber, while mother tells us how she once put her head into ice cluttered water, when her father was busy gutting a seal, and listened to the white ones gather around the ice cap and sing a song of celebration to their creator, Sedna, mother of the deep.
8.
Your Last Howl You understand now, and for the first time in your long life you whine. I remember your opening breath. The sun was but a pale spot in the sky. You sucked your mother’s milk off my fingers. The air is sour with the scent of weeping. We will never venture south, over the sea ice for supplies, then together come home again. You started weak, but are now powerfully built, with an imposing physique. Loyalty, affection, intelligence all run marrow deep, but they know none of this, the mounted police. To them, you’re nothing but a risk, allowing us to roam. They don't know we use your urine for medicine. They don’t understand that dogs equal life. My children have to bury their puppies. You were looking forward to the hunt today, but now your sister miscarries while she dies. Your brother trails blood over the hill as second, third, fourth shots fail to kill. The others have no way to return home. You howl in pain. A bastard in red missed your heart, but takes another suck on a cigarette before he makes you ready for the fire. The smell will draw the bears. The distance for furs and food will be dangerous now, exhausting. I take your fur as they light the first piece of driftwood, and cradle your heavy heart in two hands. In my ears there will always be the echo of your last howl. I have nothing now. I have nothing.
9.
Nanuq Is Gone Gone is Ursus Maritimus, Sea Bear, Isbjorn, Lord of the Arctic, White Bear, Ice Bear, Nanuq. Gone is Seal's Dread, Rider of Icebergs, Whale's Bane, Sailor of the Floe, Tornassuk, White Sea Deer. Gone is Bear of the North, The Ever Wandering One. In the Arctic, the ice is melting, blurring like dirty glass giving way to shimmering heat waves and miles of open water. The skinny Arctic fox waits, flag ears erect. He looks for that familiar silhouette on the horizon. He snaps at air to stop his jaws from weakening. Down wind, bodies of seals quietly rot under an angry sun. We have walked away from our circle, past the tree line. We have shed our parkas, buried the words of our shaman, shot our dogs while looking in the other direction. We are solid, tense and awkward in the new world. Darkness oozes into our open souls, sits on our chests like blood gone bad. The air is becoming sour in the arctic. All life left there grows weaker.
10.
Speak Your Hurts Underneath the constellation of the Great She-Bear, Ursus Maritimus is overheating. The Ever Wandering One used to be the most powerful helping spirits for the shaman of the north lands. Before missionaries. Before shamans were accused of being in league with Satan out there on the ice. When a cub is born, he fits into his mother's paw. In the north, it's so quiet you can hear your internal sounds, the rivers of your blood the trembling mountain of your heart. The Inuit say you ought to speak your hurts, before they're iced in, before they're frozen to your soul.
11.
This Is Not My North Anymore We have betrayed the north, why should she forgive us for what we have done? My dogs know, they have known since the first time my heart fell from my chest, and I needed to gather it back and try to adapt to the new ways. You must know, an Inuit man is nothing without his dogs. I never expected to be gone before them. Back, back before the ice started dying, their fur was carried off by the wind always before their master's last breath. Their wolf songs collect on the wind. I taste their grief on my tongue, I swallow it, I will carry it. My family, my sacred mountains, they cry with no noise. The morning brought seals too many seals. The meat is not how I remember. They are sick, offering themselves in hordes, begging for death. Their eyes are all agony. But I do not want to die hungry, I eat. I chose the floe yesterday, the floe that will take me home to my ancestors. I am surprised it is still there today for the warmth is taking everything it long took away my happiness. My family, my dogs stand on the shore, we watch each other until the skyline is drenched in fog and then I undress I offer my furs my skins to the sea, to Sedna There is rain on my body I have never felt it before now the ice suckles on my skin, the rain, black needles, this is not how it was supposed to be.
12.
The Ice Is Dead No more is the Arctic everlasting cold. The death of the ice has driven us south. We waited until the rain came, until our snow houses thawed and everything we'd ever known blurred into non-existence. We left in boats, crouched, small, tight, afraid. There was nothing above whispers, the screams of our ancestors echoing loudly enough in our ears. We all left, except the elders. There was no other place for their souls than where the ice went. We left them singing to a weak aurora. It was due north always. Now there is no north to go back to. We first tasted disaster when birds with red breasts came, a bird for which the Inuit has no name. When we saw, for the first time, fat grizzlies touching noses with emaciated polar bears. When flowers bloomed earlier, when ice broke up before it should. There were whispers about the permafrost, that it had been disturbed and there was no more time to put it to sleep When the grease from the meat tasted like chemicals. When the air was choked with the sound of gulls. When there was open water everywhere. Everything ancient went to fast, Nanook, the moon whale, the walrus. The north is dead now. Some say that in the Arctic, nothing is ever really lost, but they're wrong. The cold is never coming back.

about

Arctic Fever is a spoken word/dark ambient album featuring the poetry of Katie Metcalfe intertwined with the music of Crown of Asteria.

Centered around the thawing of the Arctic, Arctic Fever portrays how the catastrophic changes are impacting the peoples, flora and fauna of the far north.

While the listener will have an insight into what is happening now in the north, they will also have the opportunity to envisage what life was like at the top of the world, before the Arctic was cursed with whisky, organised religion, diseases and heat.

Arctic Fever is a homage to the Arctic, and all who dwell there, those who are experiencing, in real time, the sea ice lessen, the permafrost weaken and the north they have forever known disappear.

credits

released December 21, 2017

All words by Katie Metcalfe. All music by Meghan Wood. Artwork by Katie and Meghan.

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Katie Metcalfe England, UK

Too weird for most people.

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