One of my absolute music highlights in 2019 was discovering the amazing Lars Meijer, aka Hunter Complex. I know Lars has been putting out incredible albums under the Hunter Complex moniker for almost a decade, but I wasn’t aware of the musical world of HC until the end of 2018. Well, technically I’d seen the name Hunter Complex and the album title Open Sea on Death Waltz Originals obi strips for quite a long time. This only intensified the mystery surrounding the band for me. It was December of 2018 when I first heard Open Sea and I was immediately floored. It had all the beautifully captivating synth tones of some lost 80s pop record, but with it there was an air of mystery. Something I hadn’t yet heard but felt right at home with. It was an exquisite piece of sonic magic that I played on repeat until the vinyl arrived in January of 2019. It stayed on the platter for weeks. It never left my ears, and ended up being my favorite record of 2019.
When talking to Lars back in January of 2019 he’d stated that there was going to be a “part two” of sorts being released. It was an album that was recorded at the same time as Open Sea, so sort of a sister record. That album has arrived. Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is every bit as engaging and gorgeous as Open Sea, but despite being made during the same recording process they do carry different emotional qualities. Dead Calm and Zero Degrees feels like a night out in the wilderness; chill in the air and a heightened awareness to the bright lights and glowing horizon. Dance beats and seductive melodies give way to moments of melancholy and rapturous joy. Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is the story that leads to Open Sea, and what a story it is.
Dead Calm and Zero Degrees ends with the rain you hear that opens Open Sea in the track “Night City”, so there’s a continuity here that feels like one epic night of music bliss. I’m excited to cue them up together and get lost in 90 minutes of this sonic world that Hunter Complex has created for us. Lars Meijer truly has outdone himself with these albums, and splitting them up into two records makes it twice as nice. Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is an album to lose yourself in.
We enter on title track “Dead Calm and Zero Degrees”, a decidedly darker vibe than what came before. Meijer is a master of sonic coloring and he paints us a bold and mysterious view; something futuristic and steely. His cyberpunk inspiration comes thru here. It’s a world that Open Sea invited us into. “Bitter Cold”, despite its title, has a warmth to it. Bright percussion, warm synth and joyous keys sound inviting. “Steel Dynamics” has a fantastical feel to it. Bits of Vangelis and Mark Isham shine through here, giving the song both a familiar and alien vibe. It’s quite stunning.
Elsewhere, “Blue Tornado” lies in exquisite beauty as synth strings bring us into bright focus as drums and bass give the song a muscular kick. “Fragile Flyers” is a funky song eliciting both 80s staples OMD and Harold Faltermeyer, but through the Hunter Complex filter. “June Gloom” is slow motion beauty. I’m reminded of Disintegration-era Cure at first, but there’s more emphasis on sunlight and brighter days than Robert Smith would’ve ever allowed. “Star Crash” closes out the record in an extravagant ballet of sound and vision. This might be the most gorgeous thing I’ve heard in a good long while, a baroque display of melody, pomp and circumstance, and just enough drama to pull you in until the rain takes us out.
Listening to the excellent Dead Calm and Zero Degrees I’m reminded of electronic pioneers like Wendy Carlos, Vangelis, Rüdiger Lorenz, and Jan Hammer. They echo among the beauty that Hunter Complex has created here. Lars Meijer takes his influences and inspirations and turns them into his own unique sonic palate. Like a painter mixing colors to create his own hues, giving us quite the picture to behold. Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is museum-worthy piece.
8.7 out of 10