ABOUT three miles southeast of Land's End you’ll find the tiny hamlet of Porthgwarra, a little piece of perfection on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. Here, you can rent the beautiful Corner Cottage at the top of Porthgwarra Cove, which Poldark fans will, to a man (or, more probably, to a woman), recognise as the site where the pilchards were landed in that famous series that did so much to popularise scything and the tricorn hat.

Here, as you lay in bed, listening to the sea and the wind, you could, until very recently, hear a low moaning sound that periodically rolled across the noisy silence with a ghostly, melancholic presence. This was the sound of the Runnel Stone buoy, warning ships away from a submerged rock that has accounted for many shipwrecks over the years. I thought I heard it again on Saturday, at Basingstoke’s Anvil Theatre, of all places. Let me explain. 

The Terje Isungset Ice Quartet are a Norwegian band unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or heard, before. Probably stylistically uncategorisable, they play instruments made of polar ice and a form of music that seeks to evoke the natural world. 

Dressed in parkas and thick woollen gloves, we have a harpist, a double bass player, and Terje himself playing percussion and ice horns. It was the bass player who kicked things off with that long, drawn-out note that put me in mind of the Runnel Stone buoy, before being joined by Terja, beating what looked like a huge, upturned “Slush Puppie”, whilst providing rhythmic syncopation by using his left foot to stir yet more ice.

The sound is ethereal and evocative, with such a minimalistic, generic quality that you begin to ponder the very origins of music itself. It’s at once simple yet technically complex, challenging yet easy listening, with more traditionally melodic interludes provided by Terje playing ice xylophone or tubular ice bells, and the sweet, steepling Enja-like voice of the band’s elfin songstress. And throughout all this, the instruments melt and drip, themselves a metaphor for the global warming Terje is keen to highlight. 

Their last number was called Ocean Memories, a piece written specifically for Greenpeace, a fitting end to a remarkable concert that entertained whilst highlighting polar climate changes. And, thanks to those long, eerie bass notes, no ships were wrecked in Basingstoke on Saturday night.

Chris Parkinson-Brown