Album Review: Northerner
Album: The Ridings
Label: Home Assembly Music
Soft sounds wash over you as The Riding’s opening track glimmers peacefully, a chilled out experience that reminds me a lot of Air, and for the most part this serene atmosphere defines Northerner’s debut album. It rarely challenges its listener, instead perfectly content to move at its own pace, usually experimenting with different sounds whilst one constant holds it together, such as the dark croak of a bow in ‘Direction’.
Much like Aphex Twin’s diverse collection of acoustic tracks, Northerner’s album is at first glance quite dull and shallow. There’s little to get excited about, but unsurprisingly it finds itself very comfortable with soundtracking those mellow parts of a day, when you’re too tired to listen to anything too hectic and just want some relaxing sounds to breeze over you. ‘Cull’ gently throbs with a deep bass line that hides underneath airy shimmers of instrumentation, and
‘Fin’ has a slight Amon Tobin-infused technicality to it, but its steady strings balance out the erratic nature of the percussion, tumbling around in the background. It never really evolves into anything grand, but there are little beginnings of ideas that plant themselves into your head to toy you along that little bit further. ‘The Cut’ has a similar delicate recipe to it, always throwing in slight melodies that never reappear, whilst just having enough consistency to hold it all together.
In fact, it’s a bizarre reaction I know, but listening to some parts of The Ridings evoked strong memories of my days spent playing the likes of Zelda – the simple guitar work reminds me of that strange combined sense of isolation and freedom you first felt when you wandered out onto Hyrule Field on the back of Epona. The music plays along with a childish innocence, and it strives on igniting your imagination to transport you to faraway places, even if they might not be as geeky as my reaction…
The album comes with a bonus remix disc, featuring alternative takes on The Ridings’ songs by various other artists, including Epic45, Fieldhead, and Winter North Atlantic. They take a different outlook on what Northerner has put together, some a little gloomier (Fieldhead’s ‘Cull’ is a darker affair that chills with a slow-burning sense of isolation, Bracken’s version of ‘Fin’ strings along with a melancholy piano line) and some reinvigorating the source material with a whole new world of ideas, such as ‘The Cut’ remix by Glen Shipley, which flows with an unmistakable sense of groove and classic hip hop fundamentals.
Fundamentally, Northerner has created an album out of very little here. It flutters with brief ideas that never ask too much of you, but seem to get the most out of your imagination. It’s a relaxed series of chilled out ambiences that freshen the mind and help you to lay back and relax, and unlike Aphex Twin’s ambient work, it manages to do so without too much effort, and a lot less boredom.
Written for Sonic Dice.