Northerner - The Ridings

Miss Fliss 23/02/2009

Rating: 4.5/5

There is beauty in subtlety. Sometimes a song doesn't have to clutch you by the throat or stomp about right in front of you to get your immediate and faithful attention, and can instead work its way into your consciousness with sound waves that gently weave their steady, eventual way to you and delicately and elegantly present themselves. Like a stormy walk on a deserted beach, or the easeful ebb of sundown, Northerner music is as much of an attack on the senses as anything stunningly visual or felt.

If you're a fan of the pivotal pastoral likes of Labradford, Hood, and Epic 45, you should sign up to the musical concern that is Northerner (one Martin Cummings) right away. The Ridings is an album of sublime shine. Here you'll find the kind of ambient pretty songs that thrum away and hum and bob about like explorative underwater sea life. Slow to start, the album hits stride when third song Caroline breezes in, and golden acoustic guitars herald in honey colour summers. Admittedly, some of the songs do sneak past unnoticeably, but this is very much an atmosphere album and if you're walking amidst the beauty of nature, watching clouds, or witnessing twilight form, this is a fine soundtrack. It's the sort of music that lends escape via the intimacy of headphones. Play it long and ponderously, until the sunlight fades and the sky purples to desolate night.

The remix album is where the songs spark into new life. A stellar cast, it includes remixes from the members of Hood (Gareth S Brown, and the side projects The Declining Winter, and Bracken), and the likes of Epic 45, and Portal. So we have a cinematic, slow, drum/bass and piano version of the album's song Fin; a springy, hopeful, glowing version of Direction that is simply splendid, bringing to mind the vision of flowers opening into life or the crisp twinkle of light on sea; then there's a holy explosion courtesy of Epic 45's Caroline; and Glen Shipley's reworking of The Cut even veers on the hip hop. This is music that's faceless, devoid of cool and identity and image and soundbites, instead the substance and ambience resound all the way through.

I must say, the remix album is the highlight of the double package, it gives intimate, touching, vivifying feeling to the originals and makes them as vital as they can be. Turn up the bass and let it throb like some song of a sad whale. Revel in the pastoral colours and landscapes of sounds that shimmer. This is an album to hold close to your heart.

The Ridings is available now on Home Assembly Records. The double CD package, including the remix album, is strictly limited to 300 copies.