Eight years ago, I remember writing about Boltfish Recording’s Tandem Series which matched up two like-minded electronica acts to record a split CD. In the main, the idea worked very well and it’s hard not to think back to those days with this new split release from two Toronto-based acts, North Atlantic Drift and Northumbria. Polar Seas Recordings released this mini album in May this year, although given the colder temperatures now, their contributions make me think of the onset of Winter, before Autumn has barely begun.
North Atlantic Drift (Mike Abercrombie & Brad Deschamps) is the more concise of the two acts. Their introduction, ‘Ursa Minor’, comes across as the aural equivalent of shifting snow gathering together on the threshold of an avalanche. ‘Polaris’ is a more strident number, where the beats resemble claps of thunder and the melody and arrangement is suitably filmic and evocative of some great ice palace. The orientally-flavoured majesty of ‘Ursa Major’ is a further gesture of confidence but the last contribution, ‘Perpetual Daylight’ is redolent of the grace and melancholy of Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack or – to use a more recent example – Stars Of The Lid.
Northumbria (Jim Field and Dorian Williamson) contribute just two of the six tracks but half of the total running time. ‘Cold Wind Rising’ is essentially huge walls of rib-shaking drones; enough to shake the foundations of even the sturdiest of outbuildings. As an instrumental track it offers little in the way of tunes or emotion but plenty in creating images of monstrous ice creatures. In contrast, ‘Vanishing Point’ may feature heavily reverbed bass and guitar chords but the overall picture – helped in no small part by some serene electronic washes – is much more hopeful in outlook.
The two acts actually complement each other well even if Northumbria’s approach to chilly ambient music is a little frostier than North Atlantic Drift’s slightly easier on the ear compositions. Winter is definitely coming.
Boltfish Recordings, Stars Of The Lid, Vangelis