Northerner: 1976

Simon James French: Anthem

Martin Cummings complements his other recent Northerner release, the double-CD The Ridings (Home Assembly Music), with the more modestly-timed 1976. Each of its six tracks flows seamlessly into the next, making the release a twenty-eight-minute travelogue through multiple electroacoustic locales. Cummings boosts the material's dream-like character by casting a hazy glow upon much of it, and in doing so blurs the gaps between the contrasting styles. A melancholy ambiance pervades the opener “The End of December,” which accompanies melancholy tones with field recording elements and the faint picking of an acoustic guitar; the material's evocative suggestiveness asserts itself when a percussive episode advances and recedes like a wagon rolling through town. Echoes of prog and krautrock haunt “1976” when it trudges through the undergrowth alongside a stream of shuddering guitars and quivering synth figures, after which moments of laid-back space-rock (“Can't”), guitar-based splendour (“If You Could”), and soothing ambient (“Red Soil”) appear.

London, UK-based sound artist Simon James French also makes a strong impression in the five pieces on his debut release Anthem. The three-inch disc contains five calming meditations of evocative and transporting character filled with shimmering electronics and field recordings of natural sounds. “Serfdom” is distinguished by luscious symphonic tones French merges with the field elements, while natural sounds are especially prominent in “Misery” where churning rhythms reminscent of a water wheel alternate with hazy electronic tones. “Shame,”  the most melodic of the five pieces, is graced by a melancholy theme that repeats amidst a swelling organ-laced backdrop. Despite the EP's modest eighteen-minute running time, French's seductive settings still manage to draw the listener deeply into their sinuous sound worlds.

January 2010