Northumbria – Markland

My wife and I were staying on the eighteenth floor of a downtown Toronto hotel while on vacation, and one night I could hear dark, heavy drone rock coming from…somewhere. It seemed to be coming out of the sky like the hum of UFO engines and up from the darkest parts of the city’s sewer system at the same time.

“Do you hear that?” I asked my wife. “I think someone’s playing some drone rock over at the plaza.”

“Is that what that is?” She asked.

It was Northumbria. To be specific, it was Dorian Williamson and Jim Feld playing a guitar and bass loud enough for us to hear it one block away and eighteen stories above the street. Furthermore, it wasn’t just noise. It was ambient, haunting waves of sound that immediately changed the feel of everything around you. Their new album, Markland, is an impressive journey through shadows and starlight.

Take the opening track, “Torngat,” for instance. They somehow manage to create guitars that sound like baritone saxophones. “Sunstone” is appropriate for druidic rituals and flying through a rainy street while hunting replicants. “The Night Wolves / Black Moon” is sure to freak out your dog (as it did mine) with its creepy sonics.

Thunder hails “Ostara’s Return,” which seems like the right way to start such a heavy and creepy track. “Still Clearing” does bring to mind an early morning on a beautiful glen, but there’s a hint of menace underneath it – as if the glen is haunted by a dark tragedy. I think the sun referred to in the title of “Low Sun I” is the setting sun, because it has a creepy dread to it.

That dread is amplified to near-horror movie soundtrack levels in “The Shoes of the Suffering Wind.” It evokes images of rocky shores, ship graveyards, and glistening fish-men rising from black depths in search of prey. “Low Sun II” is the soundtrack ofa tired army marching across a swamp for dry land before the sun sets on them. The beautiful “Wonderstrands” gets me thinking about string theory, and with “The Stars As My Guide” to end the album, I suppose that thought process shouldn’t surprise me. The final track is full of cosmic guitars that eventually whittle down to a lonely hiss not unlike an open communications link between a dead astronaut and mission control.

Another amazing aspect of this album is that there is no percussion in it. It’s all guitar and bass effects (as far as I know) and it’s never boring. Markland changes your perception of everything around you whether you’re across the room or eighteen stories above the street.

Keep your mind open.

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Nik Havert

I've been a music fan since my parents gave me a record player for Christmas when I was still in grade school. The first record I remember owning was "Sesame Street Disco." I've been a professional writer since 2004, but writing long before that. My first published work was in a middle school literary magazine and was a story about a zoo in which the animals could talk.

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